Did Castro Ok The Kennedy Assassination?


It was not until just before the United States launched the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 that Castro publicly declared himself a “socialist.” But once Fidel embraced the Red path, he did so with a vengeance, goading Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to fire the first nuke in the Missile Crisis in October 1962. Given Cuba's rogue tendencies, Khrushchev had made it the KGB's business to stay on top of U.S. efforts, and the Soviets had learned of Operation Mongoose. To deter it, Khrushchev sent his island ally 40,000 Russian troops, 1,300 field pieces, 700 antiaircraft guns, 350 tanks, and 150 fighter jets. Fidel and Raid were soon wonderfully well protected. Later, when Castro embraced the Chinese Communists, the Soviet leader started taking steps to contain Castro's megalomania.

There is evidence that the Soviet premier and the American president colluded in this regard, secretly discussing the political neutralization of Fidel. But in the last year of FK's life, while those more circumspect means were in play, the U.S. plans to kill Castro continued. With the U.S.-backed assassinations of other world leaders—Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam—Fidel became even more certain that he was the next hit on the Kennedys' list. In 1965 Castro's sister Juanita, who had defected the year before to the States, testified before the U.S. House Committee on Un- American Activities that “Fidel's feeling of hatred for this country cannot even be imagined by Americans. . . . His intention—his obsession—is to destroy the U.S.!”

The CIA began to focus upon one Rolando Cubela, a military hero of the Cuban revolution who had secretly grown disillusioned with Fidel's Communist leanings. He thus began flirting with CIA agents in order to form a possible alliance aimed at el presidente's removal. According to the CIA, there was no contact with Cubela from August 29, 1962, until September 1963. On September 7, officer Nestor Sanchez and his partner, Richard Maxwell Long, met with Cubela at a safe house in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to reassure him that the agency had decided to use him in the next phase of their plan to overthrow Castro. They discussed ways of approaching other Cuban military officers; Cubela told Sanchez that he wanted assurances at the top who could ensure America's support for his actions, which included the decapitation of the Cuban regime. This was always the last word in any talks with Cubela: he wanted to hear it from the White House.

Within the agency, there were a number of dissenting voices. Cubela's mistress and her brother were high- level G2 (Cuban intelligence) officers. He was thought to be as “changeable as the weather, ... capable of rash, thoughtless, violent action under the strain of provocation, tense situations, or frustration.” The year before he had attempted suicide.

But the plot hurtled forward in hopes of success before the 1964 elections in the United States. Bobby had pushed for a secret base in Costa Rica, which was carrying out raids in Cuba with materials provided by the Defense Department. They bombed Cuban infrastructure, such as railroads, bridges, and power plants, and smuggled in radio equipment, arms, and supplies to resistance forces. On September 6, Fidel publicly charged the United States with responsibility for an air attack on Santa Clara, Cuba.

For all of that boom and bang, however, and all of Bobby's surety that Cubela was the right man for the job, the CIA skeptics would prove to be correct: the Cubans were on to him. It was during that summer that a G2 officer known as "Oscar Marino" and others became aware that Cubela was a counterrevolutionary. And yet Cubela was not arrested.

The same day that Cubela was having his meeting with the CIA in Brazil, Fidel was due at a reception at the Brazilian embassy in Havana. There, el lider niciximo pulled aside Associated Press correspondent Daniel Harker, within earshot of other journalists. Harker, a native of Colombia, spoke fluent Spanish and was preferred by Castro for American press interviews because of his accuracy in translating. “He often pulled me aside when he wanted to be certain his words were reported exactly as he said them,” Harker later remembered.

“Hey, Colombian,” said Fidel, “come over here, I want to talk to you.” He started in about the recent attacks, the other reporters bending in to hear more. “We are taking into account . . . the Caribbean situation,” he growled, “which has been deteriorating in the last few days due to piratical attacks by the United States against the Cuban people. . . . Kennedy is a cretin . . . the Batista of our times.” He never used the word “assassination,” but his meaning was clear. “If U.S. leaders are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe. Let Kennedy and his brother Robert take care of themselves, since they too can be the victims of an attempt which will cause their death.”

With that, Fidel strode on into the reception and began shaking hands, resplendent in his olive fatigues. Two days later, the story hit the Associated Press and the U.S. newspapers, including the New Orleans Times- Picayune, a paper read by a young Castro supporter named Lee Harvey Oswald.