Fidel Castro was so desperate about Cuba's financial situation at the start of the 1980s that he turned to a banker from the country he hated the most, the United States, to get advice on restructuring the country's heavy debt load.
"It was the year the of Marielitos"—the 1980 Cuban boatlift—"and he was under a lot of strain to be able to service the debt to the European banks who had lent to him, and also to some Canadian banks," said Bill Rhodes, a former Citigroup executive and author of "Banker to the World." Rhodes was the bank's point person on Latin America for decades.
Rhodes told CNBC he agreed to the meeting at the behest of then-Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, who knew Rhodes because he was representing the banks in the negotiation of the Central American country's debt restructuring.
"He asked to see me. I didn't ask to see him," Rhodes said.