The Miami Herald
February 9, 2001

Cuba releases ailing exile who tried to trigger revolt


 A 76-year-old Cuban exile leader, convicted in Cuba of crimes against the state
 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, arrived Thursday in Miami with his daughter,
 who had traveled to Cuba to get him.

 Ernestino Abreu Horta had been in Cuba since May 1998, when he and Vicente
 Martínez Rodríguez landed near Pinar del Rio with a cache of weapons and

 Reached late Thursday night, Alicia Abreu confirmed that her father had been
 freed and was staying with her at her home near Kendall. Abreu, 48, said they
 had arrived about noon at Miami International Airport and that her father would see
 a doctor today about his failing health. She said she could not comment further.

 Sources close to the family said Abreu was released for humanitarian reasons
 because of his medical condition, which was not revealed to The Herald on
 Thursday night.

 "How did this happen? The Cuban government has never done this before,'' said
 Antonio Jorge, a professor at Florida International University and an expert on
 Cuba. "I never would have expected that, especially in the case of Ernestino,
 because he was accused of infiltrating and trying to start a revolt -- things that
 Fidel Castro takes very seriously.''

 Abreu and Martínez, members of a quasi-commando group known as the
 Movement of Revolutionary Recovery, reportedly went to raise a revolt against
 Fidel Castro.

 They met with two nephews of Martínez's and fled into the mountains to avoid
 Castro's troops, but were caught nine days later and had been held in Cuba ever
 since. They were tried behind closed doors in September and sentenced in
 October to 15 years each.

 Their families and the U.S. State Department said last year that the Cuban
 government had handed down virtual death sentences because of the men's
 advanced ages and failing health. On Thursday, the State Department had no
 information about Abreu's release or Martinez's fate.

 Abreu is an agronomist and developer who headed the Cuban Patriotic Junta, an
 influential exile organization of which the Movement of Revolutionary Recovery is a
 branch. He was one of eight exile leaders who met with President Bill Clinton at
 the White House in 1996 after the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue