Radio Havana Cuba released the following statement on June 19.

HAVANA — With profound sorrow, the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Cuban government announce that Compañera Vilma Espín Guillois, a heroine of the clandestine struggle, an outstanding combatant of the Rebel Army and untiring fighter for the emancipation of women and the defense of the rights of children, passed away here June 18 at 4:14 p.m., after a long and painful illness.

Born in Santiago de Cuba on April 7, 1930, in a family that very early on cultivated the values and ethics that would distinguish her, Vilma from a young age assumed political and revolutionary positions, actively participating in student demonstrations following the coup d’etat carried out by Batista in 1952.

From that time, she was an inseparable collaborator of Frank Pais, joining organizations founded by him in the struggle against the tyranny, until the members of what was then called the National Revolutionary Action, joined the ranks of the 26th of July Movement.

The doors of her home were opened to the comrades who attacked the Moncada Garrison and who were being persecuted by troops of the bloody oppressor regime. While she was finishing a post-graduate course in the United States, following the orientations of the leadership of the revolutionary movement, she stopped in Mexico to meet with Fidel, receiving instructions and messages. Under the direct orders of Frank Pais, she took part in the armed uprising of Santiago de Cuba on Nov. 30, 1956, in support of the Granma expedition, converting her home, following that important action, into the headquarters of the movement in Santiago de Cuba.

A member of the national leadership of the 26th of July Movement, just before Frank Pais was assassinated, she was named the provincial coordinator of the clandestine organization in Oriente, an assignment that she carried out with particular skill and bravery. Facing constant persecution, she joined the Rebel Army in June 1958, becoming the legendary guerrilla fighter of the Frank Pais Second Western Front and the efficient coordinator of the clandestine movement of Oriente.

Upon the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, immersed in various tasks and on the orders of Fidel, she headed the unification of women’s organizations and the constitution of the Federation of Cuban Women, whose organization, from its highest leadership, she consecrated until the last minute of her life.

She was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party from its foundation in 1965, and re-elected at all of the party’s subsequent congresses. In 1980, on the occasion of the Second Congress of the party, she was elected substitute member of the Political Bureau and at the Third Party Congress she was promoted as a full member of the leadership, a responsibility she carried out until 1991. She was a Deputy to the National Assembly from its first legislative session and a member of the Council of State from its inception.

Vilma presided over the National Commission of Prevention and Social Attention from its creation and the Commission of Children and Youth, as well as the Commission on Women’s Equal Rights of the National Assembly of People’s Power.

Her name will be eternally linked to the most significant conquests of Cuban women in the Revolution and as one of the most important fighters for the emancipation of women in our country and throughout the world.

For her merits, she received many awards and national and international orders, among them the honorable title of Heroine of the Republic of Cuba.

According to her wishes, Compañera Vilma Espín will be cremated. Her ashes will be deposited in the Mausoleum of the Frank Pais Second Front, where the remains of other heroic combatants of the Front lie.

In her memory, our people, with profound feelings of sorrow, will render a heartfelt homage at the José Martí Memorial in Havana, at the Salón de los Vitrales, and at the base of the monument to Antonio Maceo in her native and heroic city, Santiago de Cuba, beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until 5 p.m., tomorrow, June 19. At those same times, homage will be paid to her in the rest of the provinces.

In her honor, the leadership of the Party and Cuban State has decided to observe a solemn ceremony at the Karl Marx Theater, tomorrow at 6:00 p.m., headed by leaders, the National Leadership of the FMC and the provincial secretariats of this women’s organization, as well as women of the capital and representatives of the diverse sectors of Cuban society.