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Try This JFK Murder Whodunnit: The Cubans
Persuasive evidence of Castro's hand in the JFK assassination gets short shrift as researchers aim at CIA, mobsters, oil men, you name it
At 2 pm on November 22, 1963, a Cuban intelligence agent in Havana’s embassy in Mexico City by the name of Maria Luisa Calderon got a call from an excited friend.
Local agents for the CIA were secretly listening in.
“Luisa, Kennedy has been killed! Assassinated in Texas,” her friend giddily announced.
“No, really? When?”
“At one o’clock—”
“Fantastic! Wonderful,” Calderon said, laughing.
“Apparently, his wife and brother were also wounded—”
“Wonderful,” Luisa exclaimed. “What good news!”
A few minutes later, Calderon got another excited call from a friend.
“Luisa, have you heard about Kennedy yet?!”
“Yes,” she replied. “I knew almost before Kennedy did.”
“They’ve arrested the guy. He’s president of a Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”
“I already knew that. A gringo, right?”
“It seems he lived for a time in Russia, but they wouldn’t grant him citizenship—”
“Damn it! How do they know that already?! Did they say his name?”
“Oswald—something like that. He hasn’t confessed to anything . . .”
And so on. The tape was obtained by investigative journalist Gus Russo, whose much overlooked 2008 book, Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder, is a worthy alternative to the decades-long clamor attributing JFK’s murder to plots involving various parties—the CIA, mobsters, right wing oil men, acting singly or in concert—depending on your predilection. Russo’s case, backed up by his interviews with Cuban intelligence officials, agents and defectors—all of whom also appear in a documentary film companion to the book— posits that Fidel Castro learned of the offer from Lee Harvey Oswald, broke and desperate to make something of himself, to kill Kennedy and that his agents had encouraged him to kill Kennedy.
”That came from the G2 leadership,” former Cuban intelligence official Oscar Marino says in Russo’s book and film, Rendezvous With Death , which was broadcast on German television but never shown in the U.S.
Did Castro personally approve it? "I cannot, and will not say, but I can say with complete certainty it was a G2 operation,” says Marino, backed in whole or part by three other former Cuban spies interviewed on camera in Havana by Russo’s German reporting partner, Wilfried Huismann.
U.S. officials were equally desperate to bury the evidence, for fear that an outraged American public would demand retribution for Castro and his Soviet backers, quite possibly triggering a nuclear war. Lyndon Johnson swiftly found out what had happened through his own Mexican sources, according Alexander Haig, then a White House military aide, later to be secretary of state in the Reagan administration, but kept the astounding secret under wraps—as did members of the notorious cover-up Warren Commission.
Haig told the filmmakers that LBJ let down his hair one day and said, "We must simply not allow the American people to believe Fidel Castro could have killed our president. [...] He [Johnson] was convinced Castro killed Kennedy and he took it to his grave."
Bobby Kennedy, who had spearheaded the Castro assassination plots, was bereft that he might’ve gotten his brother killed, former LBJ aide Joseph Califano says on camera.
“He was shattered…his sadness was really deep,” Califano said. “The depression I think was deep, and part of it might well have been related to a sense of guilt, to a sense that his aggressive going after Castro may have led Castro to go after Kennedy.”
As I said, all this is a worthy alternative to other theories that have long swirled about the Kennedy assassination, fueled largely by CIA foot dragging on the release of records, backed by a succession of American presidents.
And it’s not that Russo’s been hanging out alone on this subject. In 2013, the highly regarded former New York Times investigative reporter Philip Shenon made his own persuasive case of Cuban involvement in A Cruel and Shocking Act: A Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination.
And I’m quick to say I’m no expert on the assassination. Long ago, I made a decision not to go down that wormhole, which has swallowed many a reputable journalist. That said, it’s long been a labyrinth of buried secrets that defy belief—until you find out, hey, they’re true—and you get sucked in for a while. That happened to me decades ago, sometime in the early 1980s, over a coffee at a Holiday Inn in Alexandria, Virginia, with former top CIA official Sam Halpern, who had been deeply involved in the agency’s “special activities” in the early 1960s. He made a passing remark about how Bobby Kennedy was directly involved in Castro assassination plots, and I remember kind of snorting, dismissing it as just a partisan hit on a Democrat. Well, lo and behold…
Who to believe? What to believe? There’s lots of competing events this month pegged on the 60th anniversary peg. You can trip over to an ongoing two-day symposium at Duquesne University, where a platoon of assassination devotees are revisiting JFK’s missing brain, bullet theories, grassy knoll shooters, CIA complicity and the like. Or you can check out a presentation by Gus Russo and others about Oswald and the Cubans, Jack Ruby, J.D. Tippit and related stuff via an online event sponsored by the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.
To me, it’s time Russo got his due. He’s got the receipts, as they say. Brothers in Arms came out the week Obama was elected in 2008 and was buried, despite rave advance reviews. Rendezvous with Death never made it to American TV, mostly for complicated business reasons.
He deserves a break. So does the truth.
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