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Cuban writer, activist Carlos Franqui dies at 89

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Cuban writer and political activist Carlos Franqui, an important figure in the Cuban revolution who later became one of the most outspoken critics of Fidel Castro, has died. He was 89.

Franqui died late Thursday in Puerto Rico after a brief hospitalization for bronchial and heart problems, according to family friend Andres Candelario.

The son of a poor farmer, Franqui entered leftist political movements as a youth, joined and left the Communist Party and became a journalist who eventually joined Castro's rebellion against dictator Fulgencio Batista.

He edited the movement newspaper "Revolucion before and after Castro's insurgents defeated Batista, but increasingly clashed with hard-liners who were restricting cultural and political dissent.

Franqui moved abroad in 1963 and openly broke with the communist government in 1968 when he denounced the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

"For him, the experience of having helped build a revolution that destroyed his country was extraordinarily bitter," Candelario said. "He was immensely affected by having forced a system that in the end he had to confront and fight against."

In a 2006 interview with the Mexican magazine "Letras Libres," Franqui said he had rejected Fidel Castro's offer to be a military commander and later a minister.

"What I wanted to create was a cultural revolution, not a bureaucratic one, and invite the whole world to get to know Cuba and its Revolution," he said.

In the end, he said he decided that freedom of expression was incompatible with revolutionary thought: "Culture is liberty and the revolution is the negation of liberty."

Before the break, Franqui had been entrusted with an abortive project to write an official biography of Castro — material he later used in one of his most high-profile books, "Family Portrait with Fidel."

His "Diary of the Cuban Revolution," published in 1976, remains one of the most-quoted works on the history of that struggle.

Franqui also was a poet and art critic who mingled with artists and intellectuals including Picasso, Miro and Jean-Paul Sartre, said Angel Padilla, editor of an anti-Castro government publication in Puerto Rico.

Franqui also was well-known for organizing an influential 1967 art exhibit in Havana, the "Salon de mayo," which featured the works of artists including Picasso, Max Ernst and Wilfredo Lam.

After having lived abroad, Franqui moved to Puerto Rico in the early 1990s and established, along with Candelario, the magazine Carta de Cuba, which publishes the work of independent journalists on Cuban issues.

Franqui leaves a wife and two sons.