Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro demanded many sacrifices from his countrymen, but he has never "renounced capitalist comforts or chosen to live in austerity," one of his former bodyguards writes in a new book.
"Au contraire, his mode de vie is that of a capitalist without any kind of limit," former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, who was part of Castro's praetorian guard for 17 years, writes in his book "La Vie Cachée de Fidel Castro" (Fidel Castro's Hidden Life). "He has never considered that he is obliged by his speech to follow the austere lifestyle of a good revolutionary."
Instead, Sánchez says in his book that Castro lived the life of a king, including all the luxuries afforded to royalty, The Guardian reported
, including a private yacht, a Caribbean island getaway that included dolphins and a private turtle farm, and he traveled with his own personal blood donors.
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Sánchez says Castro is charismatic and intelligent but manipulative, but also cold-blooded, and egocentric, and prone to temper tantrums.
The former bodyguard says he was put in prison when he asked to retire, and after leaving prison came to the United States in 2008.
"Until the turn in the 1990s, I'd never asked too many questions about the workings of the system … that's the problem with military people," he writes. "As a good soldier, I did my job and my best, and that was enough to make me happy."
Sánchez, 65, says in his book that Castro's private island, Cayo Piedra, is south of the Bay of Pigs, and he would sail there on his luxury yacht, fitted with four motors sent by late Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev.
Castro also had an "immense" estate in Havana, Sánchez claims, which included a rooftop bowling alley, a medical center, and a luxury bungalow with a private marina.
Sánchez also claims his countrymen were not aware of Castro's love life and that he fathered at least nine children.
In addition, Sánchez writes, Castro kept Angolan diamonds in a Cohiba cigar box and "had a little of the mentality of a pirate of the Caribbean."
Sánchez's book comes out Wednesday, and was written with L'Express Magazine senior reporter Axel Gyldén, who admitted to The Guardian that Sánchez has a grudge against Castro, but he checked out the former bodyguard's story.
"This is the first time someone from Castro's intimate circle, someone who was part of the system and a first-hand witness to these events, has spoken," the French journalist told The Guardian. "It changes the image we have of Fidel Castro and not just how his lifestyle contradicts his words, but of Castro's psychology and motivations."
There have been other claims that Castro enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle, including Forbes magazine's listing
of the former Cuban leader in a story about the world's top 10 richest "Kings, Queens, and Dictators." In the article, Forbes quoted unnamed officials who said Castro skimmed profits from several state-owned companies, a claim Castro has denied.
Castro eventually left office in 2006 and officially handed over the reins to his younger brother, Raul, in 2008. Since then, he has been gradually vanishing from public view.
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