Hero of the Republic of Cuba Harry Villegas, best known as “Pombo” and one of the three Cuban survivors of the gerrilla detachment led by Commander Ernesto Guevara, died on Sunday at the age of 79
He was born in 1940 in Yara, a town located in the eastern Cuban provice of Granma. In 1958, Villegas and some other other young people went up to Sierra Maestra to join the 26th of July movement.
When the Ciro Redondo Column was formed, under the command of Che, Villegas was assigned to it and quickly became one of his trusted men, integrating his personal escort. Villegas remained the entire military campaign next to Guevara.
He participated in the Battle of Santa Clara and other battles and then settled in the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabaña, Havana, in January 1959.
In 1965 he was summoned by Che once again to fight in the group of Cuban guerrillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There he took the nickname of ‘Pombo’, with which he has been known worldwide, that in the Swahili language means “leaf.”
Between 1966 and 1967 ‘Pombo’ participated in the guerrilla that Che Guevara installed in Bolivia, in the area of the Ñancahuazu river.
Villegas was one of the five men, three Cubans, and two Bolivians, who managed to survive the collapse of the guerrilla group in the Andean nation, where Che was killed on Oct. 7, 1967.
After 1967 he continued to serve in the Revolutionary Armed Forces, participating as a military advisor in Angola and Nicaragua. Among the highest distinctions on his resume are that of Hero of the Republic of Cuba, and that of Brigade General of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.