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Leader of Anti-Castro Exile Group Dies

December 3, 1992

MIAMI (AP) _ Tony Cuesta, leader of the paramilitary Cuban exile group Comandos L, which is under investigation for an October attack on a Cuban hotel, died Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 66.

Cuesta died at suburban Kendall Regional Medical Center, hospital spokesman Jesus Angulo said.

He had been hospitalied since last week with liver and kidney failure and was comatose when he died, said Ellis Rubin, an attorney for Comandos L.

″He was a brave fighter against communism and died in that fight and he will be remembered by all,″ Rubin said.

Cuesta, once an intelligence officer for Cuban leader Fidel Castro, defected to the United States in 1960. He formed Comandos L two years later to try to overthrow Castro.

He was blinded and lost part of his left arm during a failed assassination attempt against Castro in 1966. Cuesta was injured when he tried to kill himself by detonating a hand grenade as Cuban soldiers moved in on him.

Cuba released him from prison in 1978 and he returned to the United States. In 1984 the city of Miami declared Jan. 15 Tony Cuesta Day.

The FBI is investigating Comandos L in an attack in October on a Cuban beachfront tourist hotel. Cuban officials said a group of assailants fired on the hotel with automatic weapons from a speedboat. No one was hurt. Comandos L has claimed responsibility but said it broke no U.S. laws because it launched the attack from outside the United States.

A year ago, Cuban authorities arrested three Comandos L members after they landed on the island with a boatload of weapons. One was executed and the others were sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Cuesta has said he participated in more than 30 raids against Cuba over the last 30 years. But in a recent interview with The Miami Herald he portrayed himself as a peaceful man.

″We are not trigger-happy,″ he said of his group. ″As soon as we get the chance, we would go back to peaceful means of struggle.″

Cuesta is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

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