Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jack Colhoun's "Gangsterismo"


Gangsterismo – The US, Cuba, and the Mafia: 1933 to 1966 by Jack Colhoun  (OR Books, NY, London, 2013)


Gangsterismo – The US, Cuba, and the Mafia: 1933 to 1966 by Jack Colhoun  (OR Books, NY, London, 2013)

In the 50th years since the assassination of President Kennedy a number of books on the subject stand out, and this book is a sort of prerequisite before reading some of the others that reflect on more intimate details of the assassination.

This book stands out because, without mentioning what specifically happened at Dealey Plaza, it shows how Cuba was the crossroads between President Kennedy, his alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and Oswald’s killer Jack Ruby.

“Gangsterismo” is the Cuban term for the political-social time period before Fidel Castro came to power, when Cuban politicians and the military worked closely with American gangsters in the running of Havana vice, particularly gambling. Shortly after Castro came to power he closed the casinos and brothels and kicked out the gangsters who had controlled Havana for the previous fifty years and effectively ended the era of the “Gangsterismo.”

In the research and writing “Gangsterismo” Jack Colhoun, a Washington-based reporter and Washington correspondent for the Guardian (1980 to 1992), effectively utilized the most recently released records, primarily from the JFK Assassinations Collection (JFKAC) at the National Archives (NARA). With them he accurately summarizes the economic and political relationship between the United States and Cuba from 1933-1966, with a particular emphasis on the influence of American organized crime, the military and the CIA.

As anyone who has studied the assassination of President Kennedy appreciates, the Cuban connections are the keys to the crime, so any understanding of what occurred at Dealey Plaza is contingent upon knowledge of the Cuban associations, especially those related to the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and his murderer, Jack Ruby.

Oswald had a keen interest in Cuba, founded a one-man Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in New Orleans in the summer of ’63 and visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City in an attempt to get a visa to Cuba.

Oswald’s killer Jack Ruby had visited Cuba on a number of occasions, staying with his good friend Louis McWillie, the manager of the Tropicana casino. As a favor to McWillie Ruby returned to the United States with a cache of cash that he deposited in the Pan Am bank of Miami for McWillie’s bosses, the Fox brothers.

While early speculation considered the “Fox brothers” a pseudo name for Meyer and Jake Lansky, it turns out the Fox brothers were for real, as Jack Calhoun’s book takes account. The book also includes many other similar details that are of interest to JFK assassination researchers, including the fact that Ruby’s childhood friends Lenny Patrick and Dave Yaras also had financial interests in mob controlled Havana casinos, and American ex-patriates Frank Forini and William Morgan really didn’t work for the CIA, as the CIA has been claiming all along. It turns out they were working for US military intelligence, and answering to the US military attaches at the American embassy in Havana.

Rather than the victim of a deranged madman, if President Kennedy was killed as a result of a political backlash to his contradictory policies towards Cuba and the mobsters, as some suspect, then the history of those policies come into play and a study of their history is a mandatory requirement for any serious study of the assassination itself.

Colhoun’s “Gangsterismo” provides that basic, deep political background of Cuban history and gives an understandably historic context for the political assassination of President Kennedy. 

If anything, the accused assassin was a political animal, a former US Marine Corp radio and radar operator, defector to the Soviet Union and pro-Castro sympathizer who had been to the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City, so any interpretation of what happened at Dealey Plaza must consider these facts.

Right off the bat Calhoun gives us some new information that had previously escaped my general attention, and a new name – Edward K. Moss – who ran a DC PR firm that was connected with the Mafia and CIA and represented the mobsters in their bid to reclaim Cuba from Castro in 1960. But the historical story goes back much further, at least to 1933, when Meyer Lansky and Cuban military Sgt. Fulgencio Batista made a deal and Calhoun begins his study.   

Going back over the history of Cuba and the US involvement there’s a strong US military presence there from the time of the Spanish-American War (1898), and the original “Northwoods” type pretext for war – “Remember the Maine!”

But the most important association between the United States and Cuba was the business agreement between Cuban Sgt. Fulgencio Batista, who took over Cuba in a coup in 1933, and Meyer Lansky, the chief accountant and banker of the national syndicate of organized crime. Lansky represented the loosely associated group of gangsters who formed the national Syndicate, which was basically institutionalized at the April 1929 conference of organized crime leaders in Atlantic City.

That’s also when Santo Trafficante, Sr. was recognized as the boss of the Tampa, Florida and Cuba, and where it was decided the mobsters were to get into casino gambling in a big way after prohibition ended, a strategic move that the syndicate followed through on with much success in popular resorts, especially Las Vegas, Florida and Havana.

In Cuba, Batista was the mobster’s main man, a sergeant in the military who took over in a coup and reigned from 1933-1943, from when he lived the high life as Lansky’s Florida neighbor, and then returned to Cuba to rule again from 1952-1960.

As Calhoun points out, there were others – San Martin and Carlos Prio Soccaras, but it was basically Batista who carried the water for the American mobsters who invested heavily in Havana hotels and were amply rewarded with untaxed profits from the casinos and other forms of gambling.

The first deal Lansky made with Bastita was over molasas, which Lanksy, in 1933, needed to make rum in the newly legalized distilleries, but Lansky quickly moved to opening swanky gambling casinos in the larger hotels, and made sweetheart deals to build a number of large hotel resorts, each having their own casino.

One of Lansky’s tenants was to run a clean game of chance, so the customer knew that Lansky was an honest man, and he ran clean casinos, and he brought in his team of Americans to run the game – a team that consisted of a number of individuals who later surface in Dallas including Doc Statcher, John Martino, Lewis McWillie, the Cillini brothers, John Rosselli and other similar smooth managers and operators.

They worked for Lansky and his partners – Tampa-Havana Mafia don Santo Trafficante, Sr. and later Jr., fellow Syndicate Commissioner and Philadelphia Mafia Don Angelo Bruno, Mike McLaney, Carroll Rosenbloom and others similar mobster-industrialists. 

When Jack Ruby came to Havana, which records indicate occurred three times, he visited his pal Lewis McWillie, the manager of the lavish and legendary Tropiana nightclub casino, which was owned by Cuban brothers Martin and  . Fox.

Ruby served as a courier for carrying out large amounts of cash for the Fox brothers, which he deposited for the Fox brothers in the Pan Am Bank of Miami.

With Castro in power they knew their days making making money in the casinos were numbered.

Ruby may have also visited Traficante in Trescora – the first class prison where a number of high ranking gangsters were held until a deal was made to free them.

 [BK Notes: This review is a work in progress, which when finished will be posted at my regular blog JFKCountercoup.blogspot.] Here's excerpts that I found relevant to JFK assassination and may cite in my review.] 

Jack Colhoun writes:

[When the Cubans and the mobsters got together]….. They hired the public relations firm of Edward K. Moss in Washington, D.C. Moss was a good choice for the job. Documents in his CIA file reveal that he had “longstanding connections” to organized crime in the United States. One report stated, “Moss’s operation seems to be government contracts for the underworld and probably surfaces Mafia money in legitimate activities.”

Other CIA records reported that Moss worked for the Defense Production Administration of the Department of Commerce in the early 1950s. Julia Cellini, who ran Moss’s secretarial services, came from a family of Mafia gamblers. Her brothers Edward and Goffredo were managers of the gaming rooms of the Casino Internacional and the Tropicana nightclub in the 1950s. Another brother, Dino, a close associate of Lansky, Santo Trafficante, Jr.,

Gangsterismo is the story of the squaring of the circle of the politics of gangsterismo, using as sources U.S. intelligence documents on Cuba from the John F. Kennedy Assassination Collection (JFKAC) at National Archives II in College Park, Maryland. The JFKAC was created by the President Kennedy Act of 1992, which mandated the declassification of documents with possible relevance to Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963.

The JFKAC records include CIA, FBI, and Army Intelligence records, a unique vantage point from which to assess the Mafia gambling colony in Havana, as well as reports from the the U.S. intelligence community on the Cuban exile movement in the United States. Cuban exile commando operations in Cuba, the political intrigues of Cuban exile leaders, and their ties to the CIA and Mafia gamblers are all covered in the more than five million pages of documents.

The JFKAC documents were obtained by blue-ribbon commissions and special congressional committees in the 1960s and 1970s: the Warren Commission Inquiry into the assassination of John Kennedy; the President’s Commission on CIA Activities within the United States led by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller; Senator Frank Church’s Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, which investigated CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Castro; and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which examined Cuban exile groups as part of its investigation of the assassination of John Kennedy.7

The declassified documents offer new insights into U.S. policy making: from Eisenhower’s decision to seek the overthrow of the Cuban revolution in November 1959; to the CIA’s ill-starred Bay of Pigs operation in April 1961; to Kennedy’s ineffective but provocative Operation Mongoose in 1962; to the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962; to Kennedy’s covert funding of “autonomous” Cuban exile commando operations in 1963; to back-channel discussions between the Kennedy Administration and Castro in the weeks before President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963; and President Lyndon Johnson’s deescalation of U.S. policy in Cuba.

The Cuban mambises (guerrillas), who had been fighting off and on since 1868, appeared to be on the road to victory when the United States intervened against Spain in mid-1898. The intervention struck like a bolt from the blue—and left a wound in the Cuban body politic that would define Cuban politics for decades to come. With U.S. intervention, the Guerra de la Independencia de Cuba (Cuban War of Independence) became the “Spanish-American War.” With the defeat of Spain, the United States replaced Spain as the dominant power on the island. Cuba went from being a colony of Spain to a neocolony of the United States.

In August 1933, Machado fled into exile in the Bahamas with seven bags of gold and five pistols. With Machado’s exit, Sergeant Fulgencio Batista, the new commander of the Cuban army, rose to power. From behind the facade of the Palacio Presidencial, he ruled Cuba with an iron fist. To the traditional mix of corruption and violence, Batista added a new form of neocolonial corruption called gangsterismo: Batista would partner with North American gangsters and share the profits from their colony of casinos, hotels, and nightclubs.13

Out of this environment of political decay grew a new Cuban nationalist movement led by Fidel Castro in the 1950s. Castro did battle with Batista, drawing on the legacy of Cuban independence leader José Martí. The past would be prologue in neocolonial Cuba.

In August 1933, Machado fled into exile in the Bahamas with seven bags of gold and five pistols. With Machado’s exit, Sergeant Fulgencio Batista, the new commander of the Cuban army, rose to power. From behind the facade of the Palacio Presidencial, he ruled Cuba with an iron fist. To the traditional mix of corruption and violence, Batista added a new form of neocolonial corruption called gangsterismo: Batista would partner with North American gangsters and share the profits from their colony of casinos, hotels, and nightclubs.13

Out of this environment of political decay grew a new Cuban nationalist movement led by Fidel Castro in the 1950s. Castro did battle with Batista, drawing on the legacy of Cuban independence leader José Martí. The past would be prologue in neocolonial Cuba. With a handshake and abrazo, Cuba’s strongman Fulgencio Batista closed a deal for the purchase of Cuban molasses with North American gangster Meyer Lansky in 1933. He also sealed the deal on gangsterismo in neocolonial Cuba.

Why molasses? President Franklin D. Roosevelt had just repealed the notorious Volstead Act, ending the era of Prohibition and prompting the Mafia to invest in the liquor industry. The Mafia needed a steady source of the thick, dark-colored syrup byproduct of sugar refining, for use as a sugar substitute in its liquor distilleries. Lansky was in Havana on behalf of the Molaska Corporation, a Mafia business front in Ohio.

As Batista and Lansky negotiated the molasses deal, they also took the measure of each other. They liked what they saw. Lansky shared with Batista his dream of creating a colony of casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in Cuba. He offered to make Batista a partner in the endeavor. Batista would get regular payments from the gamblers. In return, the Mafia would be allowed to operate their establishments without interference from the Cuban army or police.

Lansky’s boyhood friend Joseph “Doc” Stacher recalled, “Meyer was the first one to think about Cuba, way back in the early thirties.” Stacher continued, “We knew the island from our bootlegging business, and what with the great weather and good hotels and casinos we would build, rich people could easily be persuaded to fly over to an exotic ‘foreign country’ to enjoy themselves.” Stacher, Lansky’s liaison with Batista, delivered graft payments to the Cuban dictator.14

Lansky’s Cuban scheme was a strategic business plan for North American organized crime in the post-Prohibition era. At a meeting of top Mafia leaders in 1933, Lansky proposed to invest some of the capital accumulated by Mafia alcohol bootlegging operations in a new business model based on gambling. As Stacher explained: “Our biggest problem was always where to invest the money.” He added, “What Lansky suggested was that each of us put up $500,000 to start the Havana gambling operation. At the end of the meeting Charlie [Luciano] said he was in on the deal and ten Seeds……others, including Bugsy Siegel, Moe Dalitz, Phil Kastel, and Chuck Polizzi, also chipped in a half million bucks. Lansky and I flew to Havana with the money in suitcases and spoke to Batista, who hadn’t quite believed we could raise that kind of money.”15

In 1936, Army Chief of Staff Batista legalized games of chance in select casinos and nightclubs. Batista shifted the responsibility for monitoring casinos from civilian authorities to the Cuban army. He also used Lansky as a consultant to reform the Cuban government-owned Gran Casino Nacional, where the management was siphoning off house revenues.16

By the mid-1930s, Lansky was operating three casinos in Cuba. One was in the new Hotel Nacional, perched on a limestone bluff overlooking the Malecón, Havana’s seaside boulevard, and the Straits of Florida. Lansky also managed a casino at Oriental Park, a horse racetrack in suburban Marianao, and another gaming room at the nearby Gran Casino Nacional….

As Batista and Lansky negotiated the molasses deal, they also took the measure of each other. They liked what they saw. Lansky shared with Batista his dream of creating a colony of casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in Cuba. He offered to make Batista a partner in the endeavor. Batista would get regular payments from the gamblers. In return, the Mafia would be allowed to operate their establishments without interference from the Cuban army or police. Lansky’s boyhood friend Joseph “Doc” Stacher recalled, “Meyer was the first one to think about Cuba, way back in the early thirties.” Stacher continued, “We knew the island from our bootlegging business, and what with the great weather and good hotels and casinos we would build, rich people could easily be persuaded to fly over to an exotic ‘foreign country’ to enjoy themselves.” Stacher, Lansky’s liaison with Batista, delivered graft payments to the Cuban dictator.14 Lansky’s Cuban scheme was a strategic business plan for North American organized crime in the post-Prohibition era. At a meeting of top Mafia leaders in 1933, Lansky proposed to invest some of the capital accumulated by Mafia alcohol bootlegging operations in a new business model based on gambling. As Stacher explained: “Our biggest problem was always where to invest the money.” He added, “What Lansky suggested was that each of us put up $500,000 to start the Havana gambling operation. At the end of the meeting Charlie [Luciano] said he was in on the deal and ten Seeds of Gangsterismo 5 others, including Bugsy Siegel, Moe Dalitz, Phil Kastel, and Chuck Polizzi, also chipped in a half million bucks. Lansky and I flew to Havana with the money in suitcases and spoke to Batista, who hadn’t quite believed we could raise that kind of money.”15

In 1936, Army Chief of Staff Batista legalized games of chance in select casinos and nightclubs. Batista shifted the responsibility for monitoring casinos from civilian authorities to the Cuban army. He also used Lansky as a consultant to reform the Cuban government-owned Gran Casino Nacional, where the management was siphoning off house revenues.16

By the mid-1930s, Lansky was operating three casinos in Cuba. One was in the new Hotel Nacional, perched on a limestone bluff overlooking the Malecón, Havana’s seaside boulevard, and the Straits of Florida. Lansky also managed a casino at Oriental Park, a horse racetrack in suburban Marianao, and another gaming room at the nearby Gran Casino Nacional. Batista joined forces with Ramón Grau San Martín, a popular University of Havana professor, who led a coalition of liberal reformers, leftists, students, and Cuban nationalists. Batista and the Grau coalition drove Céspedes from power in September 1933. Grau’s Provisional Revolutionary Government assumed power. Batista promoted himself to colonel and army chief of staff.22 Grau’s coalition undertook a series of long-overdue economic and political reforms, which impinged on the privileged status of U.S. interests in Cuba.

Luciano moved to Cuba after he was deported from the United States to Italy. He had been serving a thirty-to-fifty-year prison sentence for running an illegal prostitution ring in New York. In January 1946, New York Governor Thomas Dewey granted him clemency in return for his cooperation with the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Early in the war Luciano had provided information for anti-Nazi counterintelligence operations on the New York waterfront. Luciano also supplied ONI with intelligence for the Allies’ amphibious landing in Sicily in 1943. Lansky acted as the
go-between for Luciano and U.S. intelligence.30

Chibás had come in third in the 1948 presidential elections as the candidate of the newly formed Partido del Pueblo Cubano-Ortodoxo (Cuban People’s Party-Orthodox), known as the “Ortodoxos.” The Ortodoxos were committed to the politics of the revolution of 1933.

News of General Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’etat (strike against the state) on March 10, 1952, was reported almost casually in the United States. Time magazine’s coverage was emblematic of the U. S. reaction. “Batista is back,” Time reported. “The tough, smiling ex-sergeant who bossed Cuba for years of ‘disciplined democracy,’ this week toppled President Carlos Prío’s constitutional regime from power in an almost bloodless army revolution. . . . In noisy, politically turbulent Havana, all was calm and quiet as the Strong Man’s tanks once again brought ‘disciplined democracy’ to the streets.”

The ease with which the Cuban army drove Carlos Prío Socarrás from power revealed the degree to which corruption had sapped the vitality of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano-Auténtico. When Prío first learned that a coup d’etat was underway, he made no effort to resist. He fled into exile in such a hurry he forgot his cocaine stash in the Palacio Presidencial. His brother Antonio danced the night away at the Sans Souci nightclub.65

In 1952, the United States was not complicit in Batista’s coup d’etat, as it had been in 1933–1934. From Washington’s vantage point, however, Batista’s usefulness as a Cold War ally outweighed the illegitimate nature of his rule.

Upon his return to power, Batista made a formal arrangement with Mafia gambling impresario Meyer Lansky to expand and upgrade the Mafia’s colony of casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in Havana. By the early 1950s, Havana’s attractions had lost their luster. Cuba was losing tourists to Acapulco, a new vacation destination on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and other resorts in the Caribbean. No new hotel had been built in Havana since the mid-1930s. A U.S. Embassy report stated that Cubans were more eager to invest in “hotels and apartments” in Florida than they were to put money into real estate in Cuba. A United Nations mission even recommended that Cuba build more hotels, beaches, and other tourist attractions. continued to share ideas about gambling.77

With Batista’s return to power in Cuba, Lansky had a unique opportunity to experiment with new concepts of gambling. He would attract more tourists to Cuba by building luxurious hotel-casino complexes with good restaurants. He would also upgrade the Montmartre, Sans Souci, and Tropicana, the Mafia’s flagship nightclubs. Lansky drew on the experience of the Mafia gamblers in Las Vegas.

After the initial failure of Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo Hotel and Casino, the Mafia built big hotel-casino complexes in Las Vegas. Within a few years, millions of visitors a year were streaming in, lured both by gambling and 23 first-rate entertainment: Abbott and Costello, Harry Belafonte, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra and the “Rat Pack” were among the headliners.78 Meanwhile, Batista laid the foundation for Lansky’s new gambling business model with Hotel Law 2074, which offered financial
incentives, underwritten by the Cuban treasury, to the Mafia to build new hotels and casinos.

The law made casino licenses available for $25,000. Nightclubs, with $200,000 worth of upgrades, were eligible for casino licenses. In return, licensees were required to make a $2,000 graft payment to the Batistianos. Hotels and casinos were exempted from paying corporate taxes in Cuba. Customs duties were eliminated for imported gaming equipment and building materials. Visa restrictions for pit bosses, stickmen, and dealers were eased.79 All this spurred a hotel-construction boom in Havana in the mid-1950s.

Four new hotels with casinos opened between 1955 and 1958: the Capri, the Hilton, and the Riviera in Havana, and the Comodoro in suburban Miramar. The number of hotel rooms in Havana increased from 3,000 in 1952 to 5,500 in 1958. A new casino also opened at the Sevilla-Biltmore Hotel.80

Lansky set up a headquarters in the Montmartre Club, where he met with Mafia-linked businessmen and gangsters from the United States. His goal was to raise $100 million in cash for new hotel and casino refurbishing projects. He hired executives to run his hotels and casinos from among his associates—Clifford A. Jones, Eddie Levine, and Irving Devine. He selected gamblers with technical expertise like brothers Dino and Eddie Cellini to manage day-to-day operations of the casinos.

Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts was a big fan. Senator George Smathers, a Democrat from Florida, recalled a memorable evening with 25 Kennedy. “Kennedy wasn’t a great casino man,” Smathers said. “But the Tropicana nightclub had a floor show that you wouldn’t believe.”87

The principal owners of the Tropicana were Cuban gangsters: the Fox brothers Martin and Pedro, Alberto Adura, and Oscar Echemendia. Martin Fox and Echemendia got their start running bolita numbers and sponsoring roving casinos in Havana in the 1930s. Ardura was a close friend of General Roberto Fernandez Miranda, Batista’s brother-in law. Martin was a good friend of Santiago Rey, Batista’s defense and interior minister. Batista, his wife Marta, his son Papo, Fernandez Miranda, and Rey were known to frequent the Tropicana.93

The Tropicana was an epicenter of gangsterismo. According to CIA and FBI reports, Santiago Rey granted a “concession” to Martin Fox and Ardura “to bring slot machines to Cuba.” Mafia gambler Norman Rothman supervised the transfer of slot machines from the United States to Cuba.

Ardura managed the slot machine concession in Cuba, while Fernandez Miranda got fifty percent of the “take.”94 Trafficante had operated in Cuba since 1946 as an “emissary” for his father, Santo Trafficante, Sr., the organized crime boss of Tampa, Florida. When his father died in 1954, Santo Jr. took over the family in Tampa and inherited his father’s financial interests in Cuba. The next year Trafficante moved to Cuba, where he ingratiated himself with Batista and his security forces. Santo Trafficante and Meyer Lansky were the top two gamblers in the Mafia gambling colony in the 1950s. But Lansky, who was not a ‘made man,’ was a junior partner in the Mafia power structure to Trafficante, who was a godfather.95

According to FBI reports, Trafficante gained a controlling interest in the Sans Souci nightclub in the mid-1950s. Trafficante kept a small apartment at the Sans Souci, which was owned previously by the Gabriel and Sam Mannarino crime family of Kensington, Pennsylvania, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Norman Rothman managed the Sans Souci for the Mannarinos. When the Sans Souci reopened after renovations on December 31, 1954, Trafficante put Eddie Cellini in charge of the casino. Cellini’s brother Dino managed the casino at the Tropicana. An FBI report stated Dino Cellini was a “longtime associate of Trafficante.”96

The principal owners of the Tropicana were Cuban gangsters: the Fox brothers Martin and Pedro, Alberto Adura, and Oscar Echemendia. Martin Fox and Echemendia got their start running bolita numbers and sponsoring roving casinos in Havana in the 1930s. Ardura was a close friend of General Roberto Fernandez Miranda, Batista’s brother-in-law. Martin was a good friend of Santiago Rey, Batista’s defense and interior minister. Batista, his wife Marta, his son Papo, Fernandez Miranda, and Rey were known to frequent the Tropicana.93

The Tropicana was an epicenter of gangsterismo. According to CIA and FBI reports, Santiago Rey granted a “concession” to Martin Fox and Ardura “to bring slot machines to Cuba.” Mafia gambler Norman Rothman supervised the transfer of slot machines from the United States to Cuba. Ardura managed the slot machine concession in Cuba, while Fernandez Miranda got fifty percent of the “take.”94

Trafficante had operated in Cuba since 1946 as an “emissary” for his father, Santo Trafficante, Sr., the organized crime boss of Tampa, Florida. When his father died in 1954, Santo Jr. took over the family in Tampa and inherited his father’s financial interests in Cuba. The next year Trafficante moved to Cuba, where he ingratiated himself with Batista and his security forces. Santo Trafficante and Meyer Lansky were the top two gamblers in the Mafia gambling colony in the 1950s. But Lansky, who was not a ‘made man,’ was a junior partner in the Mafia power structure to Trafficante, who was a godfather.95

According to FBI reports, Trafficante gained a controlling interest in the Sans Souci nightclub in the mid-1950s. Trafficante kept a small apartment at the Sans Souci, which was owned previously by the Gabriel and Sam Mannarino crime family of Kensington, Pennsylvania, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Norman Rothman managed the Sans Souci for the Mannarinos.

When the Sans Souci reopened after renovations on December 31, 1954, Trafficante put Eddie Cellini in charge of the casino. Cellini’s brother Dino managed the casino at the Tropicana. An FBI report stated Dino Cellini was a “longtime associate of Trafficante.”96

Like the Tropicana, the Sans Souci, with its close ties to Cuba’s security forces, was a nexus of gangsterismo.

Like the Tropicana, the Sans Souci, with its close ties to Cuba’s security forces, was a nexus of gangsterismo.  The Hilton Hotel was pure gangsterismo. The Hilton was a joint venture of Batista and the Mafia gamblers. Batista financed the $32 million hotel by dipping into the Cuban treasury and the Cuban Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union’s pension fund. The Havana Hilton, with 630 rooms, was the largest hotel on the island. Roberto “Chiri” Mendoza, whose construction company built the hotel, was the principal owner of the casino at the Havana Hilton. Mendoza was a business associate of Batista and Trafficante.

Mendoza’s brother Mario, a prominent Havana attorney, was Batista’s “legal advisor.”100

A struggle over the ownership of the Havana Hilton casino may have figured in the murder of gangster Albert Anastasia. Anastasia’s bullet-riddled body was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor of the barbershop at the Sheraton Park Hotel in New York on October 25, 1957. At the time of his murder, Anastasia was negotiating aggressively to buy a sizeable share of the Havana Hilton casino from Mendoza in a move to expand his presence in Havana. Trafficante and Mendoza traveled to New York to meet with Anastasia on October 24. According to a police report obtained by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, “It was rumored that Anastasia had attempted to move in on Trafficante’s operations in Cuba and this was one of the reasons that he was killed.”101

As gangsterismo flourished in Cuba, Meyer Lansky earned the respect of North American crime families by fairly distributing the profits from the Mafia casinos in Cuba. Mafioso Johnny Rosselli spent time in Cuba representing Chicago Godfather Sam Giancana’s “hidden interests” in the 1950s. Rosselli worked as a manager at the Sans Souci, where Chicago gangsters, including Lenny Patrick and Dave Yaras, had financial interests. He also organized gambling junkets to Cuba for wealthy North Americans.104

Meanwhile, FBI records indicate Mafia families from New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia were also well represented in Cuba. Charles Tourine “secured a gambling license” for a group of Mafia investors from New Jersey and Philadelphia. A group led by Angelo Bruno and Carl “Poppy” Ippolito, bought an interest in the casino at the Plaza Hotel, a few blocks from the Capitolio.110

An FBI report noted that Philadelphia-based Bruno “spent a great deal of time in Miami, Fla., and Havana, Cuba [in 1957–1958.]” Bruno was a member of the Mafia Commission.111

Meanwhile, FBI records indicate Mafia families from New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia were also well represented in Cuba. Charles Tourine “secured a gambling license” for a group of Mafia investors from New Jersey and Philadelphia. A group led by Angelo Bruno and Carl “Poppy” Ippolito, bought an interest in the casino at the Plaza Hotel, a few blocks from the Capitolio.110

An FBI report noted that Philadelphia-based Bruno “spent a great deal of time in Miami, Fla., and Havana, Cuba [in 1957–1958.]” Bruno was a member of the Mafia Commission.111

Meanwhile, FBI records indicate Mafia families from New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia were also well represented in Cuba. Charles Tourine “secured a gambling license” for a group of Mafia investors from New Jersey and Philadelphia. A group led by Angelo Bruno and Carl “Poppy” Ippolito, bought an interest in the casino at the Plaza Hotel, a few blocks from the Capitolio.110

An FBI report noted that Philadelphia-based Bruno “spent a great deal of time in Miami, Fla., and Havana, Cuba [in 1957–1958.]” Bruno was a  member of the Mafia Commission.111

Meanwhile, FBI records indicate Mafia families from New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia were also well represented in Cuba. Charles Tourine “secured a gambling license” for a group of Mafia investors from New Jersey and Philadelphia. A group led by Angelo Bruno and Carl “Poppy” Ippolito, bought an interest in the casino at the Plaza Hotel, a few blocks from the Capitolio.110 An FBI report noted that Philadelphia-based Bruno “spent a great deal of time in Miami, Fla., and Havana, Cuba [in 1957–1958.]” Bruno was a member of the Mafia Commission.111

According to a study by the U.S. Army-funded Special Operations Research Office, the Fidelistas “shifted into full-scale revolutionary warfare” in 1958. They conducted increasingly bold surprise attacks on the Cuban army. They also lured army patrols into remote mountain valleys and opened fire on the trapped soldiers. They had become “a formidable military threat” to Batista.121

According to a study by the U.S. Army-funded Special Operations Research Office, the Fidelistas “shifted into full-scale revolutionary warfare” in 1958. They conducted increasingly bold surprise attacks on the Cuban army. They also lured army patrols into remote mountain valleys and opened fire on the trapped soldiers. They had become “a formidable military threat” to Batista.121On December 31, 1958, General Fulgencio Batista, his family, and inner circle gathered to celebrate the arrival of the New Year at the Cuban army headquarters at Camp Columbia on the outskirts of Havana. Instead of toasting the New Year at midnight, however, Batista informed his guests that the military situation in Cuba was hopeless. He had been advised that Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba would fall soon to the July 26th Movement.

He told the celebrants to report to the Camp Columbia airfield in two hours, ready to go into exile.

In the wee hours of January 1, 1959, the pilots of three Cuban air force DC-4s at Camp Columbia fired up their engines, roared down the runway, and lifted their U.S.-supplied aircraft into the darkness of the night. Batista wanted to return to his old home in Daytona Beach, Florida, but President Dwight D. Eisenhower would not allow him to land in the United States. Instead, Batista flew to the Dominican Republic.

The July 26th Movement set up their headquarters in the Havana Hilton, a luxurious symbol of gangsterismo, and renamed it Hotel Habana Libre. As the long-haired July 26th Movement guerrillas, known as barbudos (men with beards), arrived in Havana, they took up residence in the hotel built with funds from the hotel- and restaurant-workers union controlled by Batista.130

Eisenhower searched for a means by which to prevent Castro from coming to power. He approved former U.S. diplomat William D. Pawley’s plan to persuade Batista to resign. Pawley, owner of the Havana Trolley Co. and Havana’s bus system, had been U.S. ambassador to Brazil and Peru, and knew Batista personally. Pawley met with Batista at the Palacio Presidencial for three hours on December 9, 1958. According to Pawley, he proposed a quid pro quo designed to isolate Castro: Batista would hand over power to a “caretaker government,” which would receive U.S. support; Batista could return to his residence-in-exile in Daytona Beach. But Batista turned him down. Nine days later, Allen Dulles informed the NSC that the end was near for Batista.


Atomic Energy Commission Chairman John McCone told the NSC that Castro and the July 26th Movement enjoyed enormous popularity in Cuba. The memorandum stated, “McCone reported that during his recent trip to Cuba he was told that 95% of the people supported Castro.”

In a memorandum, Under Secretary of State C. Douglas Dillon reminded Eisenhower that Batista had been a valued Cold War ally.

Rufo López-Fresquet, Cuban treasury minister in 1959, disputed Morse’s claim that the revolutionary tribunals caused “blood baths” in Cuba. López- Fresquet asserted that the tribunals, imperfect as they were, prevented a bloodier “massacre” from taking place. López-Fresquet recalled bitterly the long silence of the United States about the murder and torture of innocent Cubans during Batista’s reign of terror. Nonetheless, he would defect to the United States in 1960. On May 22, 1959, Meyer Lansky contacted the FBI in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Lansky told the FBI, “The entire [Cuban] government will soon be communistic.” He offered to provide the FBI with additional intelligence about communist activities in Cuba, acknowledging the possible loss of his gambling interests in Cuba had “contributed to his decision to discuss the Cuban situation.”161 The confrontation between the Cuban revolution and the Mafia gamblers would culminate with Trafficante’s arrest. On June 6, 1959, Cuban authorities arrested Santo Trafficante and Henry Saavedra, who represented Trafficante’s interests at the Hotel Capri. They and other Mafia gamblers—Jake Lansky, Charles “The Blade” Tourine, Tourine’s son Charles de Monico, Guiseppe de George, and Lucien Rebard— were held at the Triscornia immigration prison outside Havana. On August 18, 1959, Trafficante was released from Triscornia. Cuban officials later told the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) that Cuba had no evidence Trafficante had broken Cuban laws.


As the curtain came down on the Mafia gambling colony, Jack Ruby, a Dallas stripclub owner, was on a mysterious “vacation” in Cuba. Jack Ruby was in Cuba from August 8 until September 11, 1959, according to Cuban tourist cards and U.S. travel records. Four years later, after Ruby gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald, witnesses came forward to the FBI to say that they had seen Ruby at the Tropicana nightclub in September 1959. The Warren Commission questioned Ruby about his stay in Cuba. Ruby said he was in Cuba on vacation in late summer 1959. He spent several nights at the Tropicana, where his friend Lewis McWillie was manager of the casino. He recalled that Martin Fox, one of the Cuban owners of the Tropicana, took him out for a night on the town in Havana. Earlier in the summer Martin, on business in Texas, treated Ruby to dinner in Dallas.

The Warren Commission accepted Ruby’s explanation, concluding that Ruby’s visit to Cuba was “purely social.” Ruby’s explanation invites skepticism, however, given the personalities and circumstances involved. Ruby had ties to organized crime figures first in Chicago and later in Dallas. McWillie was a well-connected gambler. The Tropicana was an epicenter of gangsterismo with connections to Trafficante, as we have seen. And Ruby knew McWillie from Dallas, where McWillie represented the interests of Las Vegas gambler Benny Binion. When McWillie moved to Havana in 1958, he worked closely with Meyer and Jake Lansky, Dino Cellini, and Santo
Trafficante.

As manager of the Tropicana’s casino, McWillie worked closely with Martin Fox to move large amounts of money out of Cuba, depositing it in U.S. banks in 1959 and 1960, according to Fox’s widow Ofelia and McWillie’s testimony to the HSCA. G. Robert Blakey, former general counsel of the HSCA, is among the skeptics. Blakey sees a link between Ruby and Trafficante’s detention. “Trafficante told us that while he was in Triscornia, the Foxes were trying ‘their best to get me out,’” Blakey and his coauthor Richard Billings write.172

They add, “Ruby’s trips to Cuba were an important, but minor, part of an organized-crime operation, which may have had to do with Trafficante’s detention.” The HSCA final report suggested that Ruby was a “courier” for the Mafia gamblers carrying cash between Havana and banks in Miami. The HSCA report noted that Ruby made at least two trips to Cuba in 1959. Cuban tourist cards indicate that Ruby was in Cuba from August 8 until September 11, when he flew to Miami and returned to Cuba the next day. A day later he flew to New Orleans. FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service records corroborate Ruby’s trips to Cuba.

Jack Ruby was in Cuba from August 8 until September 11, 1959, according to Cuban tourist cards and U.S. travel records. Four years later, after Ruby gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald, witnesses came forward to the FBI to say that they had seen Ruby at the Tropicana nightclub in September 1959. The Warren Commission questioned Ruby about his stay in Cuba. Ruby said he was in Cuba on vacation in late summer 1959. He spent several nights at the Tropicana, where his friend Lewis McWillie was manager of the casino. He recalled that Martin Fox, one of the Cuban owners of the Tropicana, took him out for a night on the town in Havana. Earlier in the summer Martin, on business in Texas, treated Ruby to dinner in Dallas. The Warren Commission accepted Ruby’s explanation, concluding that Ruby’s visit to Cuba was “purely social.” Ruby’s explanation invites skepticism, however, given the personalities and circumstances involved.

Ruby had ties to organized crime figures first in Chicago and later in Dallas.McWillie was a well-connected gambler. The Tropicana was an epicenter of gangsterismo with connections to Trafficante, as we have seen.

As manager of the Tropicana’s casino, McWillie worked closely with Martin Fox to move large amounts of money out of Cuba, depositing it in U.S. banks in 1959 and 1960, according to Fox’s widow Ofelia and McWillie’s testimony to the HSCA.

G. Robert Blakey, former general counsel of the HSCA, is among the skeptics. Blakey sees a link between Ruby and Trafficante’s detention. “Trafficante told us that while he was in Triscornia, the Foxes were trying ‘their best to get me out,’” Blakey and his coauthor Richard Billings write.172

They add, “Ruby’s trips to Cuba were an important, but minor, part of an organized-crime operation, which may have had to do with Trafficante’s detention.” The HSCA final report suggested that Ruby was a “courier” for the Mafia gamblers carrying cash between Havana and banks in Miami.

The HSCA report noted that Ruby made at least two trips to Cuba in 1959. Cuban tourist cards indicate that Ruby was in Cuba from August 8 until September 11, when he flew to Miami and returned to Cuba the next day. A day later he flew to New Orleans. FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service records corroborate Ruby’s trips to Cuba.

Triumph of the Cuban Revolution 46 Gangsterismo

Trafficante was released from Triscornia on August 18. There is also evidence that Ruby may have visited Trafficante at Triscornia. John Wilson, a British journalist imprisoned at Triscornia, said that he saw Ruby with Trafficante in 1959. According to a CIA message to President John Kennedy’s National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, Wilson told the U.S. Embassy in London that he met a prisoner at Triscornia, “an American gangster gambler named Santos [sic].” The message continued, “While Santos was in prison Wilson says, Santos was visited frequently by an American gangstertype named Ruby.”173

The CIA also suspected some kind of link between Ruby and Trafficante. S. D. Breckinridge, CIA liaison with the HSCA, wrote in a memorandum for the record, “[O]ur study had a few comments on a possible connection between Ruby and Trafficante in 1959, but that we could not take it beyond that.”174 Burt W. Griffin, the Warren Commission’s expert on Ruby, was another skeptic. Griffin questioned the commission’s conclusion that Ruby’s trip Cuba was “purely social.” “Ruby did very few things that were ‘purely social,’ ” Griffin wrote in an August 1964 memorandum. “In light of the fact that his Cuban visit is tied closely in time to his own interest in selling jeeps to Cuba . . . I think we should have considerably more information about Ruby’s visit to Cuba before we arrive at such a conclusion.”175

Griffin was referring to the Warren Commission testimony of Ruby’s sister Eva Grant. Grant told the commission that her brother’s trip to Cuba in September 1959 was related to a plan to sell jeeps to Cuba. The Warren Commission reported that in January 1959 “Ruby made preliminary inquiries, as a middle man, concerning the possible sale to Cuba of some surplus jeeps located in Shreveport, Louisiana, and asked about the release of prisoners from a Cuban prison.”176 Ruby contacted Robert McKeown in connection with the jeep sale. McKeown had been arrested for smuggling weapons to Cuba in February 1958. McKeown sold guns for former President Carlos Prío Socarrás to the July 26th Movement.177

McKeown told the FBI that he got a telephone call from “Mr. Rubenstein of Dallas” in January 1959. “Rubenstein” offered him $15,000 to contact Fidel Castro and help arrange the release of three unnamed people from jail in Cuba. McKeown said he could obtain the release of the prisoners but wanted $5,000 in cash before contacting Castro.

Three weeks later, an unidentified man visited McKeown outside of Houston. He said he had an option to buy jeeps in Shreveport, Louisiana, which he wanted to sell to Castro. He wanted McKeown to write a letter of introduction to Castro. McKeown said he would do so for a $25,000 fee. But the visitor did not follow up. 47

When McKeown saw news photographs of Oswald’s assassin, he realized his visitor was Jack Ruby.178 Ruby corroborated McKeown’s account in an interview with the FBI. Ruby said he telephoned a man, who lived near Houston, about the sale of jeeps to Cuba. The man had been involved in “gun running” to Castro. But the jeep deal fell through.179

The FBI also had evidence linking Ruby to arms shipments to Cuba from Florida in 1959. One of the Bureau’s sources was Blaney Mack Johnson, a Florida gambler. Johnson was a former owner of the Colonial Inn in Hallandale, Florida, one of Meyer Lansky’s “carpet joints” in the Sunshine State.

An FBI memorandum reported, “He [Johnson] stated that Jack Ruby, known then as Rubenstein, was active in arranging illegal flights of weapons from Miami to the Castro organization in Cuba.” The memorandum added, “T-2 [Johnson] stated that one Donald Edward Browder was associated with Ruby in the arms smuggling operations.” Browder was a weapons dealer linked to the Mafia, who sold guns to all sides in Cuba in the 1950s.180 Had the Warren Commission attempted to connect the dots of Ruby’s trips to Cuba and his ties to gangsterismo, it would have opened a Pandora’s box. At a minimum, a thorough investigation of Ruby would have embarrassed the FBI. Ruby was a Bureau informant during the period of his Cuba-related activities. FBI Special Agent Charles Flynn met with Ruby eight times between March and October 1959. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover explained in a memorandum to the Warren Commission that Ruby “had knowledge of the criminal element in Dallas.”181 The full story of Jack Ruby and Cuba has yet to be told, according to Blakey and Billings. “Our belief that there was something to hide in the Ruby-McWillie relationship was borne out by a remark Ruby made to Wally Weston, a comedian who worked in his nightclub,” Blakey and Billings write.

“It was after Ruby had been convicted of murdering Oswald, and they were talking in Ruby’s jail cell. ‘Wally, they’re going to find out about Cuba,’ Ruby said. ‘They’re going to find out about the guns, find out about New Orleans, find out about everything.’ ”182 With the end of the era of gangsterismo in Cuba, the Mafia gamblers and the Batistianos would regroup in exile.

A report for the Special Research Office at the American University in Washington, D. C., called Masferrer “one of the most hated men in 55

On July 10, 1959, Pedro Díaz Lanz, the former chief of the Cuban air force, appeared as the sole witness at a special closed-door session of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee on “The Communist Threat to the United States through the Caribbean.”Cuba.”

Three days later, Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke declared that Communists were “using” Castro. Burke warned that the “danger” of a communist takeover of Cuba was “great” in a seminar on U.S. strategy at Fort McNair, a mile south of the Capitol on the banks of the Washington Channel.

Three days later, Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke declared that Communists were “using” Castro. Burke warned that the “danger” of a communist takeover of Cuba was “great” in a seminar on U.S. strategy at Fort McNair, a mile south of the Capitol on the banks of the Washington Channel. In October 1959, William Pawley, a businessman with close ties to the CIA, began a series of meetings with Cubans plotting against the revolution.

The CIA installed a covert device in Pawley’s office in Miami to record his meetings. According to an October 20, 1959, CIA memorandum, Pawley met with a representative of wealthy anti-Castro Cubans who were planning to “sabotage . . . the coming sugar harvest.”

Pawley had met with Batista in December 1958 in an unsuccessful effort to persuade him to resign, as we have seen. An October 7, 1959 CIA memorandum noted Pawley’s past “cooperation with this Agency,” pointing out he was a friend of Allen Dulles and Western Hemisphere Division Chief J. C. King. Pawley, whose goal was to organize a unified Cuban armed force to topple the Cuban revolution, kept the Administration informed about his meetings with Cuban dissidents. After a meeting with Cubans in Washington, he met with Dulles and Vice President Richard Nixon.257

In 1960, the CIA shifted its focus from providing support for the counterrevolution in Cuba to organizing a network of Cuban exile action groups in the United States. Before the end of the year, Cuban exile action groups would begin launching hit-and-run commando raids on targets in Cuba from bases in the United States.

But this tactic created a political backlash in Cuba against the counterrevolution. Castro channeled Cubans’ anger at the raids into popular support for the revolution. When Look magazine editor William Attwood arrived in Cuba to interview Castro in July 1959, he was struck by how openly Castro’s assassination was discussed. “Assassination was in the air,” Attwood recalled. “I was told quite flatly by Julio Lobo . . . that Castro would not live out the year, there was a contract on him.” Attwood attended a party, with CIA officers in attendance, where guests talked “quite openly about assassinating Castro.” Lobo, one of the richest men in Cuba, owned a dozen large sugar mills.272

CIA covert action plan for Cuba to the NSC on March 10, Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke “suggested that any plan for the removal of Cuban leaders should be a package deal, since many of the leaders around Castro were even worse than Castro.” The assassination option was discussed when the Special Group met on March 14….

According to CIA records, Cain was an informant for the CIA from 1960 until 1964 on a
variety of matters.323 88 Gangsterismo Cain disclosed that he secretly worked for Giancana when he was employed by the Chicago Police Department from 1956 until 1960. He was currently the head of a private detective agency in Chicago, but Giancana was one of his clients. A CIA biographical sketch of Cain noted his ties to the Agency-sponsored Cuban opposition: “Employment: private detective possibly employed by the Frente Revolucionario Democrático in 1961.”324 As the CIA and Mafia conspired to kill Castro, the Cuban middle class began to turn against the Cuban revolution.

On June 4, 1960, National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) 85-2-60 reported growing disillusionment with the revolution among Cuban professionals and middle class…

According to CIA records, Cain was an informant for the CIA from 1960 until 1964 on a
variety of matters.323

Cain disclosed that he secretly worked for Giancana when he was employed by the Chicago Police Department from 1956 until 1960. He was currently the head of a private detective agency in Chicago, but Giancana was one of his clients. A CIA biographical sketch of Cain noted his ties to the Agency-sponsored Cuban opposition: “Employment: private detective possibly employed by the Frente Revolucionario Democrático in 1961.”324 As the CIA and Mafia conspired to kill Castro, the Cuban middle class began to turn against the Cuban revolution.

On June 4, 1960, National Intelligence EstiA secret asset of U.S. Army intelligence, Morgan was charged with smuggling arms to Cuban counterrevolutionaries in October 1960. Morgan procured arms for Manuel Ray, leader of the Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo (MRP) (Revolutionary Movement of the People). A CIA report stated, “Ray said that Major William Morgan, now under arrest, had done a great deal of work for the MRP and had been responsible for obtaining most of the weapons the MRP now has.”331 He was executed in March 1961.

According to CIA records, Cain was an informant for the CIA from 1960 until 1964 on a
variety of matters.323 Cain disclosed that he secretly worked for Giancana when he was employed by the Chicago Police Department from 1956 until 1960. He was currently the head of a private detective agency in Chicago, but Giancana was one of his clients. A CIA biographical sketch of Cain noted his ties to the Agency-sponsored Cuban opposition: “Employment: private detective possibly employed by the Frente Revolucionario Democrático in 1961.”324

As the CIA and Mafia conspired to kill Castro, the Cuban middle class began to turn against the Cuban revolution. On June 4, 1960, National Intelligence EstiA secret asset of U.S. Army intelligence, Morgan was charged with smuggling arms to Cuban counterrevolutionaries in October 1960. Morgan procured arms for Manuel Ray, leader of the Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo (MRP) (Revolutionary Movement of the People). A CIA report stated, “Ray said that Major William Morgan, now under arrest, had done a great deal of work for the MRP and had been responsible for obtaining most of the weapons the MRP now has.”331 He was executed in March 1961.

Alabama Governor John Patterson, a Democrat, contacted the Kennedy campaign in October 1960. Patterson had been informed by a CIA official and Major General Reid Doster of the Alabama Air National Guard that members of the air guard were being recruited to work with a Cuban exile invasion force. Patterson recalled Doster’s words: “Any morning now, you are going to pick up the newspaper and read about a Cuban invasion. It’s going to be a tremendous success.” Patterson traveled to New York where he met privately with Kennedy and told him what he had learned about the Cuba
operation.349

On June 4, 1960, National Intelligence EstiA secret asset of U.S. Army intelligence, Morgan was charged with smuggling arms to Cuban counterrevolutionaries in October 1960. Morgan procured arms for Manuel Ray, leader of the Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo (MRP) (Revolutionary Movement of the People). A CIA report stated, “Ray said that Major William Morgan, now under arrest, had done a great deal of work for the MRP and had been responsible for obtaining most of the weapons the MRP now has.”331 He was executed in March 1961.

Patterson recalled Doster’s words: “Any morning now, you are going to pick up the newspaper and read about a Cuban invasion. It’s going to be a tremendous success.” Patterson traveled to New York where he met privately with Kennedy and told him what he had learned about the Cuba operation.349

In October 1960, St. George was on assignment for Life magazine in Florida to photograph Frente Revolucionario Democrático activities and Cuban exiles training to invade Cuba. Kennedy campaign official William Attwood contacted St. George.

On April 4, Kennedy gathered his aides together to discuss the Bay of Pigs plan in a conference room in Foggy Bottom near Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s office. Kennedy asked, “What do you think?” As the president tapped his fingers on the table impatiently, his principal deputies—Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy—had little to say. Rusk had expressed his doubts about the CIA plan to Kennedy in private but refused to do so in the meeting. General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not address the Bay of Pigs plan itself but focused, instead, on the fact it was a CIA—not a Pentagon—operation.

Nicaraguan dictator Luis Somoza addressed Brigade 2506 on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast, the staging area for the CIA’s amphibious invasion of Cuba. On the docks of Puerto Cabezas, Somoza told the brigadistas “Bring me a couple of hairs from Castro’s beard.”
The 1,500 soldiers of Brigade 2506 assembled in Nicaragua after their military training in CIA camps in Guatemala, Florida and Louisiana. 400

According to Wyden, “He [Burke] had always considered this strike crucial.” He noted, “The D-Day strike could have temporarily immobilized whatever flying capability Castro’s men had left.”418 When Cabell returned to CIA headquarters, he faced the wrath of the Cuba Task Force. Cabell was the senior CIA official in Washington on the eve of the Bay of Pigs landing. Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles had arranged to be out of town at a conference in Puerto Rico as a featured speaker.

Jacob Esterline shouted at Cabell, “Goddamn it, this is criminal negligence!” Esterline was chief of the Cuba Task Force. Esterline, Stanley Beerli, head of Cuba Task Force air operations, Howard Hunt, David Philips, and other CIA officers gathered around Cabell’s desk and unloaded their anger on him.

Wyden wrote, “Jake pounded the general’s desk and told him he was the lowest form of human being he had ever seen. How could he let the men of the Brigade go to their death?” Wyden wrote. “All over the room, voices were raised to the bellowing level. Faces were crimson. Any form of rankconsciousness or civility was gone. These were emotion-driven men out of control.”419

Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s opposition to the D-Day air strikes was based on diplomatic considerations. Rusk later wrote, “Personally I was skeptical about the Bay of Pigs plan from the beginning.” Rusk stated, “Most simply, the operation violated international law. There was no way to make a good legal case for an American-supported landing in Cuba. Also, I felt that an operation of this scale could not be conducted covertly.

According to Wyden, “He [Burke] had always considered this strike crucial.” He noted, “The D-Day strike could have temporarily immobilized whatever flying capability Castro’s men had left.”418 When Cabell returned to CIA headquarters, he faced the wrath of the Cuba Task Force. Cabell was the senior CIA official in Washington on the eve of the Bay of Pigs landing. Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles had arranged to be out of town at a conference in Puerto Rico as a featured speaker.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s opposition to the D-Day air strikes was based on diplomatic considerations. Rusk later wrote, “Personally I was  skeptical about the Bay of Pigs plan from the beginning.” Rusk stated, “Most simply, the operation violated international law. There was no way to make a good legal case for an American-supported landing in Cuba. Also, I felt that an operation of this scale could not be conducted covertly. Cabell paid Rusk a second visit, this time at Rusk’s apartment at the Sheridan-Park Hotel at 4 a.m. on April 17. Cabell wanted Kennedy to authorize the use of combat jets from the aircraft carrier Essex to provide air support for the beleaguered Brigade 2506. Cabell knew that control of the air over the Bay of Pigs was essential for the success of the landing. Once again Rusk telephoned Kennedy. This time he put Cabell on the line. Cabell suggested a range of air support operations involving U.S. jets. Kennedy did not comment. When Rusk got back on the line, Kennedy told Rusk he would not authorize U.S. air power to be used in Cuba.420 Rusk later explained, “I was caught by surprise with the first air strikes.” He said, “I was trying to advise Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations what was happening and suddenly found out there
were additional air strikes coming. We didn’t want to have him lie to the United Nations.”421

Ambassador Adlai Stevenson had been embarrassed in the United Nations when he denied that the United States was connected to the bombing of Cuban air fields on April 15. Stevenson had argued that Cuban air force defectors had carried out the air attacks.422

Bissell’s deputy Tracy Barnes had misled Stevenson. In an internal CIA memorandum, Barnes conceded that he did not brief Stevenson about the CIA’s role in the April 15 air strikes. Bissell later wrote, “Stevenson was left with the distinct impression that the United States had virtually no hand in the events that were unfolding.” Stevenson was furious when the U.S. involvement was exposed. He expressed his frustration to Kennedy, Rusk, and Dulles. Kennedy sent National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy to New York to make sure Stevenson did not break publicly with President Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs….

President Kennedy summoned General Maxwell Taylor out of retirement to lead a Board of Inquiry into the failed Bay of Pigs operation. Kennedy was impressed by Taylor’s book The Uncertain Trumpet, a critique of the Eisenhower Administration ’s “massive retaliation” strategy. Taylor, Army Chief of Staff from 1955 to 1959, took a leave of absence as president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York to assume his new duties in Washington.428

The Taylor Board included Robert Kennedy, Allen Dulles, and Admiral Arleigh Burke. The Taylor Board, also known as the Cuba Study Group, took testimony from fifty witnesses over six weeks in April and May 1961.429

Meanwhile, Felix Rodríguez, a Cuban CIA agent, told his CIA case officer that Castro’s assassination was the key to the overthrow of the Cuban revolution, and volunteered to kill Castro in December 1960. Rodríguez later disclosed that he and a fellow Cuban counterrevolutionary made three unsuccessful attempts to land at Varadero Beach east of Havana to assassinate Castro in early 1961. The first attempt was called off when the yacht used in the mission developed engine trouble. Two other missions were terminated when reception groups failed to meet the assassins on shore as planned.452

Speaking to the Church Committee investigators, John Henry Stephens, a Special Forces soldier based in Guatemala from 1959 to 1961, recalled two attempts to parachute men from Guatemala into Cuba to kill Castro before before the Bay of Pigs invasion. “He and/or members of his four-five man training cadre were told to give parachutes and weapons to individuals who were to be parachuted into Cuba to attempt to assassinate Castro.”

The memorandum noted, “He referred to an ‘assassination package.’ Such a ‘package’ would contain a variety of weapons, grenades, and other armaments, including a special assassination gun.’”

On the first occasion, one man was successfully flown into Cuba on a B-26, but when he reached a hotel room and radioed back to Guatemala, “this individual’s radio report was interrupted by gunfire and no more was ever heard from him.” On the second attempt, they sent two men, “who . . . were captured or killed in the drop zone where they made their parachute landing in Cuba.”453

On April 20, President Kennedy requested a detailed plan for U.S. military intervention in Cuba from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who passed it on to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making sure to note: “The request should not be interpreted as an indication that U.S. military action against Cuba is probable.” The Joint Chiefs recommended, “The creation of an incident which will provide the justification for the overthrow of the Castro government by the United States.” The incident, of course, must
be “carefully planned and handled to insure that it is plausible and that it occurs prior to any indication that the United States has decided to take military action against Cuba.”

On April 29, McNamara and Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke met with President Kennedy to discuss Operational Plan 312 (OPLAN 312), the Pentagon’s contingency plan for intervention in Cuba, which called for approximately 60,000 troops, plus naval and air units….

When [Richard] Goodwin returned to Washington, he informed President Kennedy about his meeting with Guevara, and recommended continuing the dialogue with Cuba. But Goodwin also interpreted Guevara’s willingness to initiate diplomatic talks as a sign of Cuba’s weakness, a weakness that he advised the administration to exploit. He urged President Kennedy to step up the CIA’s clandestine sabotage operations against economic targets on the island. Goodwin recalled, “[It] would have been politically difficult, perhaps impossible” to have negotiated “a deal with Castro, any kind of deal.”492

On November 3, 1961, President Kennedy approved Operation Mongoose, a new covert operation to organize a popular uprising on the island, which would serve as a pretext for U.S. military intervention in Cuba. Mongoose would use CIA personnel and resources but would not be run by the CIA. President Kennedy chose Brigadier General Edward Lansdale as Mongoose’s chief of operations; he would work closely with the attorney
general.

Commando raids by CIA-backed Cuban exile action groups in the United States would complement Operation Mongoose. “Special support projects will be readied for use on call.” Lansdale wrote in a December 1961 memorandum, “These projects (such as operations to scuttle shipping and otherwise hamper the regime) will be timed to support actions by the movement [inside Cuba] and to permit the movement to take credit for them.” In this scenario, local political actions and sabotage operations would culminate in a popular uprising in October 1962, just before the congressional elections in the United States. Action agents would seize territory and issue an urgent “appeal” for help. Lansdale wrote, “The United States, if possible in concert with other Western Hemisphere nations, will hen give open support to the Cuban people’s revolt.”498

 “Guidelines for Operation Mongoose” predicated success explicitly n U.S. military intervention in Cuba….From the beginning, the new DCI John McCone was “skeptical” about operation Mongoose, according to a draft CIA history of the McCone’s tenure at the Agency. McCone thought the Kennedy brothers were “obsessed with Cuba.” But he was also committed to working closely with Robert Kennedy n Mongoose, noting the “CIA had a special responsibility so far as Cuba as concerned.”

McCone had good reason to be cautious. He was sworn in as DCI on November 29, 1961, one day after the publication of Special National intelligence Estimate (SNIE) 85-61, which cast doubt on the premise that a rebellion could be organized in Cuba—the very goal of Mongoose.

The Mongoose organization chart bore a resemblance to the model recommended to President Kennedy by Richard Goodwin in November 1961. Goodwin proposed a “command operation” run by Robert Kennedy. The attorney general would become the driving force of Mongoose, working closely with Lansdale to compensate for his own inexperience with intelligence operations. Lansdale would also report to the Special Group (Augmented), new National Security Council committee created to monitor Mongoose, which included the members of the Special Group set up by the Eisenhower administration to oversee covert operations, plus Robert Kennedy and General Maxwell Taylor, who was chairman.

On the same day, President Kennedy ordered the Department of State to take the lead in the development of an interagency contingency plan for U.S. action in Cuba in the event of Castro’s assassination. National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy issued National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 100 on October 5. The text of NSAM 100 was as simple as it was evasive: “In confirmation of oral instructions conveyed to Assistant Secretary of State [Robert] Woodward, a plan is desired for the indicated contingency.”

Thomas Parrott, secretary of the Special Group, briefed Woodward on NSAM 100. Parrott also informed Woodward that President Kennedy had a personal interest in the memorandum. Parrott was an assistant for executive branch matters to the CIA deputy director for plans. He also served as the special assistant to General Maxwell Taylor, the president’s military adviser. Interestingly, Parrott noted Richard Goodwin was “aware” of President Kennedy’s interest in the post-Castro assassination contingency plan for Cuba.

On October 6, Albert C. Davis, chief of intelligence of the CIA’s WH/4, responded to NSAM 100. “It would be wishful thinking to believe that the Cuban people would immediately rise up and overthrow the regime, now that Castro departed the scene,” Davis wrote. “In order to be effective such a [assassination] program should be coordinated with a well-organized resistance movement capable of providing a simultaneous internal uprising.”

In October 1961, there was no “well-organized resistance movement” in Cuba.

Helms later told the Church Committee that President Kennedy never directly ordered the CIA to assassinate Castro. “I remember vividly [the pressure] was very intense,” he testified. “I believe it was the policy at the time to get rid of Castro and if killing him was one of the things that was to be done in this connection, that was within what was
expected.”

Senator Richard Schweicker, a Republican from Pennsylvania, observed, “[A]s I understand your position on the assassination of Castro, no one in essence told you to do it, no one in essence told you not to do it . . . is that correct?”

“Yes, sir,” Helms replied.521 Momentum had carried the CIA’s plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro from the Eisenhower Administration to the Kennedy Administration…..

Which was created by the CIA for propaganda operations against the Cuban revolution in 1960. A CIA memorandum on the DRE stated, “Members were used through 1966 as political action agents, for publishing propaganda which was sent out throughout the Hemisphere, attending international student meetings at Agency direction, and producing radio programs and special propaganda campaigns.”

Operation Mongoose

The CIA memorandum added, “While the DRE was set up as a psych warfare outfit, the organization was given a large amount of paramilitary aid in funds and material. After the Bay of Pigs, the DRE engaged in independent military actions . . .”525Another recipient of CIA arms and paramilitary training was the DRE,which was sent out throughout the Hemisphere, attending international student meetings at Agency direction, and producing radio programs and special propaganda campaigns.”

The overweight, pear-shaped William Harvey wanted to make an impression on Johnny Rosselli when they met in Miami in April 1962. Harvey pulled a revolver from inside his rumpled suit jacket and thumped it down on the table in the cocktail lounge of the Miami airport. As he knocked back a double Martini, Harvey explained that he had replaced Jim O’Connell as Rosselli’s CIA case officer. From now on, Rosselli would work directly with Harvey. Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante, and Robert Maheu had been eliminated, to make the covert operation to assassinate Fidel Castro more secure….

Harvey replied, “Everything is all right, what they want to do.” He gave Rosselli the keys to a U-Haul rental truck for Varona in a nearby parking lot, loaded with $5,000 worth of explosives, sniper rifles, handguns, and a boat radar. Varona had requested the arms and military equipment as the “price” for his role in the CIA-Mafia assassination operation.

FBI Special Agent Sam Papich warned Harvey the Bureau knew about his meetings with Rosselli in Miami. Papich, the FBI’s liaison with the CIA, said he would have to report Harvey’s contacts with Rosselli to FBI Director Hoover. Harvey promised to report future meetings with Rosselli to the FBI. But he divulged little about his business with Rosselli, saying he would continue to maintain an “open relationship” with Rosselli for operational reasons.539 Hoover’s curiosity was aroused by reports linking President Kennedy to Judith Campbell, who was also a paramour of Giancana and Rosselli. On March 22, 1962, in a private luncheon, Hoover informed Kennedy that the FBI knew about his sexual trysts with Judith Campbell in the White House. A FBI briefing memorandum for Hoover’s meeting with Kennedy stated, “Information has been developed that Judith E. Campbell . . . has been associated with prominent underworld figures Sam Giancana and John Rosselli of Los Angeles.” The FBI was monitoring Campbell, who was designated an “associate of hoodlums,” as part of its crackdown on organized crime.

FBI Special Agent Sam Papich warned Harvey the Bureau knew about his meetings with Rosselli in Miami. Papich, the FBI’s liaison with the CIA, said he would have to report Harvey’s contacts with Rosselli to FBI Director Hoover. Harvey promised to report future meetings with Rosselli to the FBI. But he divulged little about his business with Rosselli, saying he would continue to maintain an “open relationship” with Rosselli for
operational reasons.539 Hoover’s curiosity was aroused by reports linking President Kennedy to Judith Campbell, who was also a paramour of Giancana and Rosselli. On March 22, 1962, in a private luncheon, Hoover informed Kennedy that the FBI knew about his sexual trysts with Judith Campbell in the White House. A FBI briefing memorandum for Hoover’s meeting with Kennedy stated, “Information has been developed that Judith E. Campbell . . . has been associated with prominent underworld figures Sam Giancana and John Rosselli of Los Angeles.” The FBI was monitoring Campbell, who was designated an “associate of hoodlums,” as part of its crackdown on organized crime. The FBI discovered John KennFBI Special Agent Sam Papich warned Harvey the Bureau knew about his meetings with Rosselli in Miami. Papich, the FBI’s liaison with the CIA, said he would have to report Harvey’s contacts with Rosselli to FBI Director Hoover. Harvey promised to report future meetings with Rosselli to the FBI. But he divulged little about his business with Rosselli, saying he would continue to maintain an “open relationship” with Rosselli for operational reasons.539 Hoover’s curiosity was aroused by reports linking President Kennedy to Judith Campbell, who was also a paramour of Giancana and Rosselli. On March 22, 1962, in a private luncheon, Hoover informed Kennedy that the FBI knew about his sexual trysts with Judith Campbell in the White House. A FBI briefing memorandum for Hoover’s meeting with Kennedy stated, “Information has been developed that Judith E. Campbell . . . has been associated with prominent underworld figures Sam Giancana and John Rosselli of Los Angeles.” The FBI was monitoring Campbell, who was designated an “associate of hoodlums,” as part of its crackdown on organized crime.

The FBI discovered Kennedy’s secret liaisons with Campbell when it reviewed her telephone records, which revealed phone calls to the White House. Campbell made seventy calls to President Kennedy’s secretary Evelyn Lincoln in 1961 and 1962. Kennedy family friend Frank Sinatra had introduced Judith Campbell to John Kennedy at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in February 1960, when the Massachusetts senator was campaigning for president.

According to an FBI memorandum, a Bureau informant overheard Sinatra say Campbell was “shacking up with John Kennedy in the East.”

On August 24, 1962, the CIA-backed Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) (Revolutionary Student Directorate) carried out a high-publicity 165 commando attack on beachfront properties in the Havana suburb of Miramar. The Sierra Maestra Hotel and nearby Blanquita Theater were shelled by a 20-millimeter cannon mounted on a small, speedy boat 200 yards offshore. The Associated Press reported, “Damage was slight, but
near-panic swept the hotel as sleeping guests were shaken out of bed by the midnight bombardment.” The DRE boasted the sea-borne raid the was “most dramatic” anti-Castro operation since the Bay of Pigs.

DRE gunner José Basulto was jubilant. “I opened up on the hotel dining room where Castro was supposed to be holding the meeting with the Russians,” he told the New York Times. “It was really something. I could see the shells break into the hotel windows, and then all the lights went out.” DRE official José Antonio Lanuza announced the shelling during a live interview on Barry Gray’s popular WABC radio talk show in New York
on August 24. Lanuza was booked on the show by the Lem Jones public relations agency, the same agency CIA propaganda specialist David Atlee Phillips used to issue statements in the name of the Frente Revolucionario Democrático during the Bay of Pigs landing. Lem Jones also did public relations work for José Miró Cardona, head of the Consejo Revolucionario Cubano.

A DRE press statement declared the purpose of the raid on Miramar was to “denounce the arrival of increasingly large contingents of Russian troops to our island.” Soviet military personnel and weapons began to arrive in Cuba in July 1962. The DRE statement also took aim at the Kennedy Administration, saying “The presence of Russian ships in Cuba” called into question “the promises of President Kennedy that Cuba would never be abandoned.” The statement continued, “We will not tolerate peaceful coexistence. . . . We are not concerned with interested groups or long-range tactics of large powers. We are concerned only that over the tombs of Martí and Maceo they do not raise the soiled banners of the hammer and sickle.”

Meanwhile, CIA officer David Phillips may have had a hand in the DRE’s provocative attack in Miramar. Author Jefferson Morley asserts, “Phillips . . . made the whole incident possible.” Morley outlines Phillips’s use of the DRE in highly compartmented propaganda operations against Cuba in the summer of 1962. From Mexico City, Phillips visited Miami, where the DRE was based, and communicated regularly with Bill Kent and Ross Crozier, CIA case officers for the DRE.564   p166

In early 1963, Artime, Pepe San Román, and Enrique Ruiz Williams met frequently with the attorney general in Washington. Robert Kennedy biographer Evan Thomas writes, “Kennedy had been meeting privately with Cuban exiles.” He continues, “RFK was entertaining Cuban exiles at Hickory Hill and calling them at their apartments at the Ebbitt Hotel downtown, where they were housed by the Agency.”

In January 1963, the CIA reorganized its Cuba operations. Des FitzGerald, appointed chief of the new Special Affairs Staff (SAS), replaced William Harvey as the Agency’s point man on Cuba.656 Harvey and Johnny Rosselli tied up the loose ends of their plotting to assassinate Castro.

Dismay turned to anger when CIA-backed commando operations against Cuba were suspended at the end of October 1962. The Cuban exile movement’s anger boiled over when Attorney General Kennedy announced a crackdown on unauthorized exile action group raids on 203 Cuba, which he worried would jeopardize the continuing negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union to finalize the Kennedy- Khrushchev agreement. Cuban exile action groups planned to defy the administration’s ban. On October 30, a CIA memorandum reported that Alpha 66 and the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) “pledged that they will renew their armed fight against Castro.”658

On December 4, U.S. law enforcement officials also prevented a hit-andrun team from the International Penetration Force (Interpen) from leaving Florida. In the Florida Keys, federal officers arrested thirteen Interpen commandos, including ten North Americans. United Press International reported that Interpen “had been training for a guerrilla attack on Cuba for the past six months at No Name Key forty miles northeast of Key West. 660

Veciana, a former manager of the Banco Financiero in Havana, was a past president of the Cuban Association of Public Accountants. The Banco Financiero was owned by Julio Lobo. Before the revolution Lobo, who owned eleven sugar mills and had a half-interest in three other mills, was known as Cuba’s “Sugar King.” Lobo’s Galban Trading Company was one of the biggest sugar brokerage houses in the world. His holdings also included other banks, insurance companies, and real estate.663 Lobo had profited from gangsterismo. The gangsters turned to the Banco Financiero to finance the expansion of their gambling colony in the 1950s. Cuban writer Enrique Cirules cites documents from the Banco Nacional de Cuba and the Archivo Nacional de Cuba that outline the Banco Financiero’s role in financing the construction of the Mafia-owned Capri and Riviera hotels.664 Veciana was Lobo’s protégé. According to CIA records, Lobo, who left Cuba for Miami in October 1961, was an early source of funding for Alpha 66. One CIA document reported that Veciana received “large sums of money for Alpha 66 from Lobo in 1962.” Lobo offered to commit $250,000 for future Alpha 66 operations.665

The Department of Justice considered prosecuting Cuban exiles who participated in raids unauthorized by the CIA. Cuban exiles reacted angrily to the crackdown…..

The Department of Justice considered prosecuting Cuban exiles who participated in raids unauthorized by the CIA. Cuban exiles reacted angrily to the crackdown. Robert Kennedy was unrelentingly hawkish on Cuba. On April 23, Kennedy referred to the possibility of the “death of Castro.” He called for three studies on covert policy options, including: “A list of measures we would take following contingencies such as the death of Castro; A program with the objective of overthrowing Castro in 18 months; A program to cause as much trouble as we can for Communist Cuba during the next 18 months.” Robert Kennedy was unrelentingly hawkish on Cuba. On April 23, Kennedy referred to the possibility of the “death of Castro.” He called for three studies on covert policy options, including: “A list of measures we would take following contingencies such as the death of Castro; A program with the objective of overthrowing Castro in 18 months; A program to cause as much trouble as we can for Communist Cuba during the next 18 months.”

In the wake of President Kennedy’s crackdown on unauthorized Cuban exile attacks, Attorney General Robert Kennedy had second thoughts about prosecuting Alpha 66, Comandos L, and SFNE commandos. Trials in open courts would reveal U.S. intelligence agency links to the exile action groups. According to FBI Director Hoover, Army Intelligence used Alpha 66 raiders as intelligence sources on Cuba. The CIA also had shadowy associations with Veciana and Alpha 66. Lt. Col. Grover C. King, of Army Intelligence, wrote in an October 22, 1962 message, “There is a working agreement between Alpha 66 and CIA.” King pointed out that Alpha 66 used CIA explosives in its hit-and-run sabotage operation in Isabela de Sagua in October 1962. He wrote, “Prior to the raid on La Isabela an Alpha 66 member stole approximately $600.00 worth of explosives from the CIA. Explosives were used in La Isabela raid.” In January 1962, the CIA authorized Veciana for “provisional operational use” in sabotage missions. Veciana was given the code-name AMSHALE-1.680

An FBI investigation found that some members of Comandos L were connected to Army Intelligence and the CIA….

Meanwhile, Comandos L’s Antonio Cuesta had multiple connections to U.S. intelligence. Cuesta was a “small boat operator” in CIA “maritime operations” in 1961. Notes taken by a House Select Committee on Assassination (HSCA) investigator from FBI files on Cuesta, reported the “FBI had interest in January 1961.” A CIA Trace Request in May 1962 disclosed that Cuesta was also being “utilized” by Army Intelligence.683

Meanwhile, CIA historian Jack Pfeiffer linked Phillips to a previously undisclosed CIA assassination plot in Cuba in 1961 involving the DRE. WH/4 Chief of Operations Richard Drain mentioned the CIA assassination operation in an oral history interview with Pfeiffer. Drain recalled that on February 24, 1961, he “asked Ed, Dave Phillips, Hinkle, Moore and Jake ‘why not proceed with operation AMHINT to set up [a] program of assassinations.’” AMHINT, the CIA cryptonym for a DRE propaganda team, later canceled the murder plan.689

When Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he stated that the Joint Chiefs could support the limited test ban treaty if it included safeguards. The Chiefs wanted a new series of underground tests and funding for the continued upgrade of warheads by U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories.

The Joint Chiefs also insisted on an assurance that the administration would resume atmospheric testing if the Soviets violated the treaty. Kennedy gave the Joint Chiefs what they wanted, and he won their support. On September 24, 1963, the limited test ban treaty passed the Senate by a 80 to 19 vote on September 24, 1963

The Cuban exile movement fell into disarray as the Kennedy Administration made the transition from Operation Mongoose to “autonomous operations.”

There were several unsuccessful efforts to unify Cuban exile groups. Former Bay of Pigs prisoner Enrique Ruiz Williams formed a “unity committee” with the backing of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. But neither Williams or nor his Ejército Liberación de Cuba (ELC) (Liberation Army of Cuba) had much of a popular following. According to CIA documents, Ruiz told other Cuban exiles that there were several unsuccessful efforts to unify Cuban exile groups.

Former Bay of Pigs prisoner Enrique Ruiz Williams formed a “unity committee” with the backing of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. But neither Williams or nor his Ejército Liberación de Cuba (ELC) (Liberation Army of Cuba) had much of a popular following. According to CIA documents, Ruiz told other Cuban exiles that he had been chosen by Robert Kennedy “to lead new Cuban Republic.”

There were several unsuccessful efforts to unify Cuban exile groups. Former Bay of Pigs prisoner Enrique Ruiz Williams formed a “unity committee” with the backing of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. But neither Williams or nor his Ejército Liberación de Cuba (ELC) (Liberation Army of Cuba) had much of a popular following. According to CIA documents, Ruiz told other Cuban exiles thathe had been chosen by Robert Kennedy “to lead new Cuban Republic.” In July and August 1963, former Nicaraguan strongman Luis Somoza was in Miami to rally the Cuban exile movement. In Miami, he met with Cuban exile leaders and offered them aid and arms and the use of bases in Nicaragua from which to launch attacks on Cuba. Among others, he met with Carlos Prío, Manuel Artime, Anotnio Varona, Antonio Veciana, and Carlos Marquez Sterling.

Meanwhile, Antonio Varona traveled to Chicago, where he met with Sam Giancana, Murray Humphreys, and other leaders of the Chicago Outfit in July 1963. A confidential CIA informant said that “four underworld figures made a contribution of $200,000 to him [Varona].”716

Two months later the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) (Revolutionary Student Directorate) also made a trek to Chicago. According to a CIA report, two DRE members gave Richard Cain a “purchasing list” of weapons. Cain told the CIA’s Domestic Contact office (OO/C) in Chicago that the DRE wanted two small speedboats, radar, 40-millimeter and 20-millimeter cannons, 50 caliber machine guns, 9-millimeter submachine guns, 45-caliber pistols, and bazookas. The DRE was willing to pay up to
$25,000 for the weapons.

According to an unsigned CIA memorandum, Cain was instructed to “get out of the picture as soon as possible, and to make no commitment.

Apparently the DRE is an MOB-controlled organization which, at times, seems to act independently of its monitor.” A handwritten note in the margin exclaimed “Amen!” The DRE also cultivated Bacardi Rum as a financial sugar daddy. An FBI report stated, “MM T-1, who is in regular contact Cuban exiles at Miami, Florida, active in revolutionary activities, advised that Luis Bacardi of the Bacardi Rum manufacturing family, has been financing some activities of the DRE.” JMWAVE, the Miami CIA Station, reported…

Apparently the DRE is an MOB-controlled organization which, at times, seems to act independently of its monitor.” A handwritten note in the margin exclaimed “Amen!” The DRE also cultivated Bacardi Rum as a financial sugar daddy. An FBI report stated, “MM T-1, who is in regular contact Cuban exiles at Miami, Florida, active in revolutionary activities, advised that Luis Bacardi of the Bacardi Rum manufacturing family, has been financing some activities of the DRE.” JMWAVE, the Miami CIA Station, reported

José “Pepin” Bosch, president of Bacardi Rum, financed a committee to select a single leader to represent Cuban exiles.

Apparently the DRE is an MOB-controlled organization which, at times, seems to act independently of its monitor.” A handwritten note in the margin exclaimed “Amen!” The DRE also cultivated Bacardi Rum as a financial sugar daddy. An FBI report stated, “MM T-1, who is in regular contact Cuban exiles at Miami, Florida, active in revolutionary activities, advised that Luis Bacardi of the Bacardi Rum manufacturing family, has been financing some activities of the DRE.” JMWAVE, the Miami CIA Station, reported José “Pepin” Bosch, president of Bacardi Rum, financed a committee to select a single leader to represent Cuban exiles. The Mafia took a special interest in blowing up oil refineries near Havana. On June 15, 1963, U.S. Customs agents broke up a plan to bomb the Shell Oil refinery, seizing a twin-engine Beechcraft airplane, explosives, and bombs at an abandoned airport near Miami. Michael McLaney, who bought the Hotel Nacional from Lansky’s allies in the Cleveland Syndicate in 1958, supplied the airplane and the money for the bombing mission…

The Mafia used Lauchli, a cofounder of the ultra-right Minutemen, to supply On July 31, the FBI raided a farmhouse in Lacombe, Louisiana, near Lake Ponchartrain connected to another McLaney-sponsored plot to bomb targets in Cuba. The FBI seized 2,400 pounds of dynamite and twenty bomb casings. The farm belonged to McLaney’s brother William, a casino worker in Havana in the 1950s. Rich Lauchli, a Collinsville, Illinois, gun dealer, was tied to the explosives found in the farmhouse in Lacombe. The Mafia used Lauchli, a cofounder of the ultra-right Minutemen, to supply arms and munitions to Cuban-exile commando groups.

“Nov 63 issue See magazine . . . contains wanted poster of Fidel Castro on front cover,” JMWAVE reported. “Wanted poster is part of a story . . . gist of which is DRE offers 10 million dollars reward ‘to person or persons who with help of the DRE will assassinate Fidel Castro.’” JMWAVE Chief Theodore Shackley described the CIA’s relationship with the DRE to the FBI. A Bureau report stated, “His agency maintained an interest in the propaganda, political and intelligence activities of DRE, but did not sponsor and had no interest in the paramilitary operations of the DRE and was interested in preventing the DRE from executing any paramilitary operations.”717

In June 1963, President Kennedy pressed the CIA to get its Cuban exile sabotage campaign up and running as soon as possible. The CIA’s new covert action plan, Operation AMLILAC, targeted Cuba’s economic infrastructure. A June 19 memorandum for the Standing Group asserted that the goal was not to foment an uprising but “to nourish a spirit of resistance and dissatisfaction which could lead to significant defections and other byproducts of unrest.”720

The first of the AMLILAC raids took place in the darkness of August 17–18. A nine member team, using 75-millimeter recoilless rifles and 81-millimeter mortars, attacked oil storage facilities near the port of Casilda, 223 not far from Trinidad on Cuba’s south coast. Another nine-member team shot up a sulfuric acid plant in Santa Lucia on Cuba’s north coast on the night of August 18–19. The CIA teams used recoilless rifles and 3.5-inch rocket launchers in the hit-and-run raid in Santa Lucia.

CIA-trained Cuban exile raiders struck again on September 30-October 1 in Oriente. They destroyed a lumber mill in Marabí. An Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) sank a large floating crane in the harbor of La Isabela de Sagua on Cuba’s north coast on October 21-22. UDT swimmers attached a limpet to a P-6 patrol boat at a Cuban naval base on the Isle of Pines, off Cuba’s south coast on December 23…

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor analyzed the CIA operations. “All were executed by Cubans landing in small craft launched from a mother ship,” Taylor wrote in a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. “[The] operations [were] conducted in a manner designed to ensure nonattributability to the United States.” The motherships left from secret JMWAVE bases in the Florida Keys.721 JMWAVE’s standard operating procedure was to allow exile action groups like Alpha 66 to take credit for CIA-controlled operations. But in this case the CIA created a fictional exile action group Comandos Mambises, named after the nineteenth-century Cuban independence fighters, to claim responsibility for the attacks.

Comandos Mambises’s cover as a front for the CIA was blown when Clemente Inclán Werner and two other CIA-trained Cubans were captured off the coast of Pinar del Río. In an interview broadcast on Cuban television, Inclán said that his group was trained at a camp near New Orleans by the CIA. He said the raids wereChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor analyzed the CIA operations. “All were executed by Cubans landing in small craft launched from a mother ship,” Taylor wrote in a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. “[The] operations [were] conducted in a manner designed to ensure nonattributability to the United States.” The motherships left from secret JMWAVE bases in the Florida Keys.721 JMWAVE’s standard operating procedure was to allow exile action groups like Alpha 66 to take credit for CIA-controlled operations. But in this case the CIA created a fictional exile action group Comandos Mambises, named after the nineteenth-century Cuban independence fighters, to claim responsibility for the attacks.

Comandos Mambises’s cover as a front for the CIA was blown when Clemente Inclán Werner and two other CIA-trained Cubans were captured off the coast of Pinar del Río. In an interview broadcast on Cuban television, Inclán said that his group was trained at a camp near New Orleans by the CIA. He said the raids werelaunched off the coast of Cuba from a CIA mothership named Rex.722

In Washington, Attorney General Kennedy moved to gain access to Mafia arms dealer Dominick Bartone’s contacts to promote “boom and bang” in Cuba. At the request of Special Assistant to the Attorney General William Kenney, Justine F. Gleichauf, head of the CIA’s Domestic Contact office in Miami, interviewed Bartone. Gleichauf reported that Bartone was willing to cooperate with U.S. authorities. Bartone’s lawyers were appealing his conviction for smuggling airplanes to the Dominican Republic in August 1959.

Carlos Tepedino González, a Havana jeweler and friend of Cubela, set up a meeting between Cubela and the CIA. Cubela pitched his plan to a CIA 227 officer in a two-hour meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Mexico City in March 1961. Tepedino, a CIA asset since 1957, whose cryptonym was AMWHIP, was a financial and political backer of the Directorio Revolucionario of which Cubela had been a leader. He used his jewelry business and business travel abroad as cover for his role as a “cut-out” between Cubela and the Agency.

The CIA had already made contact with disgruntled Cuban army officers as part of Operation AMTRUNK, the objective of which was to cause “a split” in the leadership of the Cuban revolution.733 CIA-trained Cuban assets were infiltrated into Cuba to make “initial contacts among select high-level military figures in Havana,” according to a CIA memorandum.

On November 22, Castro and Daniel were having lunch in Castro’s residence at Varadero Beach when a telephone rang. Castro excused himself to take the call in another room. When Castro hung up, Daniel heard him repeat three times, shaken, “Es una mala noticia” (“This is bad news”).

When Castro returned, he informed Daniel that President Kennedy had been assassinated. For a few moments, the two men sat in a stunned silence. Then Castro spoke. “Everything is going to change,” he said, worried the window of opportunity for negotiations with the United States had slammed shut with Kennedy’s passing. “The Cold War, relations with Russia, Latin America, Cuba . . . [A]ll will have to be rethought.” As they listened to radio news updates from Dallas, Castro became more apprehensive. Kennedy’s alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was described as a member of the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee,” a pro-Castro Marxist whose wife was Russian. “If they had had proof, they would have said he was an agent, an accomplice, a hired killer,” Castro said. “In saying simply that he is an admirer, this is just to try and make an association in people’s minds between the name of Castro and the emotions awakened by assassination. This is a publicity method, a propaganda device. It’s terrible.” As they listened to radio news updates from Dallas, Castro became more apprehensive. Kennedy’s alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was described as a member of the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee,” a pro-Castro Marxist whose wife was Russian. “If they had had proof, they would have said he was an agent, an accomplice, a hired killer,” Castro said. “In saying simply that he is an admirer, this is just to try and make an association in people’s minds between the name of Castro and the emotions awakened by assassination. This is a publicity method, a propaganda device. It’s terrible.”

In the meantime, the tide turned against the CIA’s hit-and-run raids in Cuba among Johnson’s foreign-policy advisers. SAS Chief FitzGerald pressed Bundy to continue to support the CIA’s covert action program. He conceded that the effectiveness of the raids was debatable. But he noted that the original plan, approved by the Standing Group in June 1963, called for a greater number of raids and more robust operations. Only five lowkey sabotage actions had actually been authorized between August and December 1963. FitzGerald stressed that the CIA’s capability for covert operations against Cuba would erode unless the commando teams were kept busy…..

Nonetheless, Johnson terminated the CIA-controlled sabotage operations on April 7, 1964.742 Adding to the woes of the covert war against Cuba, Cuban exile autonomous operations got off to an inauspicious start.....

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