Castro's Sister May Write Book

By Patricia Maldonado
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 1998; 5:08 a.m. EST

MIAMI (AP) -- Juanita Castro thought she had heard it all.

The estranged sister of Cuban President Fidel Castro is accustomed to stories, real and imagined, about their family, once prominent sugar growers on the Caribbean island.

But with the release of ``Castro's Daughter -- An Exile's Memoir of Cuba,'' a book that depicts her father as a thief, Ms. Castro is considering penning her own version of the family's story.

``It would be the ideal way to respond to the atrocities and lies in this book and many others that have offended us deeply,'' she said.

``I can understand and accept what some of those authors have put in their books. They don't realize they are harming a whole family who is not at fault for what Fidel has done in Cuba. They have said atrocities but they never have gone as far as this woman has.''

The book was written by Alina Fernandez, Castro's out-of-wedlock daughter who fled the country in 1993 and is one of her father's fiercest critics.

The book was released recently in English in the United States and was released abroad last year. Ms. Castro filed a lawsuit to try and stop the Spanish distribution of the book.

In it, family patriarch Angel Castro is said to have killed his farm workers to avoid paying them. Ms. Castro's maternal grandmother Dominga Ruz is depicted as a sorceress.

``She paints a picture of my family as being the worst thing in the universe. She accuses us of atrocities,'' Ms. Castro, 65, told The Associated Presc ,ist week. ``I have had to come forward to defend the honor and the memory of my parents.''

Ms. Fernandez and her publishers, Plaza & Janes Editores of Barcelona, Spain, have refused to meet with Ms. Castro's attorneys. They have rejected a request for a list of Ms. Fernandez's sources.

``All of her stories are based on big lies. I even doubt whether she is Fidel's daughter,'' she said.

Ms. Fernandez, however, said the stories were ones she heard as a child in Cuba.

``This is my family. These are the stories I grew up with,'' Ms. Fernandez, 42, said at a book fair in Miami on Sunday. ``I never intended to hurt anyone.''

She said she eliminated from the English edition all the passages Ms. Castro found objectionable. She is steadfast in her refusal to reveal her sources.

Ms. Castro's battle to salvage her family's reputation is one of the many fights she has faced. As a young woman, she fought alongside her brother to take the reins of power away from right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista. She fled the country in 1964 when she realized her brother planned to install a communist government.

Ms. Castro has since taken up the freedom fight that many of her exile neighbors have long championed. She's a regular on Miami's Cuban radio, lectures at universities and occasionally appears on national television to talk about her brother's tight grip on the Caribbean nation.

``I have dedicated a part of my life in these years in exile to fight for Cuba's freedom. I have tried to be useful,'' she said. ``But there have been times like this one when I have felt sad and disillusioned.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press