Book: Castro Traveled With Personal Blood Donors
Former bodyguard says Cuban leader lived like a king
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2014 1:30 PM CDT
Fidel Castro in 2003.   (AP Photo/Jose Goitia, FILE)

(Newser) – Fidel Castro was not the spartan Socialist he claimed to be, says a former bodyguard. In fact, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez writes in Fidel Castro's Hidden Life that Castro lived very much like a king, reports the Guardian and Miami Herald. Among the claims:

  • Castro enjoyed a private island, Cayo Piedra, that Sanchez calls a "garden of Eden." Maybe because of the turtle farm and pool with dolphins.
  • He sailed there in an 88-foot yacht, the Aquarama II, which was adorned with rare wood from Angola and four motors courtesy of Leonid Brezhnev. ("Castro would sit in his large black leather director's armchair ... a glass of Chivas Regal on the rocks in his hand," writes Sanchez.)
  • He had about 20 luxury homes, including an estate in Havana with a bowling alley on the roof.
  • He always traveled with 10 bodyguards, and two of them had to have his blood type in case he needed an emergency transfusion. Castro didn't trust stored blood.

"Contrary to what he has always said, Fidel has never renounced capitalist comforts or chosen to live in austerity," writes Sanchez. "Au contraire, his mode de vie is that of a capitalist without any kind of limit. He has never considered that he is obliged by his speech to follow the austere lifestyle of a good revolutionary." Sanchez worked as a bodyguard for 17 years before falling out of favor after asking for retirement. He ended up in prison before escaping to Mexico and then to the US, where he now lives.