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CASTRO'S FINAL HOUR by Andrés Oppenheimer


The Secret Story Behind the Coming Downfall of Communist Cuba

by Andrés Oppenheimer

Pub Date: July 29th, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-72873-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 Real-life thriller about Fidel Castro vs. perestroika and glasnost; by Oppenheimer, Pulitzer-winning foreign correspondent for The Miami Herald. According to the author, withdrawal of Soviet support in the late 80's soon impoverished Cuba, which depended on the Soviet bloc for 87% of its trade and 90% of its oil. Oppenheimer depicts a discouraged, bureaucratized populace, reduced to rationing, illegal transactions, and ox-carts and bicycles, champing to get back to prosperity, no longer convinced by Castro's thundering speeches. During this period, several ranking military officers were convicted of drug smuggling and shot. At the heart of Oppenheimer's study is an in-depth exploration of this case, and of the Machiavellian world of the Cuban military, intelligence, and criminal communities in which it transpired. He finds that the executions amounted to human sacrifices to political expediency: With Cuba falling apart, Castro apparently feared revolt, even from these officers so close to him. The most prominent victims form a dramatic study in Cuban culture: Colonel ``Tony'' De La Guardia- -arrogant, athletic, well connected, upper middle-class, a womanizer, educated in the US; and General Arnaldo Ochoa, the hero every Marxist revolution wants to produce--a man of the people with a fourth-grade education who came up through the ranks to become Castro's friend and to command the Cuban forces in Angola, but who still lived in a small house and was embarrassed to drive his Mercedes. What these two men shared, Oppenheimer says, was a critical view of Communism and a realistic entrepreneurial grasp unacceptable to Castro. Unfortunately, the author fails to explore fully how US foreign and trade policy, CIA activity, and historic relations with the dictator Batista are involved in Cuba's current plight. Still, Oppenheimer's familiarity with Cuban history, psychology, and culture--combined with extensive research and interviews--place his account well above standard left-bashing. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)