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Did Castro Ok The Kennedy Assassination?
On the 45th anniversary incriminating new evidence revealed
Winter 2009 | Volume 58, Issue 6
On October 3, 1956, in the same month that the Socialist Youth Party of Cuba appealed to Fidel to drop his revolutionary quest and join theirs, a pale, lonely teenager sat down in his mother's small apartment in Fort Worth, Texasand wrote a letter to the Young People's Socialist League, or (YPSL) in Chicago. The apartment at 4936 Collingwood was the nineteenth home this boy had known. Raised without a father, in the clutches of a mentally unstable mother, Lee Harvey Oswald's future appeared to child psychologists who examined him as a disaster waiting to happen. There is some evidence that Lee may have suffered brain damage at the age of five when a chest of drawers toppled over on his head during a move. He was unconscious for eight days. Lee's doctor told his mother, “if the boy comes to at all, he's going to have a problem.” From then on, he would suffer occasional blackouts, doing things he couldn't remember, walking out in the middle of classes and wandering his school's hallways.
A year after his outreach to the YPSL, Oswald, desperate to leave his mother, enlisted in the Marines, where his pro-Communist rants rendered him something between a joke and a pariah. After an early discharge in September 1959, he almost immediately boarded a ship as the first leg of a pilgrimage to Moscow, where he intended to defect. When he was rejected by the Soviets, the youngster forced their hand by attempting suicide. Faced with the cold war equivalent of a public relations nightmare, the Soviets decided to smile upon him, sending him off to Minsk, where the KGB would babysit him around the clock for the next two and a half years. It was in Minsk that he married the tempestuous young Marina Prusakova, the niece of an elite Soviet intelligence officer.
As the Castros continued to co-opt the Cuban revolution and Rani flirted ever more heavily with the Soviet state, he was sending his youngest spies to Minsk for special training at the academy of the Russians' MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs), a subsidiary of the KGB that was responsible for civil law enforcement as well as more shadowy pursuits. Within the school's hierarchy was Col. Ilya Vasilyevich Prusakov, Marina's uncle. Among the students were Jose Abrantes, the personal assistant to the Cuban intelligence chief, Ramiro Valdes Menendez, and one Fabian Escalante Font, a young agent of increasingly dangerous reputation who would soon rise to the top of the G2.
There were approximately 200 students at the academy when Oswald arrived in Minsk. As it happened, he was interested in studying German, and his KGB file describes how “friends” steered him to the Foreign Language Institute (FLI) located directly adjacent to the MVD academy on Ulyanov Street. The KGB agents were astonishingly thorough. They chronicled Oswald's moviegoing habits, every piece of cake and cup of coffee he consumed in public, his stinginess on dates with women he wasn't enthused about, his preference for blondes, his ignorance of Marxist-Leninist theory, the records and appliances he bought, the hardware stores he visited, and, of course, the friends with whom he consorted. The “official” record of his life in Minsk omitted only what reflected badly on the Soviet intelligence apparatus.
Oswald spent so much time on Ulyanov Street that he soon became acquainted with a number of the junior Cuban spies. Marina would later tell the FBI about one of Lee's friends, Alfred, a "young man from Cuba [who] spoke Spanish" and who would later attend the University of Moscow. Lee would brag to Marina that he had gotten tight with some of the young future Cuban "ministers" and expected that he might be such a minister there himself one day.
On July 18, 1962, just over a month after Lee, Marina, and their baby arrived in New Jersey, Vladimir Kryuchkov, a future KGB chief, sent an encrypted Oswald file to the attention of Valdes Menendez at G2 headquarters in Havana. According to a source who examined the KGB's files in 2005, it read: “Lee Harvey Oswald left the Soviet Union in order to establish himself with his Soviet wife Marina in the U.S.A. He is ideologically unsound and psychically unstable.” Nevertheless, Kryuchkov asked Valdes “to observe Oswald in the U.S.”
Recently, actors from the Cuban side—aging cold warriors still alive in the Americas—have corroborated the Cuban link to Oswald. One of them, who went by the name “Oscar Marino” in our talks, had been a senior Cuban spy, a founder of G2, and a revolutionary companero of Fidel's. It was his esteemed place in the national leadership that made him privy to the Oswald overtures. It took over a year of negotiations for him to agree to sit for interviews with us. He lived, and perhaps still lives, in a Latin American metropolis, and when asked about his politics in 2005, he sighed that he had “had enough” of ideology and bloody intrigue. He felt “no love for Kennedy,” and still considered himself a revolutionary, but was demoralized by the “corruption” of Castro's original promise.
When he was asked when the Cuban secret service first made contact with Oswald, Oscar flinched and gave a long pause, gazing out a window at the tops of some mimosa trees. “It was in the fall of 1962,” he finally said with certainty. He had seen Oswald's name on a foreign collaborators list. He had also been present during high-level discussions on how to make contact with Oswald. According to the KGB document, a Cuban operative met Oswald “repeatedly, several times,” with the first rendezvous at the end of 1962—exactly when Oscar Marino said it had been.