Antonio Tony Santiago Ruiz, one of Havanas youngest commissioner and a close friend and adviser to one of Cubas most popular presidents, Carlos Prio Socarrás, died on Monday in Miami during a surgical procedure. He was 89.
Santiago, a frequent guest on Oscar Hazas former show A Mano Limpia, is the latest member of Cubas famed Partido Auténtico to die in recent years. The party made history in pre-Fidel Castro Cuba for crafting the islands 1940 Constitution, considered a progressive piece of legislation.
Raised in a political family, Santiago entered politics in the mid-1940s as a law student at the University of Havana. He quickly became a leading activist battling the regime of Fulgencio Batista during his first presidency. Another student leader at the university at the same time was a young Castro.
Santiago gained respect in political circles and when Prio was elected president, Santiago became a member of his inner circle. When Batista overthrew Prios government in 1952, Santiago refused to sign a pledge declaring Batista Cubas true president and had to go into exile in Mexico and later Miami where he was involved in exile efforts to return constitutional rule to Cuba.
In 1959, Castro revolutionary forces overthrew Batista and Santiago returned to the island. He was offered, but refused, a position in Castros government. Relatives say Santiago feared Castro was a Marxist.
By 1960, Santiago and his family fled Cuba and went into exile in Miami, where Santiago took part in efforts to overthrow Castro. In 1980, he moved to Costa Rica where he continued his anti- Castro efforts along with other Cuban exiles.
There, he became a friend and adviser on Caribbean issues to Costa Rican President Luis Albero Monge, who named him honorary consul general to Miami. Santiago retired in the 1990s but continued to speak out against Castros regime most notably on talk shows like Hazas. He recently fell and broke a femur and died during surgery to repair the injury.
Santiago is survived by his daughter, Elsa Fresco, and sister, Gisela Santiago, many nephews, nieces and grandchildren.
Burial will be at noon Friday at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn Cemetery, 3260 SW Eighth St.