Photo Credit: Jewish Press

There are no “country club” prisons in Cuba. Revolutionary Onofre Perez knew this well. He had spent nearly thirty years as a political prisoner in the island nation before fleeing to Miami in 1989. He was a plantado, someone who refused to denounce his democratic principles.

The plantados were the most hated inmates in Fidel Castro’s prisons. Some died as a result of the abuse they suffered. It was quite compelling that Onofre Perez survived the three-decade-long ordeal.


Perez appeared to have put the incarceration behind him. He was described by those who knew him as a family man and a kind and gentle soul. He loved gardening. He loved the “Little Havana” section of Miami where he lived. He was enjoying life and felt the dangerous times were over. His perilous days of incarceration in Cuba seemed far away.

Onofre Perez was struck down by a hit-and-run driver on May 27 while peacefully crossing a street in South Florida. He was on his way to a doctor’s appointment. Perez was taken to a local hospital where he fought for his life for ten days. He died of his injuries on June 6.

Family and friends are shocked by the circumstances of his death. They point out that “accidents” are staged as a well-known tactic of the Cuban government. They suspect that Perez had been targeted for execution. The investigation remains inconclusive. As this is being written, police have yet to identify the driver who mowed into Perez.

The Talmud advises, “Repent one day before you die.” Onofre Perez is not the only individual, now deceased, who simply did not see what was coming. Since no one knows what will be, we are all admonished not to put anything off. We are encouraged to make amends between our fellow man and our Creator, and to do it now.

Onofre Perez did not expect he would be fatally injured as he strolled across Flagler Street in Miami. However, one shocking fact always rings true: life is a terminal condition, 100 percent of the time, and often the end sneaks up when one least expects it.


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Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.