Fidel Castro, Cuba’s communist dictator, former president and divisive world figure, had no time for luxury, despising holidays as ‘bourgeois’ and claiming to live in a fisherman’s hut – or so he insisted.
But Castro wasn’t as modest as he let on to his fellow Cubans, who endured decades of poverty, crumbling housing and food rationing during his long rule.
He lived like a king. A womaniser and food connoisseur who allegedly kept some 20 luxurious properties throughout the Caribbean, Castro had his own private yacht, a luxury Caribbean island getaway complete with a turtle farm and dolphins, and travelled with two personal blood donors, according to a tell-all book.
In La Vie Cachée de Fidel Castro (Fidel Castro’s Hidden Life), former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, a member of Castro’s elite inner circle, says the Cuban leader ran the country like a cross between a medieval overlord and Louis XV.
The man who spent his life protesting against the excesses of capitalism lived like a king – and a very debauched one at that.
Sánchez, who was part of Castro’s praetorian guard for 17 years, described Castro as a charismatic and intelligent, but manipulative and egocentric leader prone to temper tantrums.
He claims the vast majority of Cubans were unaware their leader enjoyed a life full of luxury, and when Forbes listed Castro as one of the world’s richest ‘kings, queens and dictators’ in 2006, he insisted he survived on a salary of £20 a month, the Daily Mail reports.
The magazine estimated Castro’s personal net worth at $900 million. But after hundreds of assassination attempts, Castro’s personal life and residences were top secret – even Cuban citizens didn’t know where he lived.
As for his luxurious life, Sanchez claims Castro’s private island, Cayo Piedra, was a ‘garden of Eden’ where he entertained famous guests like writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Castro would sail there on an 88 ft luxury yacht fitted out with rare Angolan wood.
On the mainland, his homes included an ‘immense’ Havana estate with a rooftop bowling alley, personal hospital and indoor basketball court, and a seaside villa with pool, jacuzzi and sauna.
As for his most notorious home, Unit 160, or Punto Cero, the fortress-like compound wasn’t just the HQ for his surveillance and torture regime, it also housed his own ice cream factory.
For a man who spent his life railing against luxuries and capitalism, he lived quite a lavish life.