Castro's Sister Worked With CIA Against Him

When Juanita Castro's shortwave played 'Madame Butterfly,' agents had a message for her
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 6, 2023 6:30 PM CST
Castro's Sister Worked With CIA Against Him
Juanita Castro talks to a reporter in 2009 in Miami.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

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, the AP reports. "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.

In her book, Juanita Castro, a staunch anti-communist, wrote that she began collaborating with the CIA shortly after the US 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 the wife of Brazil's ambassador to Cuba 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 money and would not support 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. Agents 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, per the AP, believing that protected her from Fidel Castro's full wrath.

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After their mother died in 1963, "everything was becoming more dangerously complicated," she wrote. 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." She moved to the US a year later. Castro settled in Miami, helping to found a CIA-backed nonprofit organization that worked against the Castro government and running a pharmacy in Little Havana. She became a US citizen in 1984. Fidel Castro died in 2016 at 90, while Raul, 92, is living in retirement. The eldest brother, Ramon, died in 2016 at 91.

(More obituary stories.)

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