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The American Dream Comes True for 105-year-old Cuban

Jose "El Nino" Temprana, a 105-year-old exile who was detained for 30 years in his native Cuba, realized his American dream Friday, when he became a US citizen at a ceremony in Miami.

Now, he says, his next goal is to find himself a wife.

And the former fisherman is convinced he will outlive the ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro he once plotted to assassinate.

"He's far less healthy than I am, he can hardly talk," Temprana said of the 80-year-old communist leader who has been recovering from intestinal surgery for almost one year.

Beaming with pride, a US flag sewed onto his left shirt pocket, Temprana joined some 150 others in reciting the US pledge of allegiance, swearing to bear arms for the United States if called upon to do so.

"Now I am American," he said, smiling and waving a small US flag.

The crowd at the swearing-in ceremony applauded as he walked into the hall sporting a straw fedora, two-tone shoes, smart black slacks and a white "guayabera" -- a quintessentially Cuban open-necked pleated shirt

Temprana says he had felt "like an American" long before he was naturalized, since he grew up under the 1901 Platt Amendment that for three decades essentially made Cuba a US protectorate by giving the United States the right to intervene in the island's affairs.

Born on September 26, 1901, he worked with his sons as a sponge diver and lobster fisherman in a small village in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province.

After the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power, he plotted against the communist regime with a group that included three of his sons.

"I received arms from here to topple Fidel Castro. To fight," Temprana told AFP.

"There were a lot of us, but there was also one person who infiltrated the group. He talked, so they arrested us."

He and his sons were jailed in 1964.

Temprana spent 18 years in prison and 12 more under house arrest. Immediately upon his release he obtained a refugee visa and flew to Miami, where he likes to spend his time cruising his neighborhood in his motorized wheelchair, chatting with neighbors and, since his wife died three years ago, flirting with the ladies.

Married since the age of 17, he says he has found it difficult to live on his own.

"I'm looking for a woman to be with. I feel lonely at night," he said, winking at some of the younger women who attended the ceremony at the Miami Citizenship Center.

"I like women very much." But, he adds, "not those who want to be paid."

He believes womanizing may be part of his secret to longevity, though he thinks it may also be in his genes: one of his grandmothers died at the age of 119.

As for his diet: Pig roast is his favorite, he has red wine with every meal, drinks whisky and rolls his own cigars.

He plans to vote in the 2008 presidential election, though he is yet to pick a candidate.

For now, he intends to celebrate his new citizenship. "I'll have a few drinks and smoke a cigar. Then, a nap."


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