Juan Almeida Bosque, a comrade-in-arms of Fidel Castro since the start of his guerilla struggle more than a half-century ago, has died of a heart attack. He was 82. He was one of the Vice-Presidents and had been among only three surviving rebel leaders who still bore the honorary title “Commander of the Revolution.”
A statement in government media on Saturday said Mr. Almeida would “live on forever in the hearts and minds of his compatriots”. Cuba declared a national day of mourning for Sunday and ordered all flags flown at half-staff.
A bricklayer who began working at age 11, Mr. Almeida was one of the most important and decisive voices in the battle to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, as well as in the early years following the January 1, 1959, triumph of the Cuban revolution.
Born Feb. 27, 1927, Mr. Almeida was often seen at public events in his uniform alongside the Cuban leader until Mr. Castro fell ill in the summer of 2006. He then became a mainstay beside Mr. Castro’s younger brother and successor, President Raul Castro.
With his full head of white hair and moustache, Mr. Almeida was a highly visible 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 supreme governing body.
Along with Ramiro Valdes and Guillermo Garcia, he had been among only three men still alive distinguished as a “Comandante de la Revolucion” — a title reserved for top leaders of rebel troops under Mr. Fidel Castro’s command in the 1950s.
The government statement called him “a paradigm of revolutionary strength, solid convictions, bravery, patriotism and service to the people”. It said Mr. Almeida’s body would not lie in state, in accordance with his wishes, and funeral arrangements would be announced “at a later date”.