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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK
Cuban exile leader returns 'for peace'
Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo
Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo says he is not challenging Castro
A former Cuban revolutionary who became the leader of an exile opposition movement in Miami says he has returned to live in Cuba to work for peace and national reconciliation.

Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, of Cambio Cubano, said he could help Cuba more from within the country, than from abroad.

Mr Gutierrez Menoyo fought in the Cuban revolution which brought Fidel Castro to power, but later spent 22 years in prison for leading an armed uprising against his former comrade.

He told reporters gathered at Havana international airport he wanted to work "for a legal space for the opposition from which we can build a future based on pluralism and cohabitation".

But he said his calls for legalisation of opposition parties in Cuba should not be seen as an open challenge to Mr Castro.

Mr Gutierrez Menoyo said goodbye to his wife and three sons who had flown with him to Cuba on holiday, telling reporters:

"They are leaving, but this time I harbour the hope that they can be reunited with me in the near future.

"At the same time, I hope that one day Cubans can enter and leave their country freely without the need for a visa."

Difficult times

There has been no official reaction from Mr Castro's government to the exile's return.

But the BBC's Stephen Gibbs, in Havana, says it remains to be seen how the government will react as it is currently in the midst of a clampdown against all opposition.

Referring to the jailing of dissident political activists, Mr Gutierrez Menoyo said: "Times are very difficult. For me, today is the beginning of the quest for a new revolution."

I come to work for an open agenda in favour for peace and the reconciliation of all Cubans.
Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo
Cambio Cubano, which proposes a peaceful transition towards democracy in Cuba, is considered a moderate group compared to some exile groups in Miami most of which oppose any dialogue or contact with the Castro regime.

Despite his differences with the Cuban authorities, Mr Gutierrez-Menoyo has been granted permission several times to make non-political family visits to his homeland in recent years.

He met Mr Castro during a visit to Cuba in 1995.

Mr Gutierrez Menoyo, 68 and nearly blind, was a commander who fought in the Cuban revolution that overthrew the Batista regime on 1 January 1959.

He later broke ranks and went to Miami where he became military leader for the anti-Castro group Alpha 66.

In 1964, he landed in Cuba with three men in hopes of launching an armed uprising.

He was captured and spent 22 years in Cuban prisons until he was released to go into exile, thanks to the efforts of former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

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