May 7, 1999

Cuban guerrilla hero and Castro confidant dies

                  HAVANA (Reuters) -- Cuban revolutionary hero Jesus Montane, a close
                  confidant of President Fidel Castro from the early days of his armed
                  struggle, died on Friday from severe respiratory problems. He was 76.

                  "His loyalty was proved throughout 50 years of outstanding and
                  uninterrupted revolutionary labour," state news agency AIN said in one of
                  many official tributes to Montane.

                  Montane, who rose to become one of Castro's top personal aides, had
                  worked beside the veteran communist leader since the 1950s when the
                  revolutionaries first plotted to seize power from dictator Fulgencio Batista.

                  He accompanied Castro on the doomed July 26, 1953, assault of the
                  Moncada military barracks, which launched an armed rebellion that
                  eventually led to the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

                  Both men were jailed for several years after the Moncada attack. Upon
                  release, they fled for Mexico where they planned the invasion of Cuba in late
                  1956 to start a guerrilla war that overthrew Batista on Jan. 1, 1959.

                  After Castro took power, Montane held positions in the Revolutionary
                  Armed Forces of Cuba and the leadership of the ruling Communist Party.

                  His funeral was set for Saturday.