Son of Cuban revolutionary hero briefly detained

AP News
Posted: Nov 30, 2009 2:22 PM

The ailing son of one of Cuba's revolutionary heroes said he was detained by security officials for three days after protesting that authorities wouldn't let him leave the country for treatment.

Juan Almeida Garcia, whose father fought alongside Fidel Castro during Cuba's 1959 revolution and rose to the level of vice president before his death this year, told The Associated Press that he was taken into custody Friday while on his way to a protest in central Havana. He was released Monday, and said he still hoped authorities would let him go abroad.

"I am asking to leave the country," Almeida said in a phone interview an hour after his release. "I am not a dissident."

Almeida said he was well treated while in custody at the Villa Marista jail. He is required to check in with authorities every 15 days, and has no word on whether he will be granted permission to leave to seek treatment for ankylosing spondylitis, a painful, progressive form of spinal arthritis.

His wife Consuelo, who has been living in Miami for a year while tending to her elderly mother, said she was relieved to get a call from her husband following his release, but that she continued to be concerned for his health.

"I have had sleepless nights," she said. "They are not going to let him leave and they are not going to let him see a doctor."

There was no immediate comment from the government.

Almeida's father, Juan Almeida Bosque, was a member of Cuba's ruling elite, sitting on the Communist Party's Politburo and serving as a vice president on the Council of State, the country's supreme governing body.

When he died in September at the age of 82, he was given honors befitting his title as a "commander of the revolution," with a ceremony at Revolution Plaza led by President Raul Castro and attended by tens of thousands of mourners.

But it has been a different story for the younger Almeida, 43, who has been arrested at least twice now for trying to leave the country. Almeida said he had received treatment in Belgium in the past after receiving permission to leave Cuba. But authorities have not looked as kindly on his efforts to travel to Los Angeles to see a doctor at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Almeida is not the first relative of Cuba's ruling elite to try to leave Cuba. Fidel Castro's daughter Alina sneaked out of Cuba in 1993 using a false passport, and eventually settled in Miami, becoming a fierce critic of her father's rule.

The younger Almeida is a lawyer who had worked for state security within the Interior Ministry in the 1990s.

While Cubans are allowed to leave the island, they must first seek an exit visa. Doctors, scientists and other key personnel, as well as the relatives of leaders in sensitive military or political positions, are often denied permission for fear they will not return.


Editor's Note: Associated Press reporters Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report.