Melba Hernandez Rodrguez del Rey, known as the “Heroine of Moncada” for her participation in the first armed action led by Fidel Castro against the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, died in Havana, official media said. She was 92.
The Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party reported Sunday “with deep sorrow” the death of Hernandez from complications related to diabetes.
“For our people, she is one of the most glorious and beloved combatants of the revolutionary process, an everlasting example of the Cuban woman,” the Central Committee said in a statement appearing in Communist Party daily Granma.
The statement recalled that she was an active participant in the fight against the 1952-1959 Batista regime and was one of the first to join the ranks of the revolutionary movement led by Fidel Castro.
It also noted that Hernandez and the late Haydee Santamaria were among the participants in Fidel’s July 26, 1953 assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba.
Hernandez spent time behind bars for her part in the attack and once released, played a “decisive role” in compiling and organizing the notes that Fidel Castro was able to sneak out of jail and which constituted his defense in the Moncada trial, where he uttered the phrase: “History will absolve me.”
Following the victory of the revolution in 1959, Hernandez held a succession of important posts, including that of Cuban ambassador to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Melba Hernandez, a 1943 graduate of the University of Havana law school, was one of the founders of Cuba’s Communist Party.