Did Castro Ok The Kennedy Assassination?

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On September 24, 1964, a copy of the official Warren Commission Report was delivered to President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office. Its conclusions were, in hindsight, as accurate as possible, given the commission's impossibly short investigative calendar and its utter lack of foreign intelligence. It named, correctly, Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone shooter, hypothesizing that in shooting John F. Kennedy he had been lashing out for reasons only he knew. The report found “no evidence of a conspiracy.”

A few weeks later, President Johnson's hidden tape recorder captured a phone conversation with Senator Richard Russell, the old Dixiecrat whom he had pressured to be on the Warren Commission.

“I don't believe it,” Russell said about the report's conclusions. “I don't either,” admitted the president.

Around the same time, Johnson was on the phone with his old friend Mike Mansfield, the majority leader of the Senate. The president divulged what few in Congress had been briefed about: “There's a good deal of feeling that maybe the Cuba thing. Johnson's voice trailed off for a moment. He was always careful not to be too definite on the subject. "Oswald was messing around in Mexico with the Cubans.”

Johnson had handpicked the members of the Warren Commission and directed its focus. Could it be that he and his attorney general, Robert Kennedy, believed there might be details that should remain hidden to keep the American public calm in the wake of the tragedy in Dallas? The fact was, Lyndon Johnson never would believe the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report. His staunch contention would always be that “Oswald was a Communist agent.” A year before his death, in 1972, Johnson finally started revealing his secret to people outside his close circle, telling George Weidenfeld, publisher of his autobiography, that one day he would prove the Oswald-Castro connection. But there weren't enough days left at that point for Johnson to expose the truth.

A conspiracy of silence would keep the facts hidden until now, 45 years later, when evidence from a variety of different sources, many of them newly available, can be pieced together to tell the real story for the first time.

Two charismatic leaders prevailed over the Western Hemisphere in the early 1960s, both men having risen to power with two fundamentally different visions of freedom. Initially, some saw a natural kinship between John E Kennedy and Fidel Castro, but they were each in the grip of the new cold war's paradigm, one of strictly defined opposites. In many ways, the young Jack Kennedy was not much different from the young Fidel Castro. Both had been dominated and manipulated by their fathers. Where Joe Sr. had acquired his millions as a scheming, streetwise Irish outsider, Angel Castro lived as a gentrified peasant, self-made and considered rich on his own turf but still a lowly Guajiro in the eyes of the Cuban aristocracy. Their talented sons had leaped over decades, even centuries of class prejudice to become leaders by sheer force of personality. They were intellectually curious, articulate, easy in the company of men, and attracted to the spotlight.

Both Jack and Fidel came from large Catholic families, and both of their fathers made a sport of bedding women out of wedlock. Joe Sr. kept his mistresses out of sight in hotel rooms, at the penthouses of trusted friends, or on his private yacht. Angel took his lovers wherever he desired them, including in his own home.

Fidel, Raul, and their siblings had been born to Angel's housekeeper while she worked for his wife, and Angel made no secret of the small shack full of his offspring, who lived just out of sight of the casa grande. It was not until Fidel was seventeen years old that Angel recognized him as his legal offspring. Fidel loathed him.

Still, Angel knew that Fidel was exceptional and would grant him special privileges, sending him to the country's best preparatory school, keeping him in natty clothes, and furnishing him with a car as he approached his college years. Fidel's sister Juanita noted that he treated the peasants on the Castro plantation with the same cruelty as his father did. “There were a lot of employees working on the farm and serving at the house,” she reported—nearly 1,000 people in all—but “Fidel never took care of these people. On the contrary, he criticized my father for being too generous with them.” He made no public declaration on behalf of the poor until he joined Cuba's leftward drift in his early twenties—right around the time that Jack Kennedy was first elected to Congress.

Fidel overcame his “rustic” upbringing to be reasonably well liked at El Colegio de Belen in Havana. But the priests who taught there sensed a certain moral indifference in him. His temper could be savage. He accepted leadership from no one, taking only the wise counsel of one brilliant priest named Llorente. By the time he moved on to the University of Havana, he arrived dressed like a businessman, albeit with a lounge lizard's flair for excess, and quickly learned to negotiate the thuggish politics that thrived there.