A Cuban general and former bodyguard to Fidel Castro died Tuesday, Communist Party media revealed — the second general to die since anti-communist protests began nationwide on July 11.
Reserve Brigade General Marcelo Verdecia led several major Cuban military missions, including attacks on Cuban freedom fighters during the Bay of Pigs assault and imperialist operations by the Castro regime in Africa. Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, revealed his death Tuesday without reporting a cause of death or a potential replacement. The propaganda publication noted he joined Fidel Castro’s Sierra Madre terrorist group in 1957 at age 16, which would have made him about 80 years old at the time of his death.
Granma referred to Verdecia as “the boy who became a man beside Fidel,” applauding him for his work as Castro’s personal bodyguard. It noted that he fought against freedom fighters in the Bay of Pigs and “later marched on to Africa,” without specifying his activities there. The Castro regime launched imperialist assaults in Angola in the 1970s and 1980s and intervened in what are now the Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo the decade prior to that.
Verdecia’s death announcement comes a week after a much younger military leader, 57-year-old Division General Agustín Peña, was pronounced dead. Peña, unlike the elderly Verdecia, was still in active service and in charge of the Eastern Army of Cuba, where some of the most dramatic protests against the regime occurred last week. Like in Verdecia’s case, the Cuban regime did not specify a cause of death for him or immediately name a successor.
The independent outlet 14 y Medio reported last week that evidence suggests Peña died of a Chinese coronavirus infection. While the government made no indication officially that this was the case, a propagandist with the Radio Rebelde state broadcaster mentioned coronavirus in an homage to Peña posted on his Facebook page.
Cuba is currently one of the world’s hotspots of coronavirus infections, the product of gross negligence and mismanagement on the part of the regime. As of Wednesday, the regime claims to have documented only about 300,000 coronavirus cases in the country and over 2,000 deaths. Many doubt those numbers based on Cuba’s history of falsifying medical information — most notoriously rebranding infant deaths as “abortions” to boast of low infant mortality rates — and its poor testing ability.
The deaths of the generals are occurring in one of the most turbulent political times in the island’s post-revolutionary history. Protests attracted thousands of people on the island on Sunday, July 11, in nearly every major city from coast to coast. Protesters chanted anti-communist slogans and called for freedom in peaceful marches, attracting outsized state violence. The Castro regime shut down access to the internet late on Sunday and ordered pro-regime civilians to take up arms and attack anyone in their neighborhood suspected of not supporting the regime.
Interviews surfacing this week with young Cubans on the island reveal that the regime is pressuring middle-aged Cubans to force their young adult children to assault dissidents on the street. The few videos leaking out of Cuba since the internet shutdown have revealed state security forces shooting live ammunition into crowds of unarmed dissidents. The Castro regime has made it impossible for human rights organizations to compile a complete death and injury toll from the attacks on protesters, but NGOs have suggested that thousands of Cubans have disappeared into the police system since the protests began.
On Wednesday, the human rights advocacy group Cuban Prisoners Defenders revealed it had evidence that the Cuban regime is processing protesters in mass “trials” run by police forces themselves, not in front of a judge or jury. Referring to the treatment of protesters as “a flagrant violation of the right of due process,” the group stated it had evidence that the Communist Party was denying protesters the right to a lawyer or to stand in front of a true judge. Some “trials” reportedly consist of the sentencing of as many as 30 people at a time to prison, the group claimed.
The mothers of the missing and imprisoned have organized a protest scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. local time against the regime in Cuba. The mothers called for dissidents in every city in Cuba to convene at the same time.