Antelope Valley Press

Juanita Castro, sister of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul, dies


MIAMI— Juanita Castro, the sister of Cuban rulers Fidel and Raúl Castro who worked with the CIA against their communist government, has died in Miami at 90. Florida had been her home since shortly after fleeing the island nearly 60 years ago.

Journalist María Antonieta Collins, who co-wrote Juanita Castro’s 2009 book, “Fidel and Raúl, My Brothers. The Secret History,” wrote on Instagram that she died on Monday.

“Juanita Castro was ahead of us on the path of life and death, exceptiona­l woman, tireless fighter for the cause of her Cuba that I love so much,” Collins wrote.

The Cuban government and media had not mentioned her death as of Wednesday.

In her book, Juanita Castro, a staunch anti-communist, wrote that she began collaborat­ing with the CIA shortly after the United States botched the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

She had originally supported her older brothers’ efforts to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, raising money and buying weapons. She became disillusio­ned when Fidel Castro became a hard-line communist after taking power in 1959 and pushed those who disagreed out of his government.

When her home in Cuba became a sanctuary for anti-communists in the early 1960s, Fidel Castro warned his sister not to get involved with the “gusanos,” or worms as the government called those who opposed the revolution.

She said in her book that it was the wife of Brazil’s ambassador to Cuba who persuaded her to meet with a CIA officer during a 1961 trip to Mexico City. She said she told the agent that she didn’t want any money, and would not support any violence against her brothers or others.

She said the CIA used her to smuggle messages, documents and money back into Cuba hidden inside canned goods. They communicat­ed with her via shortwave radio, playing a waltz and a song from the opera Madame Butterfly as signals that her handlers had a message for her.

She remained on the island while their mother was alive, believing that protected her from Fidel’s full wrath.

“My brothers could ignore what I did or appear to ignore it so as not to hurt my mom, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have problems,” she wrote. After their mother died in 1963, “everything was becoming more dangerousl­y complicate­d.”

Castro fled Cuba the following year, after Raúl helped her get a visa to Mexico. She never saw her brothers again.

“I cannot longer remain indifferen­t to what is happening in my country,” she told reporters upon her arrival in Mexico. “My brothers Fidel and Raúl have made it an enormous prison surrounded by water. The people are nailed to a cross of torment imposed by internatio­nal Communism.”

Because her work for the CIA had been clandestin­e and not publicly known, many Cuban exiles feared she was a communist spy when she arrived in the US a year later. She later helped found a CIA-backed nonprofit organizati­on that worked against the Castro government.

She eventually settled into a quiet life in Miami, where she ran a Little Havana pharmacy and became a respected member of the Cuban-American community. She became a US citizen in 1984.

 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Juanita Castro, sister of Fidel Castro, talks to a reporter on Oct. 27, 2009, in Miami.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Juanita Castro, sister of Fidel Castro, talks to a reporter on Oct. 27, 2009, in Miami.

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