Louise's Reviews > The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo

The Double Life of Fidel Castro by Juan Reinaldo Sánchez
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it was amazing
bookshelves: cuba, biography

I read this 3 sittings over 24 hours - fully riveted.

Juan Reinaldo Sanchez has seen a lot of the world and even more of life in service to Cuba, or more accurately, Fidel Castro. Upon his 2008 defection, he must have been a treasure trove for the CIA.

Because of his top security position he is able to tell how El Lider Maximo was able to elude over 600 assassination attempts. Castro’s personal security apparatus is a marvel, well supported with personnel and technology. You learn of his special food, how his clothes are laundered, how his double functions, how the staff is trained and scheduled and how Castro is involved in every detail. Besides his security work, Sanchez helped in compiling his boss’ diary/daily log, which if it survives, will fascinate scholars for generations.

Dr. Selman, Castro’s physician also deserves respect for his work. He has kept alive his only patient who has had some form of cancer since the 1980’s. Dr. Selman has at his disposal a private clinic for this sole patient and has on hand two men who share Castro’s rare blood type.

There is more here on the Castro family and their living situations than I have ever seen. Castro’s many houses and their appointments stand in contrast to his wardrobe. The book opens on Castro’s yacht and a description of an island estate. Later there are descriptions of his other homes, each more fitting a capitalist than the head of a poor communist nation. Sanchez tells of his 9 children by 5 women and where they are and what they are doing today.

I have read of Castro's friendship of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but no where have I seen how close it was. Gabo had his own living quarters in Havana and appears often in this book. He surely knew of his friend’s double life.

Sanchez reminds the reader of Castro’s influence world-wide. While he has had mixed success with his international interference he is celebrated in communist countries, dictatorships and countries in rebellion. Sanchez has some interesting observations and anecdotes on traveling with Castro.

Following his incarceration (and torture) for wanting to retire early (although he doesn’t connect it, it could be his son and daughter’s defections or Castro’s paranoia following the Ochoa affair), Sanchez’s defection took 12 years. He was closely followed and foiled by his need to be successful and discrete, the weather and other circumstances. His security training served him well in his escape.

I expect that a lot here is not just new to me, but truly new. The book is full of information. While it is written in a conversational voice, there are few spare words. Besides the light shown on Castro, you also learn Sanchez's remarkable story.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 20, 2015 – Finished Reading
October 21, 2015 – Shelved
October 21, 2015 – Shelved as: cuba
October 21, 2015 – Shelved as: biography

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Caroline (last edited Oct 21, 2015 05:44AM) (new) - added it

Caroline Gosh, that is quite something! You didn't doubt the truthfulness of what Sanchez was saying? (I am in no position to question his writing, knowing little about Castro, and nothing about Sanchez; but to my uneducated ears this all sounds astonishing....)


Louise The voice sounds very authentic. It jives with what I know from other sources. Names are named and he knows a lot about the family, where things were, and how things were done. He would have to be high up to know about the travel - and a lot is specified... how many planes, cars, who went and how they were positioned.

The only skepticism I have is the incarceration for "wanting to retire" as I mention above. I would imagine there was a huge attitude change for Castro and staff after the Ochoa affair. As to the 12 years of attempts to leave, I'm not sure how you live as a persona non grata in Cuba for 12 years, especially with a wife who has travel permission and kids abroad, but the book is not about Castro and not Sanchez.

If this had been written in 2008, year of his defection, I'd be skeptical. A lot of this is dated well past CIA (he is now a consultant on security and Cuba) concerns.


message 3: by Simon (new) - added it

Simon Wood What do you know from other sources? Has this been corroborated from other sources? Someone from Cuba making these accusations could expect to be popular and well rewarded in Miami though of course Sanchez seems to have died shortly after the books publication.


Louise The book begins with a fishing trip off an island estate near the Bay of Pigs. Sanchez says, now, with Google Earth, anyone can see it. Throughout he shows how you can verify things. He gives the addresses and directions to the other Castro residences... info on the family etc. He is very specific on every page. I'm a skeptical reader. I think this is the real deal. I didn't know he died, which increases the credibility. Perhaps he knew he was going to die so had nothing to lose in getting it to press.


message 5: by Caroline (new) - added it

Caroline Louise wrote: "The voice sounds very authentic. It jives with what I know from other sources. Names are named and he knows a lot about the family, where things were, and how things were done. He would have to be ..."

Thank you for that. Your further support of the author has made me want to track the book down.


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