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Few in Cuba mourn Mas Canosa's death

Reaction in Cuba was minimal
Reaction in Cuba was minimal   
In this story: November 24, 1997
Web posted at: 9:10 p.m. EST (0210 GMT)

HAVANA (CNN) -- The death Sunday of Jorge Mas Canosa, a vehement opponent of Fidel Castro and a man vilified by Cuba's communist government, went all but unnoticed in his native country Monday.

The 58-year-old Mas Canosa died of complications from lung cancer in Miami Sunday, but his obituary was buried on Page 7 of Monday's newspaper here under a headline that identified him as a "well-known counterrevolutionary."

The official Cuban news agency, Prensa Latina, described Mas Canosa as "a promoter and partisan of all actions against the revolutionary government of Cuba."

vxtreme CNN's Lucia Newman reports

In life, Mas Canosa was repeatedly portrayed in Cuba as the devil incarnate. But government officials have refrained from making any public statements about his death, saying privately that they don't want to give Mas Canosa any importance.

Mas Canosa, a Cuban immigrant, turned a small, family-owned telecommunications company into a publicly traded business worth $475 million.

He also created and controlled Radio Marti and TV Marti, which beamed anti-communist programming that the Cuban government was successful in jamming. And as chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, Mas Canosa is credited with heavily influencing the United States' hard-line policy toward Cuba.

'He's an assassin'

"Jorge has been a very important part of shaping U.S.-Cuba policy for a number of years," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican.

Mas Canosa
Mas Canosa   

"Had it not been for Jorge Mas Canosa, we probably would have had normal relations with Cuba," said Wayne Smith, who headed the U.S. Interest Section in Havana during the Carter administration. "He has almost single-handedly blocked all that."

Cuban officials still think Mas Canosa's foundation orchestrated a series of bombings that rocked Havana hotels in July and September, although no proof has been offered to substantiate the charge.

Nevertheless there are many here who are not sorry he's gone, despite his attempts to rid Cuba of communism.

"He's an assassin," said one man. "He should have died sooner."

"He did a lot of harm to this country, and it's the Cuban people who are paying for it, for his interference in the relations between Cuba and the United States," said a young woman.

Cubans say they feel pain of sanctions

At best, the average Cuban was indifferent, as was the man on one downtown Havana street who said, "I don't think it's good or bad. He was a human being, after all."

Cuban officials are still assessing the repercussions of Mas Canosa's death, but privately they tell CNN that while they won't miss him, they don't expect a major shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba to result from his death.

There are many Cubans who, like Mas Canosa, would like nothing more than to see an end to communism on the island. But even most of them believe that the sanctions against Cuba promoted by Mas Canosa have hurt the people more than they've hurt Fidel Castro.

Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman contributed to this report.


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