Dr. Alberto Hernandez, a former president of the Cuban American National Foundation, died June 16 in Miami. His family said one of the top leaders of the Cuban exile community had three passions: family, medicine and a free Cuba.
Hernandez was 84.
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“My father was a devoted fighter for the freedom of Cuba. That struggle was an obligation for him,” his son Alberto Hernandez Jr., told El Nuevo Herald.
Born Feb. 19, 1933, in Havana, Hernandez’s life was marked by his leadership and a deep sense of justice, said former CANF director Horacio Garcia.
Hernandez led the University Student Federation when it fought the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s, and fought the Castro Revolution with equal determination in 1959.
Hernandez sought asylum in a foreign embassy in Havana and then left for exile in the United States where he became active in several anti-Castro causes, his son said.
“Since the creation of the Cuban American National Foundation in 1981, our organization has faced considerable odds and overcome numerous obstacles to achieve a position as a credible and responsible voice for freedom and respect for human rights for the Cuban people,” Hernandez wrote in a column for the Miami Herald in 1998.
At the time, several exiles and two members of the organization were accused of plotting to kill Fidel Castro. Hernandez disputed the accusations.
“The notion that the Cuban American National Foundation would be involved in violent activities against the Castro dictatorship is ridiculous on its face. While we would shed no tears at the untimely demise of the Cuban tyrant, violence is simply not the path we have chosen to take,” Hernandez said in the Herald.
Hernandez was personal physician to CANF founder Jorge Mas Canosa and succeeded him as president when Mas Canosa died in 1997.
Hernandez and other foundation directors broke away from CANF in 2001 and founded the Cuba Liberty Council, which he led until his death.
In 2002, as head of the new council, Hernandez flew to the White House to invite President George W. Bush to Miami to celebrate Cuba’s centennial. Bush delivered a 31-minute speech at downtown Miami’s James L. Knight Center. Gloria Estefan sang the Cuban national anthem.
“We are delighted that the president is coming on a day like today — a century after Cuban freedom,” Hernandez said at the event.
Council member Remedio Diaz Oliver told El Nuevo Herald that Hernandez was “a truly good man.”
“He may have been the most patriotic man I ever knew,” Diaz Oliver said. “Many times, he used his own resources to help other Cubans who were recently exiled. He was a responsible and ethical man, like few others.”
On Twitter, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen described the anti-Castro activist as “a tireless fighter for freedom and democracy in Cuba.” She also highlighted his role in promoting human rights on the island.
Cuban American radio host Ninoska Perez lamented Hernandez’s death and called him “a patriot, friend and mentor.”
Hernandez is survived by his children Maria Elena Roque, Alberto M. Hernandez and Fernando Hernandez and 10 grandchildren. Services were held.
Miami Herald staff writer Howard Cohen contributed to this obituary.