Fidel Castro and his small army of guerrillas overthrew the American backed brutal military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 to widespread popular support, only to turn Cuba into a brutal Communist dictatorship, headed by Castro and his henchmen.
Within two years of taking power, he declared the revolution to be Marxist-Leninist in nature and allied the island nation firmly to the Soviet Union. Yet, despite a CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles and the constant threat of a US invasion as well as the long-standing economic embargo on the island, Castro managed to maintain a communist dictatorship in a nation just 90 miles (145km) off the coast of Florida.
Fidel Castro image was usually painted by Cuban and Communist propaganda as an austere and simple cigar-chomping but otherwise modest military servant, devoted to advancing the public good in a country where the majority of the 11 million residents live in abject poverty.
In reality, he was a brutal dictator that became a very wealthy person at the expense of the Cuban people.
A Castro propaganda poster.
In 2006 Forbes magazine listed the Cuban leader in its top 10 richest "Kings, Queens and Dictators" citing unnamed officials who claimed Castro had amassed an estimated fortune fortune of around $900 million, by skimming profits from a network of state-owned companies.
Since Cuba is a totalitarian country and everything related to Castro and his family are “state secrets”, no one would really know the actual figure.
Now people can argue that this is all just "American capitalist imperialist propaganda!" trying to smear the noble selfless Castro, however, defectors who were close to Castro’s inner circle say that the figure used by Forbes was not even close to the Castro family real fortune.
In the book “La Vie Cachée de Fidel Castro” (Fidel Castro's Hidden Life), former Castro's bodyguard turned Cuban whistle-blower ,Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, a member of Castro's elite inner circle, wrote that the Cuban leader ran the country as his personal fiefdom like a cross between a medieval overlord and Louis XV.
For 17 years, lieutenant-colonel Juan Reinaldo Sanchez served as a bodyguard to Fidel Castro. But when he became disillusioned with the Cuban dictator’s hypocrisy and tried to retire in 1994, Castro had him thrown in prison.
Sanchez made 10 attempts to escape the island, finally making it to Mexico by boat, then across the Texas border in 2008.
"Contrary to what he has always said, Fidel has never renounced capitalist comforts or chosen to live in austerity. Au contraire, his mode de vie is that of a capitalist without any kind of limit," Juan Reinaldo Sánchez writes. "He has never considered that he is obliged by his speech to follow the austere lifestyle of a good revolutionary."
Sanchez also accused Castro of being a “true drugs Godfather”, harbouring Colombian drug lords and directing shipments of cocaine via Cuba to the US.
Juan Reinaldo Sánchez with Castro.
Three weeks after his book was published in the US under the name "The Double Life of Fidel Castro" Sanchez suddenly died, reportedly from a lung infection.
However, many people in the Cuban-Americans community speculated that Castro’s Miami agents may have poisoned him. In recent TV interviews in Miami he had looked the picture of health at the age of 66 and did not mention being unwell.
Castro's wealth wasn't limited just to him, his son Antonio Castro, was discovered by a hidden camera while on vacation in Bodrum, Turkey. A place he arrived at from the Greek island of Mykonos on board a 150-foot mega yacht, and where he stayed with his companions in luxury suites. Even if it wasn't his own mega yacht, a yacht this size is normally rented for as much as $50,000 per day.
So while most of Cubans live in poverty, and millions of Cubans even prefer to risk death in the open seas while trying to reach the US rather than staying one second longer in Cuba, Fidel Castro and his family enjoyed the kind of life and riches that only corrupt modern dictators and absolute monarchs in Europe once enjoyed.