|With his shaggy beard and rumpled, olive-drab fatigues, Fidel Castro
presented himself to the world as a modest man of the people.|
At times, he claimed he made just 900 pesos ($43) a month and lived in a “fisherman’s hut” somewhere on the beach.
But Castro’s public image was a carefully crafted myth, more fiction than fact.
“While his people suffered, Fidel Castro lived in comfort — keeping everything, including his eight children, his many mistresses, even his wife, a secret,” wrote Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Castro’s longtime bodyguard.
Sanchez’s book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Líder Maximo,” describes his former boss’ hidden life of political ruthlessness, mistresses and greed.
Castro, who died Friday night at 90, made a personal fortune offering safe haven to drug traffickers, bedded a bevy of women over the decades, and once threatened his own brother, Raul, with execution when the brother lapsed into alcoholism in the ’90s, Sanchez’s book reveals.
Each member of the family possessed his or her own cow, “so as to satisfy each one’s individual taste, since the acidity and creaminess of fresh milk varies from one cow to another.”
Disloyalty exacted a heavy price. Dissidents were jailed for as little as handing out books on democracy.
Castro himself displayed little loyalty, either professionally or personally.
Even his closest aides faced execution if it suited his agenda.
In the late ’80s, when an international scandal brewed over Castro’s exchanges of safe haven for cash with Colombian cocaine traffickers, Castro had no problem throwing those closest to him under the bus.
“Very simply, a huge drug-trafficking transaction was being carried out at the highest echelons of the state,” Sanchez wrote.
Castro “was directing illegal operations like a real godfather,” Sanchez wrote.
Revolutionary Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, who had fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro, was at the center of the drug dealings, Sanchez said.
But when the US caught wind, Castro vowed an “official inquiry.”
Raul was forced to view on closed-circuit TV as a kangaroo court tried and convicted Ochoa — and then watch the general’s execution by firing squad.
“Castro made us watch it,” Sanchez recalled.
“That’s what the Comandante was capable of to keep his power: not just of killing but also of humiliating and reducing to nothing men who had served him devotedly.”
After Ochoa’s death, Raul plunged into alcoholism, drowning his grief and humiliation with vodka.
“Listen, I’m talking to you as a brother,” Castro warned him.
“Swear to me that you will come out of this lamentable state and I promise you nothing will happen to you.”
Raul, who perhaps knew best what his brother was capable of, complied.