MIAMI (CBSMiami) -Hundreds attended a visitation and prayer service Sunday for Huber Matos Benitez.
Matos was a key leader in the late 1950’s Cuban Revolution to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, but later became an outspoken opponent of Fidel Castro. He died Thursday, February 27th, at the age of 95.
Matos dreamed of a free and democratic Cuba, and for much of his life he fought to make that dream a reality.
Son, Rogelio Matos told CBS4’s Maggie Newland, “We have a legacy in the family – his love, his teaching, good dad, strong firm man, a disciplined man – but we have to learn in the family to share him first with the Cuban people and now with everyone, learn to share him because he belongs to Cuba.”
Matos had originally joined with Castro in 1958 in hopes the revolution would help bring democracy to the country. He rose as high as third in command of Castro’s forces.
However, Matos quickly soured on the Castro government for fear the new Cuban leader was steering the country toward Communism. He was arrested several months after the revolution and convicted of treason.
“Twenty years he was in prison. I grew up, my siblings grew up, thinking that we would never see him again,” said Rogelio Matos.
“When I got caught in the political system in Cuba in 1966, I got to really know him because he was already inside the system,” said Eugenio Zaldivar who spoke to Matos often while both were political prisoners.
Zaldivar described Matos like this: “Humble, very humble person,very knowledgeable used to read a lot but most of all very humble and Cuba loved Cuba above everything.”
After his release, Matos came to Miami and helped lead Cuba Independiente and Democracia, one of the many anti-Castro groups in South Florida.
“Today in Cuba, young people, a brand new generation who weren’t even born when these events were taking place 50 years ago, look at my father as the man who spoke the truth the man who represented the aspirations of the Cuban people,” said Matos.
His son says Huber Matos continued the fight for freedom in Cuba even from his hospital room on the day he died.
“They called him from Cuba. A bunch of Cuban dissidents called him and they sang the national anthem to him and he was with them. He spoke to them. He said the struggle continues.”