Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana rejoice as Castro's estranged
sister vows not to attend funeral
Ruth Sherlock, miami
27 NOVEMBER 2016 • 1:28AM
Fidel Castro's estranged sister has said she will not return to Cuba to
attend the late leader's funeral and has promised to continue her fight
against the Communist regime he brought to power.
Juanita Castro, 83, fled to America in the 1960s after housing
dissidents in her Havana home and assisting the CIA, even as the
intelligence agency plotted to assassinate her brother.
For decades she has lived in Miami, where parties broke out as news of
Castro's death spread among the Cuban expat community.
In contrast, the mood was sombre in Havana, where people gathered around
their radios as state broadcasters pumped out revolutionary anthems and
recited the key achievements of their leader.
"In light of the bad rumours that said I was going to go to Cuba for the
funeral, I want to clarify that I have never returned to the island, nor
do I have plans to do so," Ms Castro said in a brief statement.
"I have fought alongside exiles, arm in arm, during their most active
and intense stages of struggle in past decades, and I respect the
feelings of all."
Ms Castro initially supported her brother's Cuban revolution against the
regime of Fulgencio Batista. She travelled the world arguing the case
and in so doing raising money to buy weapons. After the Castros took
power she was charged with managing the nation's medical institutions.
But she said she became disenchanted as her brother steered the country
towards an ever more rigid Communist doctrine, and began executing his
In a book published in 2009, Ms Castro described the aftermath of her
decision to turn against her sibling: "My situation in Cuba became
delicate because of my activity against the regime," she wrote. "Fidel
stopped coming to our house because he complained we were protecting
what he called 'worms' (enemies of the regime) and he did not agree."
On Saturday Ms Castro provided a yet more intimate glimpse inside the
Castro family, with a reflective look back over the past decades of her
"I do not rejoice over the death of any human being, much less when that
person is someone with my blood and surname," she said.
"As a sister of Fidel, I am experiencing the loss of a human being who
shared my blood, as happened with the deaths of my siblings Ramón and
Ramón Castro Ruz died on Feb. 23 at age 91. Angela Castro Ruz died in
2012 at 88.
"I've been in exile in Miami for 51 years. Like all the Cubans who left
to find a space to fight for the freedom of their country, I have never
changed my position, even though I had to pay a high price for the pain
and isolation," she said.
"For decades, I confronted the system in Cuba and also those in exile
who unfairly did not forgive that my surnames were Castro Ruz and who
attacked me ruthlessly."
She said she hoped that her brother's death would ultimately lead to
Cubans healing the wounds of a divided nation: "I hope that we can find,
not a way toward confrontation and hatred, but toward one that finally
binds all Cubans."
But there was little indication of a desire to compromise on Miami's
streets on Saturday, where residents broke out into unbridled
festivities over the Cuban leader's death.
In Miami's "Little Havana", a neighbourhood home to thousands of Cuban
exiles and political opponents, a couple held up a board on which they
had written: "Rejoice world, Satan's envoy Fidel Castro is dead."
Jorge Luis Triana was 15 years old when he suffered the wrath of the
Feeling rebellious at school one day, he said, he pulled out his pen and
scrawled, "Down with Cuba!" on the white strip of the national flag that
hung above the entrance to a classroom.
The punishment was swift and unforgiving: "They threw me in jail. I was
in a cell for six years," he said.
It was a juvenile detention centre, but, Mr Triana said, the punishment
was no less brutal: "They humiliated me, they beat me, they starved me.
Because I was a political prisoner, the guards treated me as their toy."
Emerging as a 21-year-old man, Mr Triana said his reputation in Cuba was
destroyed. Stained as a political prisoner, there were no job
opportunities. He married, but keeping a family was hard.
"It was a subsistence existence," he said, explaining that he had gotten
by selling trinkets to tourists who visited his home town of Moron.
He said the government banned him from leaving the country. It was only
when his wife was able to draw on her Spanish heritage to get them
European passports that he was able to escape to America.
In 2010, at the age of 41, Mr Triana landed in America to start a new
life in Miami.
He spoke to The Telegraph while participating in one of the spontaneous
street parties. The crowds were so great that police had blocked off the
roads to traffic. They waved flags and cheered and hugged and
cried: "Cuba libre (free Cuba)! Cuba libre!" Cars on parallel roads
honked their horns in solidarity.
"I want Fidel to be remembered as a tyrant who brought shame on the
Cuban people," Mr Tiana said.
Eighty-six-year-old Miguel Sanchez stood still against the tide of a
marching crowd, a flag in one hand and fat tears rolling down his cheeks.
Throughout his life he had seen Castro as his personal nemesis. In Cuba
he had opposed and fought against the leader's rise to power. And he had
spent nine years in prison when he lost.
Those were dark days of brutal beatings and suffering. He would never
forget, he told The Telegraph, the sound of prisoners being lined up
along a wall behind his cell and shot en masse.
His two brothers were also locked away for 12 years.
Even when he fled to America, Mr Sanchez was unable to let go. He
brought up his children and his grandchildren on a diet of war stories
from his days in the resistance.
"My one dream was that Fidel would die before me," he said.
Marilyn Carrillo, 66, walked through the neighbourhood celebrations
carrying a black and white portrait of her deceased Cuban father. "I
wanted him to see this," she said.
"He died 10 years ago. But I couldn't let him miss this, so as soon as I
heard the news about Castro I grabbed this photograph."
The image showed Justo Castillo, who died at 81 years of age, standing
as a much younger man to the backdrop of the country scene outside of
his Cuban house.
The family fled when Ms Carillo was eight years old and has never been
"I remember the music in the streets," she said of her childhood
memories, shouting above the Cuban songs being blasted out from speakers
"I want to go back with my two children."
As the news that Castro had died spread in Cuba, bars and restaurants
across Havana, the capital, began closing their doors.
The death of their former leader was met with a mixture of grief, shock
and a deep uncertainty over what the new era marked by Castro's death
On Friday night, revellers continued to dance and swig rum on the
island's famous sea front, unaware that the dictator had died just a few
miles away at his home. When someone finally arrived at Havana's famous
"Malecon" docks, to inform them of Castro's death, the nightclubs shut
their doors and the crowds evaporated. Foreign tourists were asked to go
back to their hotels as a mark of respect.
"The whole word will remember this man ... he achieved things nobody
else did," said Duncy Fajardo, as he stood near Cuba's famous National
Hotel, which hosted both Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra before
falling to Communist nationalisation in 1959.
In Bíran, a small town on the north-eastern tip of the island where
Castro was born, the family home was besieged by anxious locals
desperate to confirm the news.
"They have been knocking and calling and asking if it is true," Angel
Daniel Castro, one of the dictator's nephews, told CNN. Those early
doubts were only dispersed when a newsreader, dressed in a sombre black
suit, reappeared on state television and begin reading out tributes from
other Latin American leaders.
His ashes will process across the island before a ceremony on Sunday in
Santiago de Cuba, the second city, and the place where Castro first
attempted a revolt in 1953.
"I am very upset," said Sariel Valdespino, a student. "Whatever you
want to say, he is public figure that the whole world respected and loved."
Source: Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana rejoice as Castro's
estranged sister vows not to attend funeral -