Cuban who banned Beatles has died

HAVANA Wed Feb 4, 2009 9:06am EST

A member of staff passes pictures of the Beatles on the main staircase at the Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool, northern England February 1, 2008. REUTERS/Phil Noble

A member of staff passes pictures of the Beatles on the main staircase at the Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool, northern England February 1, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

HAVANA (Reuters) - The man who banned the Beatles from the communist-run island's radio and television stations has died, state television said on Tuesday.

Jorge "Papito" Serguera, who at the time was president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, pulled Beatles music from the airwaves in the 1970s even though he later admitted he enjoyed listening to it in private.

Serguera, who was 76 when he died, said in a 2001 interview he was following orders from high government officials who viewed the British band's music as a threat to the revolution.

But he was viewed as an architect of a general cultural crackdown that dampened dissent and marginalized many for their beliefs or sexuality.

"There were national leaders who were against, not them (the Beatles), but the so-called modern music ... there was incredible pressure," he told Ernesto Juan Castellanos, author of "John Lennon in Havana with a little help from my friend."

Today, Beatles music is played on the Cuban airwaves and one of Havana's minor landmarks is a statue of Lennon sitting on a park bench.

Serguera fought in the 1959 revolution that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista, then worked alongside Ernesto "Che" Guevara as a prosecutor in controversial trials that condemned to death hundreds of Batista collaborators.

His appearance on television in 2006 provoked protests from intellectuals still angry about his 1970s actions.

(Reporting by Esteban Israel; editing by Jeff Franks)

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