Former Cuban Prime Minister, Exile Leader, Dead At 83
MIAMI (AP) _ Manuel Antonio de Varona, who was prime minister in Cuba’s last freely elected government and worked from exile for democracy in his homeland, has died at age 83.
″Tony″ de Varona, as he was known, died Thursday from cancer.
He struggled against dictatorships of the right and left and went into exile four times, the last the year after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
During the 1961 Bay of Pigs crisis, de Varona waited in Miami to be flown to Cuba to form a U.S.-backed provisional government. But the invasion of exiles failed, and de Varona never returned to Cuba.
In 1948-50, he served as prime minister in Cuba’s last freely elected government, and since 1980 headed an exile group called the Cuban Patriotic Junta.
″Tony was the most representative and vigorous figure remaining of the generation of the ’30s,″ said Andres Nazario Sargen, secretary general of militant anti-Castro group Alpha 66.
De Varona, born in Camaguey in 1908, founded the Student Revolutionary Directorate in 1930, and it helped defeat the Machado regime. But de Varona was forced into exile.
He then led a workers’ strike against the government of Fulgencio Batista and went into exile again in 1936.
When he was able to return to Havana, de Varona earned a law degree from the University of Havana. In 1940, he was elected to Congress and in 1944 to the Senate, where he became majority leader.
President Carlos Prio named him prime minister in October 1948. From 1950 to 1952, de Varona was president pro tem of the Senate.
After Batista seized power again in 1952, de Varona was again forced into exile. With Castro’s triumph in 1959, he returned to Cuba but soon turned against the regime.
In 1960, he founded the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Force, whose task was to help prepare for the Bay of Pigs invasion.
He is survived by his wife, Olivia Borges; his children Carlos, Lina and Yvonne, and six grandchildren.