Blas Roca, 78; Author of Cuban Constitution

From Times Wire Services

Blas Roca, author of Cuba’s first post-revolutionary constitution and a leading theoretician of the Cuban revolution and one-time head of Cuba’s Communist Party, has died.

Roca, 78, died Saturday in Havana, the official Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported.

President Fidel Castro and more than 100,000 mourners jammed the Plaza de la Revolucion, where his body lay in state on Sunday.

They stood quietly for as long as four hours, some shading themselves from the hot sun with umbrellas and hats made from newspapers.


Castro praised Roca as a “teacher of communism for decades” who “put his experience at the disposal of the revolutionary movement.”

Born in the eastern Cuba city of Manzanillo, Roca left school at 11 and began shining shoes to help support his family.

Roca, who had been born Francisco Calderio but changed his name to Roca (rock), became active in the labor movement when he organized the bootblacks in Manzanillo in 1929, the same year he joined the Communist Party. He was imprisoned three times in the 1930s for his anti-government activities and later served 12 years in the Cuban legislature.

During the 1952-58 dictatorship of Gen. Fulgencio Batista, Roca led Cuba’s clandestine Communist movement.


After Castro’s overthrow of Batista on Jan. 1, 1959, Roca gave the party leadership to Castro but assumed a leading role in the evolution of the ruling political party from the People’s Socialist Party into the Cuban Communist Party in 1965.

“What the Cuban people will always remember and love him for is the way he gave up the reins of authority to Fidel after the revolution,” said Milagros Escobar, 28, a Cuban journalist. “It prevented more struggle and smoothed the way for success.”

Roca also served from 1976 through 1981 as president of the National Assembly of Popular Power.

Roca published many books, articles and pamphlets.