The Miami Herald
Fri, Oct. 08, 2004

Anti-Castro group leader dies

Andrés Nazario Sargén, called the father of Alpha 66, a paramilitary group that opposed Fidel Castro, is dead at 88.


Cuban flags were at half-staff in Little Havana's Plaza de la Cubanidad to honor of one of the staunchest anti-Castro exiles -- the ''father'' of a paramilitary group that claims several dozen clandestine operations in Cuba -- who died without seeing his dream of democracy on the communist island.

Andrés Nazario Sargén, leader of the paramilitary group Alpha 66, died late Wednesday of colon cancer. He was 78.

Diagnosed 18 months ago, he worked at Alpha headquarters until about three weeks ago.

His family was at his side when he died, said his daughter, Olguita Nazario.

'He told everyone, `I'm fine. I'm fine.' He was so convinced. He never thought he would die,'' she said. ``He convened a meeting for this Saturday at the office.''

Born in the town of Zaza del Medio in central Cuba, Nazario and brother Aurelio joined a nascent democratic process that emerged after the demise of the Machado dictatorship.

The brothers founded the Tobacco Growers Association to guarantee fair prices for workers' crops.

They helped found the Orthodox party, a reformist party that fought corruption.

In 1948, Andrés Nazario ran his brother's successful campaign for a seat in Cuba's House of Representatives.

During the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, Andrés Nazario led underground activity in the Sancti-Spiritus region before heading in 1958 with his wife, Olga, and elder son Jorge, for the Escambray Mountains to join guerrillas operating independently of Fidel Castro's movement.

When Castro came to power Jan. 1, 1959, Comandante Nazario Sargén and other independent guerrilla leaders faced execution. A handful left Cuba by boat in 1961.

Arriving in Miami in June 1961, the group joined with other Cuban exiles to form Alpha 66 -- named for its 66 original members -- which is today the oldest anti-Castro group in Miami and still advocates an armed civil uprising in the quest to overthrow Castro.

All who knew him say he was well-liked and respected, even by those who disagreed with his views on the armed struggle.

Hundreds of friends -- including dozens of Alpha delegates from around the country -- are expected at his funeral at 5 p.m. today at Rivero Funeral Home, 3344 SW 8th St.

On Saturday morning, Nazario's casket will be brought to Alpha headquarters, 1714 W, Flagler St., for a memorial ceremony.

In addition to his daughter and wife, Nazario is survived by his son Andrés.

In lieu of flowers, his widow asks that donations be made in his name to La Liga Contra El Cancer or an organization of their choice.