MIAMI – Raul Rivero, a one-time foreign correspondent for official Cuban media before he broke with the government and was jailed for months in a widespread crackdown, has died at age 75.
Rivero's death on Nov. 6 following respiratory problems at a Miami hospital was confirmed Monday by his wife, Blanca Reyes. She said his death was not related to COVID-19. Rivero's passing had gone largely unnoticed outside the Spanish-speaking exile communities in South Florida and Spain.
Born in Moron in the Cuban province of Ciego de Avila in 1945, Rivero co-founded the literary magazine “El Caimán Barbudo" in 1966. He was Moscow correspondent for Cuba's Prensa Latina from 1973 to 1976 and upon his return to Havana oversaw the agency's science and culture coverage.
But he broke with the government during Cuba's so-called “Special Period” following the collapse of the Soviet Union and in 1991 joined other intellectuals in calling for the release of political prisoners.
Rivero in 1995 founded the independent Cuba Press agency, which offered stories by dissident writers to U.S. and other foreign media outlets.
Rivero became well known internationally and in 1999 was awarded the Maria Moors Cabot prize for international journalism from Columbia University. The following year, he was named one of the International Press Institute's 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the previous half-century.
But he was swept up with 74 other dissidents during the Cuban government’s 2003 crackdown on the opposition and was sentenced to 20 years.
Rivero spent a year and a half behind bars before being released and allowed to leave for exile in Spain. Shortly thereafter, he was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
After a decade, he and Reyes moved to Miami in 2014 to be closer to family. Reyes had co-founded the Ladies in White, whose members once held a silent march every Sunday to protest the jailing of their relatives.
Reyes said Rivero continued to write until early this year. He published numerous volumes of poetry and journalism over his career.
In addition to Reyes, Rivero is survived by three daughters and three grandchildren. Reyes said that no memorial service was planned in accordance with his wishes.
“He was very discreet,” she said.