Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Fidel Castro Is Not What You've Been Led to Believe

Ronald Radosh has written for The Weekly Standard a intriguing book review of Juan Reinaldo Sánchez’s The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Líder Máximo.

Here’s a couple of passages to draw your interest.

Fidel Castro has often told Cubans and the world press that he is an exemplary revolutionary leader who works day and night for the revolution and lives as simply as the poorest Cuban, taking only a meager official salary of $38 per month (in American dollars). Sánchez finds this myth “highly comic,” since, in reality, Castro was the CEO of what might be called Cuba Holdings, an entity with sums in the millions, all of it available for Castro’s personal use at a moment’s whim.

Sánchez details how Castro uses this wealth for his personal comfort, a state secret carefully hidden from the people he led until his recent official retirement. For the first time, Sánchez exposes the secret properties Castro owns, giving exact locations, using maps and Google satellite imagery. The leader who preaches the need to sacrifice for the revolution has, in addition to 20 homes throughout the island, a private island called Cayo Piedra, where he and his entourage would go each weekend in June and for the entire month of August. It was, writes Sánchez, a “millionaire’s paradise” where Castro kept his private yacht, Aquarama II, and had his own ecological underwater sanctuary…

The revelations here are important for Americans to read, just as President Obama has restored full diplomatic relations with Cuba, with the opening of an embassy in each country. Many believe that this step, along with the restoration of American tourism, will lead to a relaxation of the dictatorship in Cuba as Western values (and dollars) begin to transform the country…  

Two years away from retirement age, and growing more disillusioned by the day, Juan Reinaldo Sánchez made a formal request to retire early. Immediately, he was arrested by Castro and spent two years in harsh prison conditions. He was released in 1996, 40 pounds lighter than he had weighed upon entry. After a dozen attempts to escape Cuba, he succeeded in 2008. Hoping to devote the last chapter of his life to working for freedom in Cuba, he died just as this American edition of his book was published.