ARMANDO M. LAGO, 69
Exile who tabulated cost of Castro's rule
Posted on Tue, Jun. 10, 2008
BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
Armando M. Lago, the Cuban exile transportation economist who spent more
than a decade documenting deaths traced to Fidel Castro's revolution,
died Sunday at South Miami Hospital.
Lago, 69, suffered a heart attack Saturday at his Coral Gables
apartment. Disabled by a stroke in 1996, he also contended with diabetes
and renal failure, according to Maria C. Werlau, executive director of
the Cuba Archive, which houses the database that Lago assembled.
Included in the 15,000-name database: those killed by firing squad,
hanging or bombing; those who died in Cuban prisons, in combat or
escaping rom the island by raft; those who simply disappeared; and
Americans who fought the regime.
Lago co-authored what Werlau called ''the 1991 landmark study,'' The
Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary Cuba, about the Castro regime's
use of Soviet-style torture through abuse in mental hospitals.
BOOK NOT FINISHED
He was still working on a manuscript, Cuba: The Human Cost of Social
Revolution, when he died.
Lago co-founded the nonprofit organization Free Society Project, which
he hoped would create the framework for a truth-and-reconciliation
process in a post-Castro Cuba.
The Havana-born Lago left Cuba for Puerto Rico in 1960, after graduating
from Havana's La Salle high school, said Victor Lago, his eldest son.
He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Puerto Rico,
then both master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University in the
He married his high school sweetheart, Josefina Aballi in 1961, and
moved to Palo Alto, Calif., as an economic consultant for the Stanford
The couple divorced in 1992.
Heading east, Lago settled in Bethesda, Md. He became an adjunct
professor of regional and urban economics at Catholic University and
board chairman of the Greater Washington Ibero-American Chamber of Commerce.
He was a founding member of the Association for the Study of the Cuban
Economy, and its president from 1994 to 1996.
In the 1970s, Lago met Elena Mederos, an exile activist who founded Of
Human Rights, which lobbied on behalf of Cuban political prisoners.
''He got the whole Cuban bug and felt that was motivating his life,''
said Victor Lago, a Lighthouse Point lawyer. “That's where he started
to move all his energies.''
His June 1996 stroke ''was pretty bad,'' said his son, though it didn't
impair his speech. The one-time champion swimmer “lost the movement on
his left side and never recovered, but his mind was still working pretty
He sold his D.C.-area consulting business and later told The Miami
Herald that his research helped him lead a meaningful life.
After Lago moved to South Florida in 2004, ''his kidneys gave up,''
Victor Lago said. “But he continued with the work he was doing. . . .
He had pretty much finished putting together his book, but . . . he was
always trying to find excuses not to have it published, because it's
what kept him going.''
Werlau said Lago ''collected everything he could get his hands on'' for
the database, without using the Internet, of which he was suspicious.
''He worked on an old Word Perfect program with one finger,'' Werlau
said. “What he's left behind is enormous.''
In addition to son Victor, Lago is survived by son Andrew of New York
City, daughter Sylvia Lago of Seattle, and brothers Henry Lago of Miami
and Carlos Lago of Arlington, Va.
A wake is planned from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn
Funeral Home, 3344 SW Eighth St., followed by a funeral at 9:30 a.m.
Saturday at St. Raymond Catholic Church, 3475 SW 17th St.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Cuba Archive: