How Castro 'betrayed the Cuban revolution'

A pivotal member of the president's inner circle has produced a damning indictment of his regime. Hugh O'Shaughnessy reports

Fidel Castro betrayed the revolutionary leader Che Guevara, leaving him to a lonely death in Bolivia in 1967. He broke his solemn word to the Mexican government by training Mexican anti-government guerrillas in Cuba, and he weakened the revolutionary cause in Latin America by imposing a rigid political conformism on those fighting for change in the region. Cuba is today ruled by a corrupt elite who have everything, while the mass of people have to struggle for a living...

These are among the explosive allegations made against the Cuban leader in a book just published in Paris. Similar charges are commonly heard from conservative Cuban exiles in Florida and are generally discounted outside the United States. But now they come from a man who, before he fled to Europe a few months ago, was one of the most trusted members of President Castro's inner circle.

The book, Vie et Mort de la Revolution Cubaine (Life and Death of the Cuban Revolution), written by Benigno, the nom de guerre of Colonel Dariel Alarcon Ramirez, has caused shock in Latin America.

Until the end of last year Benigno had a glittering revolutionary record. An illiterate peasant of 17, he joined Castro, Guevara and the late Camilo Cienfuegos in the Sierra Maestra in their fight against the military dictatorship of General Fulgencio Batista. He was to become police chief of Havana and later accompanied Che in his expeditions to the Congo and Bolivia.

Benigno was one of the few to escape with his life after Guevara was hunted down and killed by the Bolivian army in 1967, and was later given highly sensitive tasks which ranged from running Cuba's prisons to commanding the security battalion of the Cuban general staff. President Castro's life was often in his hands.

He says that he is still faithful to the original ideals of the Cuban revolution, and that he idolises Guevara. "Che was kept in the dark about everything, and abandoned," says Benigno, who blames the Soviets for pressing Fidel Castro to forget his comrade in arms in his hour of need. At the same time, Benigno is scathing about the total lack of preparation for the guerrilla campaign which was started in Bolivia in 1966. It had been presented as a way to inflame all of South America with revolution, but was destroyed by the absence of basic intelligence or logistics, and crass security blunders.

For instance Tania, the East German woman who served as courier to the guerrillas - and who might have been Guevara's mistress - was taking them a tape player and recordings of Cuban music and Castro's latest speeches. But she forgot the items and left them on the seat of her jeep in the town of Camiri; they were found by the Bolivian police and confirmed the story of a deserter from the guerrilla ranks whom the Bolivian authorities had until then distrusted.

Benigno recounts how in 1969 he took the blueprint for revolution to General Juan Velasco in Peru in a suitcase. If he had been captured the case would have blown up, and a grenade automatically blown him to bits with it. Velasco's successful military coup was launched a month after he successfully delivered the documents.

Writing, however, of Castro's desire for political hegemony over members of the Latin American left, Benigno says, "Cuba wanted to direct the politics of each and every one of them, so as to serve its own interests, at the risk of breaking all the organisation up and thus serving US strategies."

As former director of Cuban prisons, Benigno talks with authority about the "terrible tortures", physical and mental, which go on in a system which holds 60,000 people. He tells of how a warder called The Dog at Valle Grande jail forced a hosepipe down a prisoner's mouth till the jet of water burst his stomach.

But he maintains a faith in revolutionary ideals and, in seeking exile in Europe, the former guerrilla has publicly distanced himself from the Cuban community in Miami, whose politics are often violently right-wing.

In an epilogue Benigno writes: "I think that the Cuban revolution can be proud of its successes, such as education and health. Without them no society is worthy of the men and women who make it up."

He comments on his hero Che Guevara's "honest and just principles where corruption and personal ambition had no place", but adds cuttingly about today's Cuba, "These principles have nothing to do with a process where liberty and democracy are absent."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map