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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Castro supporter: 'I oppose US aggression'
Cuba's President Fidel Castro - the world's longest-serving leader - turns 80 on 13 August. The BBC News website looks at the impact the Revolution he led has had on the lives of two Cubans: one a supporter, the other a dissident.

Andres Gomez is the director of the Marxist online publication Areito Digital and one of the founders of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, a pro-Castro Cuban-American group established in 1977.

Here, he explains why he, coming from an anti-Castro family of Cuban exiles, decided to support the communist government.

Andres Gomez
Andres Gomez: "It's not easy to be a Cuba supporter in Miami"
I came to Miami with my family in 1960, when I was only 13. We were forced to leave Cuba because the Revolution was in its radical stage, and a US invasion was expected soon - something that actually happened in April 1961.

I belonged to an upper middle-class family from Havana which had been affected by revolutionary laws.

We were a large group: parents, brothers, uncles, cousins... We all left Cuba thinking that our absence was going to be temporary. We believed that the Cuban government would be overthrown but, as we all know, that didn't happen. The US-backed invasion was defeated.

So we stayed in Miami. Some of my relatives have died here without seeing Cuba again.

My first years in the US were traumatic. Not only because we were in a foreign country, but also because we had no money left.

It was a difficult time, especially for the older members of the family who had to take underpaid jobs.

Change of mind

Those older relatives who are still alive remain, of course, strong opponents of Fidel Castro - that's not my case.

I became aware of the Cuban situation and fully understood the struggle for justice and sovereignty. I ended up being a supporter of the Revolution.

I have had a difficult time because the anti-Castro lobby is very strong over here
How did I change my mind? Well, reading a lot about Cuba's history and Fidel Castro, and scrutinising reality.

There are people here in Miami for whom money seems to be all. Not for me - I have followed the dictates of my conscience.

It's not an easy task to be an outspoken Cuba supporter in Florida. I have had a difficult time because the anti-Castro lobby is very strong over here. However, once I made the decision, I kept on going.

My family and I have learned to look after ourselves. If I were alone, I wouldn't mind taking high risks. But I'm not alone, I'm surrounded by family and I'm also the leader of an organisation - I bear responsibilities.

I'm not saying that I'm scared - I'm just being cautious.

I try to be wary of dangers. I try to avoid areas of Miami with a strong Cuban presence, because I could come across people who hate me. It's better to avoid such situations. Activists who share my views have been attacked in the past.

Family rows

I don't speak about politics when I'm with many of my anti-Castro relatives. We have an excellent relationship - they really love me as a person. However, some family members completely ignore me - they have put politics above feelings.

I feel blessed to have met him [Fidel Castro]
I visit Cuba frequently. As journalist, I have a permit to travel to the country.

I've met Fidel Castro several times in the past 30 years - we have talked. Our last encounter took place in June 2005, at a conference in Havana.

I saw in front of me a very clever and educated man, an individual who had consistently followed his ideas of independence and justice, a leader who became wiser as he got on in years. I feel blessed to have met him.

I also saw a worldly person - a chatty man, an individual who carefully listened to others. I thought this was one of his greatest qualities.

I would like to return to Cuba. But I have to do my duty first, opposing the US aggression against Cuba - including the embargo.

I'll go back to Cuba once the relationship between the two countries has normalised.

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