Onofre Perez, a former Cuban revolutionary who spent nearly three decades as a political prisoner on the communist island, died late Saturday afternoon from injuries he suffered last month when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver crossing the street in Little Havana.
The 79-year-old former truck driver, who arrived in Miami in 1989 to start his new life. passed away at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he had battled for his life for the past 10 days.
A few family members and friends are upset with the police investigation and believe what happened to Perez was not an accident. Investigators were unavailable for comment late Saturday.
On May 27, the day he was hit, Perez had just exited a bus that he had taken that morning to walk to his doctor for an appointment when a speeding driver on Flagler Street near northwest 37th Avenue struck him. The car then backed over Perez and took off, according to family.
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.
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. He was convicted alongside Morgan during a brief trial at La Cabana prison.
After spending 28 years in Cuba prisons, Perez, known as a “plantado,” a political prisoner, arrived in Miami with hopes of starting a simple life.
He was 54 years old at the time 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.
“He wasn’t afraid of anything,” said his friend, Olga Morgan Goodwin, who served in the Escambray Mountains with Perez in the rebel force known as the Second Front.
“Not jail. Not in the Escambray. Not anyone. He was what we call in Cuba a macho man. But he was also a gentleman.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.