A former Cuban revolutionary who spent nearly three decades as a political prisoner on the communist island was fighting for his life Saturday night days after he was hit by a speeding car in Little Havana.
Relatives say the car fled Wednesday morning after hitting Onofre Perez on Flagler Street near Northwest 37th Avenue. He was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he remained Saturday in critical condition and with numerous broken bones.
Police could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
Perez, who was on disability, had taken a bus that morning and was crossing the street to go to a doctor’s appointment, according to his sister, Maria Elenea Perez.
In the Cuban exile community, the 79-year-old Perez was well-known.
He was a captain with the rebel group know as the “Second Front,” which sought to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s. The group claimed as their territory the Escambray mountains.
“He’s a hero, and they left him like a dog in the street,” said Zoe Lorenzo, whose husband joined with Perez in the mountains during the fighting in 1958 to overthrow Batista.
Perez later served as the lead bodyguard for the legendary rebel William Morgan, a former U.S. Army soldier who was arrested by the Castro regime in 1961. Perez was convicted alongside Morgan during a brief trial at La Cabana prison.
Perez was known as a “plantado,” a political prisoner. After spending 28 years in Cuba prisons, he arrived in Miami in January 1989 with hopes of starting a simple life.
“Perez doesn’t ask for much to start his new life in Miami: a car, an apartment and a job, preferably as a truck driver,” the Herald wrote at the time.
He was 54 years old when he arrived to Florida — and was featured in a Miami Herald article about the Cuban Welcome Committee, a group that helped former political prisoners arriving from the island.
He was part of a group of prisoners allowed into Miami under a renewed immigration agreement with Cuba that allowed up to 3,000 refugees into the United States.
Miami Herald reporter Michael Sallah contributed to this report.