As the Cocaine Cowboys era exploded into a yeyo-fueled crime wave of excess in South Florida and across the nation in the 1980s, Fidel Castro quietly helped Cuban smugglers get the drugs from Colombia to American shores. Why?
"For him, drug trafficking was, above all, a weapon of revolutionary struggle more than a means of making money," writes Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, a former Castro bodyguard. "It served his revolutionary objectives in the sense that it corrupted and destabilized American society... Icing on the cake: It was a means of bringing in cash to finance subversion."
Sanchez's assertion that Fidel is a "godfather" of the drug trade is among the more eye-opening claims in The Double Life of Fidel Castro, a new book by Sanchez that was excerpted in the New York Post over the weekend.
Sanchez says he spent 17 years as a "top bodyguard" for Castro who fell out of favor and eventually escaped to the U.S. in 2008. He first published his memoirs in France in collaboration with a reporter at L'Express magazine. At the time, the book made headlines for its claims that Fidel — despite his proletarian image — lives a life of grand luxury, including yachts and a stocked private Caribbean island.
Sanchez's first English-language excerpt concentrates on the drug trade. He claims he witnessed Fidel's role in the trafficking firsthand in 1988, when he overheard the Cuban strongman personally arranging a quiet visit back to Cuba for a top drug smuggler.
"I realized that the man for whom I had long sacrificed my life, the Líder whom I worshipped like a god and who counted more in my eyes than my own family was caught up in cocaine trafficking to such an extent that he was directing illegal operations like a real godfather," Sanchez writes.
The ex-bodyguard also claims Fidel ordered the execution of a revolutionary general named Arnaldo Ochoa to cover his own ties in the mid-'80s to cocaine and marijuana smuggling though a "convertible currency" department in the government. That decision, Sanchez writes, so disturbed Raúl Castro that the younger brother became a drunk.
"[He] was dead drunk so often that the ministers and the generals could not have failed to miss it," Sanchez writes of Raúl.
Sanchez was thrown in prison in 1994 after falling out with Castro and finally made it to Mexico in 2008 after as many as ten failed attempts to defect.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.