by Carlos Alberto Montaner
Once again, a connection between Fidel Castro and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is on the table.
It’s something that has been said and written endlessly. Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, lived and died convinced that Fidel’s beard was behind the trigger pulled by Lee Harvey Oswald. He did not say so after the crime, so as not to be forced to invade Cuba and provoke another face-off with the Soviet Union.
Remember that Kennedy’s assassination occurred a scant 13 months after the Missile Crisis, when the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of World War III.
The latest author to examine that theory is Brian Latell, a historian, Georgetown University professor and former chief of analysts for Latin America at the CIA, who is now retired.
Latell, who makes his assertions in the book Castro’s Secrets, recently published by Macmillan, does not assure us that the Comandante gave the order to assassinate Kennedy but says Castro knew perfectly well that that was about to happen because his spies had told him.
Latell’s main source for this conclusion — though not the only one — is a defector from the Cuban counterintelligence service, Maj. Florentino Azpillaga, the man who led the fight against the CIA from Castro’s DGI.
Castro had good reason to kill Kennedy. The U.S. president was trying to exterminate him, using the American Mafia. Fidel had received all available information about those plans, not only from his agents and double agents but also by the mafiosi themselves, who were captured by the Cuban police.
Cuba’s very efficient intelligence services, set up by the Soviet KGB and the East German Stasi but a lot more flexible and ingenious, knew exactly what the White House was planning, under the almost obsessive leadership of Bobby Kennedy, the president’s brother and the nation’s attorney general.
In fact, the Cuban dictatorship managed to penetrate the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department and even co-opted agents of influence in the U.S. House and Senate.
At the time Azpillaga defected, the CIA believed it had recruited 42 Cuban functionaries. Azpillaga explained to the agency that all of them, without exception, were double agents who for years had pulled the wool over U.S. intelligence’s eyes and fooled the polygraphs the CIA used to find if the Cubans lied.
Why did Oswald kill Kennedy? That’s very clear. Because of his devotion to the Cuban revolution and because he believed that, by liquidating the president of the United States, he would save his beloved Fidel Castro’s life. To Oswald, Kennedy’s death was an act of legitimate defense.
Who told Oswald that Kennedy wanted to assassinate Fidel Castro? The Cuban secret services that were in touch with him. It seems that Oswald even had intimate relations with a Cuban agent based in Mexico as a Cuban embassy official. The Mexicans even recorded a jubilant outburst from that lady when she was notified that the president had been assassinated.
For the sake of history, because by now it matters little, the next investigation — Latell does not go into details — has to do with Oswald’s death at the hands of Jack Ruby, a minor hoodlum with links to the Mafia. Why did Ruby kill Oswald and sacrifice himself? Judging from his background, a good theory is that he did so to silence Oswald, because he was ordered to do so by the organization to which he was linked.
What did the Mafia want to hide? It wanted to keep the U.S. authorities, especially powerful Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, from discovering that the American gangsters had made a deal with Havana because the Cuban intelligence services had imprisoned some of them and could do what the FBI was forbidden to do: to exterminate mafiosi anywhere in the world.
Furthermore, by killing Oswald, the Mafia served two opposite masters simultaneously. On one hand, it helped Cuba to eliminate a troublesome Castro sympathizer who had just assassinated the president of the United States at Havana’s coaxing, and on the other it saved Bobby Kennedy from the supreme scandal of finding himself involved in a conspiracy with the Mafia to kill a foreign chief of state, a crime that could have sent him to prison.
Still unwritten is a major book about Ruby and his connections. Let’s hope Latell takes on the job.