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By Juan Reinaldo SanchezMay 3, 2015 | 6:00am nypost.com

The Videotape

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Fidel Castro (right) and Revolutionary Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa
Photo: AP


At the end of these parodies of justice, Gen. Ochoa was condemned to death. José Abrantes received a sentence of 20 years of imprisonment.

After just two years of detention in 1991, he would suffer a fatal heart attack, despite his perfect state of health, in circumstances that were, to say the least, suspicious.

There followed the most painful episode of my career. Fidel had asked that the execution of Ochoa and the three other condemned men be filmed.

And so, two days later, on a Saturday, a chauffeur arrived at the residence, where I was, to deliver a brown envelope containing a ­Betamax cassette video. Castro’s wife, Dalia, told Fidel’s men they should watch it.

The video had no sound, which made the scenes we began to watch even more unreal. First, we saw vehicles arriving in a quarry at night, lit by projectors.

I have often been asked how Ochoa faced death. The answer is clear and unambiguous: with ­exceptional dignity.
As he got out of the car, he walked straight. When one of his torturers proposed to put a band over his eyes, he shook his head in sign of refusal. And when he was facing the firing squad, he looked death square in the face.

Despite the absence of sound, the whole excerpt shows his courage.

To his executioners, who could not be seen in the footage, he said something that one could not hear but which one could guess. His chest pushed out and his chin raised, he probably shouted something like, “Go on, you don’t frighten me!” An instant later, he crumpled from beneath the bullets of seven gunmen.

Castro made us watch it. That’s what the Comandante was capable of to keep his power: not just of killing but also of humiliating and reducing to nothing men who had served him devotedly.

His Brother’s Keeper

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Fidel and Raúl Castro
Photo: AP


After Ochoa’s death, Raúl Castro plunged into the worst bout of alcoholism of his life. He had taken part in the assassination of his friend.

He turned to vodka, which had long been his favorite drink.

There was doubtless another factor involved: having watched the elimination of his counterpart, Abrantes, Raúl could logically fear that he, too, would be hounded from his position of defense minister.

The government No. 2 was dead drunk so often that the ministers and the generals could not have failed to miss it. The ­Comandante decided to go and lecture his younger brother.

I heard Fidel admonishing his brother, launching into a long, moralistic tirade.

“How can you descend so low? You’re giving the worst possible example to your family and your escort,” began the Comandante. “If what’s worrying you is that what happened to Abrantes will happen to you, let me tell you that Abrantes no es mi hermano [is not my brother]! You and I have been united since we were children, for better and for worse. So, no, you are not going to experience Abrantes’ fate, unless . . . you persist with this deplorable behavior.

“Listen, I’m talking to you as a brother. Swear to me that you will come out of this lamentable state and I promise you nothing will happen to you.”

Sure enough, shortly afterward, Fidel spoke out in praise of Raúl, applauding his integrity and his devotion to the Revolution. Raúl, for his part, carried on drinking vodka, but in far more reasonable quantities.

From “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo” by Juan Reinaldo Sanchez with Axel Gyldén.
Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.


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