Brian Latell, author of Castro’s Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, The CIA, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, writes about Juan Reinaldo Sánchez Crespo, author of The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo in the Miami Herald,
An appalling indictment of Fidel. Latell is outraged about Castro’s involvement in the Mariel exodus (emphasis added)
For me, Sánchez’s most appalling indictment of Fidel concerns the chaotic exodus of more than 125,000 Cubans in 1980 from the port of Mariel. Most who fled were members of Cuban exile families living in the United States. They were allowed to board boats brought by relatives and to make the crossing to South Florida.
But many of the boats were forcibly loaded by Cuban authorities with criminals and mentally ill people plucked from institutions on the island. Few of us who have studied Fidel Castro have doubted that it was he who ordered those dangerous Cubans to be exported to the United States. He has persuaded few with his denials of any role in the incident.
Yet Sánchez adds an appalling new twist to the saga. We learn that prison wards and mental institutions were not hurriedly emptied, as was previously believed. Sánchez reveals that Castro insisted on scouring lists of prisoners so that he could decide who would stay and who would be sent to the United States. He ordered interior minister Jose Abrahantes to bring him prisoner records.
Sánchez was seated in an anteroom just outside of Fidel’s office when the minister arrived. The bodyguard listened as Fidel discussed individual convicts with Abrahantes.
“I was present when they brought him the lists of prisoners,” Sánchez writes, “with the name, the reason for the sentence, and the date of release. Fidel read them, and with the stroke of a pen designated which ones could go and which ones would stay. ‘Yes’ was for murderers and dangerous criminals; ‘no’ was for those who had attacked the revolution.” Dissidents remained incarcerated.
A number of the criminal and psychopathic marielitos put on the boats to Florida went on to commit heinous crimes — including mass murder, rape, and arson. Among the many despicable acts Fidel Castro committed over the years, his decision to facilitate that violence stands in a sordid class by itself.