By Juan Reinaldo Sanchez
For 17 years, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez served as a bodyguard to Fidel Castro. But when he became disillusioned with the Cuban dictator’s hypocrisy and tried to retire in 1994, Castro had him thrown in prison. Sanchez made 10 attempts to escape the island, finally making it to Mexico by boat, then across the Texas border in 2008. Now he reveals all in his new book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro.” In this excerpt, Sanchez explains how he lost faith in the revolution — and “El Jefe.”
The end of 1988. A day like any other was coming to a close in Havana. In a few minutes, my life would be overturned.
Fidel had spent his afternoon reading and working in his office when he stuck his head through the door to the anteroom, where I was, to warn me that Abrantes was about to arrive.
Gen. José Abrantes, in his 50s, had been minister of the interior since 1985 after having been, notably, the commander in chief’s head of security for 20 years. Utterly loyal, he was one of the people who saw El Jefe daily.
While they met, I went to sit in my office, where the closed-circuit TV screens monitoring the garage, the elevator and the corridors were found, as well as the cupboard housing the three locks that turned on the recording mikes hidden in a false ceiling in Fidel’s office.
A moment later, the Comandante came back, opened the door again, and gave me this instruction: “Sánchez, ¡no grabes!” (“Sánchez, don’t record!”)
The interview seemed to go on forever . . . one hour went by, then two. And so, as much out of curiosity as to kill the time, I put on the listening headphones and turned Key No. 1 to hear what was being said on the other side of the wall.
Their conversation centered on a Cuban lanchero (someone who smuggles drugs by boat) living in the United States, apparently conducting business with the government.
And what business! Very simply, a huge drug-trafficking transaction was being carried out at the highest echelons of the state.
Abrantes asked for Fidel’s authorization to bring this trafficker temporarily to Cuba as he wanted to have a week’s vacation in his native land, accompanied by his parents, in Santa María del Mar — a beach situated about 12 miles east of Havana where the water is turquoise and the sand as fine as flour. For this trip, explained Abrantes, the lanchero would pay $75,000 — which, at a time of economic recession, wouldn’t go amiss . . . Fidel was all for it.
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