The Latell Report
analyzes Cuba's contemporary domestic and foreign policy, and
is published periodically. It is distributed by the electronic
information service of the Cuba Transition Project (CTP) at
the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American
John F. Kennedy was dead only
about thirty hours when Fidel Castro took to the airwaves
to pontificate about the most publicized crime of the last
century. It was nearly fifty years ago, on November 23, 1963,
when Castro spoke for two hours on Cuban radio and television
exclusively about the assassination that occurred the day
Lee Harvey Oswald, charged
with the president’s murder, was still being interrogated
at Dallas police headquarters. No one outside that building
had any idea what he was saying. But his affection for the
Cuban revolution, and zealous efforts in its behalf, already
were being reported in the media. Oswald’s mysterious
contacts with Cuban officials that began in 1959 in Los Angeles,
and continued in Mexico City in September, 1963, were not
yet publicly known. Nor was his determination to defect to
Cuba where he hoped to work for his hero, “Uncle Fidel.”
So Castro, who knew vastly
more about the accused assassin than he has ever admitted,
was aware that he was playing with fire when he spoke. He
had to appear credible. Yet, he needed to get safely distant
from Oswald, to immunize Cuba from any association with the
president’s death. He chose to lie copiously while doing
his best to exonerate Oswald.
The real assassin, he said,
must have been a right-wing fanatic. Of Oswald, he
claimed, “they have manufactured their criminal . .
. is he really guilty? ...can he be an agent of the CIA or
FBI?” With these allegations Castro became the world’s
first propagator of bizarre Kennedy assassination conspiracy
He went on to proclaim other
lies that he and the regime have been parroting ever since:
Oswald “had no contact with us,” he insisted.
“We never in our life heard of him.” In another
speech a few days later, he denied any knowledge of Oswald’s
September visits to the Cuban embassy in Mexico where he engaged
with Cuban intelligence assets. These would eventually become
the most readily refutable of all the lies.
The evidence of Castro’s
deceptions is substantial, deriving from several reliable
sources, nearly all of them previously overlooked or disregarded
by investigators. None of the proof is more compelling, however,
than Castro’s own incriminating admissions shared with
a trusted FBI agent. Jack Childs, the younger brother half
of Operation SOLO, met with Fidel in Havana in May 1964.
Jack and his brother Morris
had operated as penetration agents against world communist
leaders for years. They were among the most valued secret
agents run by the Bureau, and the authenticity of what they
reported has never been in doubt.
In the meeting, documented
in declassified FBI records, Fidel told Jack that although
there must have been at least two other participants in Kennedy’s
murder, he was sure Oswald was involved. Never mind that he
had publicly characterized Oswald as a “scapegoat.”
Contrary to another of his
earlier claims, Castro volunteered to Jack Childs that “our
people in Mexico gave us the details in a full report.”
He meant that his intelligence officers there had kept him
fully informed of Oswald’s visits.
Yet, most remarkably, Castro
revealed to Childs that as Oswald was leaving the Cuban consulate
in Mexico, he shouted “I am going to kill that bastard.
I am going to kill Kennedy.”
Castro lied about this too.
Fifteen years later, speaking to members of an American congressional
committee in Havana, Castro insisted, “This is absurd.
I didn’t say that.” He was not told that Jack
Childs was the source; information from Operation SOLO was
still too sensitive to acknowledge. In fact, however, Castro
had reportedly said exactly the same thing about Oswald’s
threat to kill Kennedy to a British journalist.
In Castro’s Secrets,
issued this month in an expanded paperback edition that includes
new revelations, I explain the reasons for these many lies.
Castro had good reasons to fear that Cuba would be implicated
in the assassination and that the grieving American people
would demand military retaliation.
Kennedy’s murder, he
said in November, “may have very, very negative repercussions”
for Cuba . . . the most reactionary forces . . . in the United
States...may begin immediately to draw up aggressive policies.”
A day later Che Guevara expressed his own fears: “The
peace of the world will be threatened for years to come.”
They were warning the Cuban people that war could be imminent.
Military forces were put on alert, to “be ready to repel
It is not clear to this day
why Oswald, in the presence of Cuban officials, threatened
to kill Kennedy. But there can be no reasonable doubt that
he did. Childs recounted his conversation with Fidel accurately.
Sadly, however, all of Castro’s lies bared by Childs
were never brought to the attention of ranking members of
the Warren Commission that investigated Kennedy’s death.
Even now, fifty years later, that Castro has continued to
lie egregiously remains obscure to most.