Omara Garcia / AFP - Getty Images FILE
Cuban Benito Martinez Abogan, right, was said to be born on June 19, 1880 in Cavaillon, Haiti, but lived most of his life in Cuba. He died Wednesday at 126. 
updated 10/12/2006 6:43:07 AM ET 2006-10-12T10:43:07

Benito Martinez Abrogan, Cuba’s oldest person and star of the government’s efforts to promote healthy lives for its oldest citizens, died Wednesday.

He was said to be 126, but there was no definitive proof of his age, as he had no birth certificate.

“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.

He was not regarded as the world’s oldest person because he did not have official documentation. Guinness World Records says a 116-year-old American, Elizabeth Bolden of Tennessee, is the oldest known person alive.

Good eyesight, good hearing
As a toothless centenarian, Martinez had been 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.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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