Oldest Haitian born Cuban dead at 126
HAVANA (Reuters) - Benito Martinez Abrogan, Cuba's oldest person and star of the government's efforts to promote healthy lives for its oldest citizens, died on Wednesday at the age of 126.
"He died this afternoon. He had been in intensive care, but old age was the main problem," said an official at Ciego de Avila Hospital in central Cuba.
Martinez, who attributed his longevity to a healthy diet of fresh vegetables, some meat and only occasional consumption of alcohol, was born in Haiti in 1880 and migrated to Cuba to work on sugar cane plantations in 1925, according to his Cuban documents.
There was no definitive proof of his age as he had no birth certificate.
The toothless centenarian was the star attraction of Cuba's 120-Club, a group formed by President Fidel Castro's personal physician Eugenio Selman to promote healthy lives for Cuba's elderly.
Communist Cuba proudly boasts it has raised life expectancy to 77 years, equal to that of rich industrialized nations and a major feat for a developing country.
Martinez had a weak heart and used a cane to walk, but did not wear glasses and his hearing was good.
A recent study said more than 2,500 of Cuba's 11.2 million inhabitants are over the age of 100, most of them women. The study attributed the country's high number of centenarians to going easy on alcohol but indulging in sex, cigars and coffee.
© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.
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