MIAMI -- Manuel Antonio de Varona, a former prime minister of Cuba and freedom fighter in his native county, died Thursday of cancer at age 83.
'Tony' De Varona, as he was known in Miami, fought the dictatorships of Gerardo Machado in the 1930s, Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s and Fidel Castro in the 1960s and beyond.
When Cuba was democratically ruled, De Varona played key roles in the government, including a stint as prime minister from 1948 to 1950.
In exile in Miami he led organizations that opposed the government of Castro.
'Antonio de Varona was a passionate man who loved Cuba passionately, ' said Carlos Alberto Montaner, president of the Cuban Liberal Union in Spain.
'Without a doubt (De Varona) was an honest politician, at a time when not all politicians could claim that virtue,' said Huber Matos, secretary general of Cuba Independent and Democratic.
Andrew Nazrios Sargen, secretary general of Alpha 66, called De Varona 'the most representative and vigorous figure remaining of the generation of the 30s.'
De Varona was born in Camaguey province in Cuba on Nov. 25, 1908, and atage 22 he founded the Student Revolutionary Directorate. The university group played a major role in the defeat of the Machado regime.
De Varona's activist roles forced him into exile four times during his life, the first coming during the fight against Machado. He was imprisoned by the country's dictators several times, as well.
In 1940 De Varona was elected to the Cuban Congress as a representative from Camaguey province for the Authentic Revolutionary Party. Rising through the ranks he became vice president of the House of Representatives from 1943-1944.
In 1944 he was elected to the Senate and three years later became majority leader.
President Carlos Prio named him prime minister in 1948 and De Varona was president pro tem of the Senate from 1950 to 1952.
After Batista seized power in 1952, De Varona was in the forefront of the struggle against the military government and was forced into exile in Miami, where he helped to create the Council for the Liberation of Cuba, a coalition of seven Cuban parties dedicated to Batista's overthrow.
De Varona supported the government of Castro at first but, within a year after Castro came to power in 1958, De Varona turned against the regime when Castro declared himself a Communist.
De Varona again found himself in exile in Miami. He organized the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Force in 1960 to help prepare for the Bay of Pigs. After the invasion plan failed, he worked to unite Miami Cubans in the fight to restore democracy in their homeland.
In 1980 some 400 delegates, representing 200 Cuban organizations in the United States, formed the Cuban Patriotic Junta and elected De Varona president, a position he held until his death.
De Varona's first wife, Ina Seguar Bustamante, described him as a 'tireless warrior for the freedom of Cuba who gave no thought to personal benefits.'
De Varona is survived by his wife of 27 years, Olivia Borges; his children, Carlos, Lina and Yvonne; and six grandchildren.