Friday, November 27, 2009

Castro sister recounts role as CIA spy in Cuba

Castro sister recounts role as CIA spy in Cuba
Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:19pm EDT
By Pascal Fletcher

MIAMI (Reuters) - Using the code name Donna, the younger sister of Fidel
and Raul Castro worked undercover for the CIA in Cuba in the early
1960s, helping opponents of their communist rule escape execution and
imprisonment, she said in memoirs published in exile on Monday.

Revealing what the publishers called a closely guarded secret kept
hidden for four decades, Juanita Castro described in the book how she
was recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in Havana two
years after the 1959 Revolution led by her brothers, which she initially

There was no immediate reaction to her revelation from the U.S.
authorities or the Cuban government, which routinely dismisses critics
as mercenaries in the pay of Washington.

Juanita Castro, 76, broke publicly with the Cuban government led by her
brother Fidel Castro in 1964 after leaving Cuba for Mexico. She went
into exile in Miami and has remained a firm critic of communist rule in

In the memoirs entitled "Fidel and Raul, My Brothers, the Secret
History," told to Mexican journalist Maria Antonieta Collins, she says
she quickly became disenchanted with Fidel Castro's rule over the
Caribbean's largest island because he increasingly persecuted opponents
and turned to communism.

She says Fidel Castro "betrayed" her and other Cubans by abandoning the
nationalist democratic revolution he had promised and imposing a
one-party Marxist state on Cuba.

Juanita Castro wrote she was recruited to be a clandestine CIA operative
by her friend Virginia Leitao da Cunha, the wife of the Brazilian
ambassador to Cuba, who in 1958 sheltered her and other revolutionary
followers of Castro during the armed struggle to topple dictator
Fulgencio Batista.

She said that at a meeting with an American CIA officer "Enrique" in a
Mexico City hotel in 1961, she was given the code name Donna and
codebooks to use in Cuba with a short-wave radio to receive instructions
from her CIA handlers.

Former leader Fidel Castro, 83, who last year handed over the presidency
of Cuba to his younger brother Raul, 78, for health reasons, has long
considered the CIA his arch-enemy. He says the U.S. spy agency was
behind most of the 600 or so assassination plots he claims were made
against his life.

In her memoirs, Juanita Castro wrote she agreed to work for the CIA
under the noses of her brothers on the condition that she was not asked
to participate in any violent acts against them or any other member of
their government.

"Did I feel remorse about betraying Fidel by agreeing to meet with his
enemies? No, for one simple reason: I didn't betray him. He betrayed
me," she writes in the 432-page book published in Spanish by Grupo


"He betrayed the thousands of us who suffered and fought for the
revolution that he had offered, one that was generous and just and would
bring peace and democracy to Cuba, and which, as he himself had
promised, would be as 'Cuban as palm trees,'" she said.

Juanita Castro said in her memoirs and in a TV interview that she never
accepted any money from the CIA for her collaboration. "I never put any
price on my desertion ... on my activities against the communist
dictatorship," she told the Spanish language TV channel
Univision-Noticias 23 on Monday.

She described in her book how, following CIA instructions often secretly
picked up at isolated roadside drop points in Cuba, she helped people
persecuted by Fidel Castro's secret police to escape capture,
imprisonment and possible execution.

Some were sheltered at the house where she lived with her mother, Lina
Ruz Gonzalez, who was also the mother of Fidel and Raul Castro. Lina
Ruz, who also helped some friends escape persecution, died in 1963,
Juanita Castro said.

She recalled her own shock when Fidel Castro, who had denied publicly
that he was a communist, declared on December 2, 1961, that he was a
Marxist-Leninist and that he would remain one for the rest of his life.

"Fidel's radical change to communism was not out of political
conviction, but simply out of the need to hold power, which is what has
always been important to him," she wrote.

"I have no other explanation: He turned to the Soviet Union to
perpetuate himself in power."

The collapse in 1991 of the Soviet Union, Cuba's main ally and economic
benefactor for years, plunged the island into economic crisis. But
despite the economic problems, both Fidel and Raul Castro have ruled out
any shift to capitalism.

In response to a call for a "new beginning" in U.S.-Cuban ties made by
U.S. President Barack Obama, the Cuban leadership has started talks with
Washington on issues like migration and postal service ties, but it
demands that Obama completely end the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo
against Cuba.

Obama says he wants to see Havana free jailed dissidents and improve
human rights.

Juanita Castro says she has not spoken to Fidel or Raul Castro since she
left Cuba in 1964.

Castro sister recounts role as CIA spy in Cuba | Reuters (26 November 2009)

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