NATIONAL NEWS

Juanita Castro, anti-communist sister of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul, dies in Miami at 90

Dec 6, 2023, 12:23 PM

MIAMI (AP) — 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 U.S. 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 U.S. citizen in 1984.

Luis Zúñiga Rey, who was a political prisoner in Cuba before being expelled in 1988, said Wednesday that he met Juanita Castro during local radio interviews.

“She was serious but always kind and respectful,” he said. “As the sister of the Cuban dictators, she always tried to keep her family background from interfering with her fellow Cubans here in Miami.”

Her opposition to Fidel Castro “showed a lot of bravery,” he said.

“Imagine what it is like to challenge your powerful brother and what that means at a personal level.” he said.

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba until 2008, when he turned power over to Raúl, who had been his second-in-command. Raúl Castro then spent a decade as Cuba’s leader.

When Fidel’s serious health problems in 2006 led to street celebrations in Little Havana, she took no joy. He was still her brother, even though she fought against his government.

“In the same way that people are demonstrating and celebrating, I’m showing sadness. I respect the position of everyone who feels happy about his health problems, but they have to respect me also,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s my family. It’s my brothers. It doesn’t matter. We are separated for political reasons, ideological reasons, but that’s it.”

Fidel Castro died in 2016 at 90, while Raul, 92, is living in retirement. The eldest brother, Ramon, died in 2016 at 91.

__

Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

National News

Associated Press

Tornado kills multiple people in Iowa as powerful storms again tear through Midwest

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Multiple people were killed when a tornado tore through Greenfield and left a wide swath of obliterated homes, crumpled cars and splintered trees, while outside the small town, massive wind turbines were buckled and twisted to the ground by the howling winds. After devastating the town of 2,000 residents, the storms […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Rangers recover the body of a Japanese climber who died on North America’s tallest peak

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rangers have recovered the body of a Japanese man who died after an apparent fall while climbing North America’s tallest peak, authorities said Tuesday. Denali National Park and Preserve identified the climber as T. Hagiwara, from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. He was identified by his first initial in keeping with his family’s […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Detroit could be without Black representation in Congress again with top candidate off the ballot

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit Democrat will not appear on the ballot after building significant support within the party in his attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar in Michigan’s August primary, after election officials determined that he had not submitted enough valid signatures. Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett’s ruling on Tuesday to keep […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Hawaii officials stress preparedness despite below-normal central Pacific hurricane season outlook

HONOLULU (AP) — This year’s hurricane season for waters around Hawaii will likely be “below normal” with one to four tropical cyclones across the central Pacific region, forecasters said Tuesday. A near-normal season has four or five cyclones, which include tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes. Last year, during strong El Nino conditions, four tropical […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Delaware lawmakers OK bill enabling board of political appointees to oversee hospital budgets

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The state House on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill aimed at curtailing the increase in health care costs in Delaware by establishing a state board with authority to impose budgets on the state’s largest hospitals. The legislation passed the House on a 24-16 vote with two Democrats joining Republicans […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Confederate monument to ‘faithful slaves’ must be removed, North Carolina residents’ lawsuit says

COLUMBIA, N.C. (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks the removal of a Confederate monument marked as “in appreciation of our faithful slaves” from outside of a North Carolina county courthouse. The Concerned Citizens of Tyrrell County, a civic group focused on issues facing local Black residents, and several of its members filed the […]

8 hours ago

Juanita Castro, anti-communist sister of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul, dies in Miami at 90