CubaBrief: Fidel Castro died four years ago on November 25, 2016 and John F. Kennedy was killed 57 years ago when the Cuban dictator got him first

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died four years ago on November 25, 2016 at age 90. U.S. President John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963. These two deaths are separated by 53 years, but some believe they are connected. The Cuban Studies Institute’s Pedro Roig published a compelling outline that points to Fidel Castro’s involvement in John F. Kennedy’s death with a title that quotes the 35th President’s successor: President Johnson: “Fidel Castro Got Kennedy First”.

Fifty seven years ago on November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated. At 12:30pm Central Standard Time the Kennedys in their convertible limousine turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. As they were passing the Texas School Book Depository, President John F. Kennedy was shot twice and slumped over toward First Lady Jackie Kennedy. The governor of Texas was also hit. At 1:00pm President Kennedy was pronounced dead.

On the 57th anniversary of this political assassination the spin doctors and agents of influence continue to cloud the circumstances leading up to the murder of America’s 35th president. However, the question that needs to be asked looking back to that fateful day: who benefited most from his death? Cui bono?

Following the Bay of Pigs debacle in April of 1961 the Kennedy brothers initiated Operation Mongoose. President Kennedy’s brother and Attorney General of the United States, Robert Kennedy, headed up the sustained effort to topple the Castro regime and this included the assassination of Fidel Castro.

The Kennedy Administration remained committed to regime change in Cuba by whatever means necessary short of a U.S. military intervention that would arouse a response from the Soviets.

Ten days prior to President Kennedy’s assassination on November 12, 1963, in a White House memorandum, the continued commitment of the Kennedy Administration to pursue an aggressive policy to overthrow the Castro regime is clear:

Support of Autonomous Anti-Castro Groups. The question was asked from where would the autonomous groups operate. Mr. FitzGerald replied that they would operate from outside U.S. territory. He mentioned two bases of the Artime group, one in Costa Rica and the other in Nicaragua. Also it was hoped that the autonomous group under Manolo Ray would soon get itself established in a working base, possibly Costa Rica. Mr. FitzGerald said that much could be accomplished by these autonomous groups once they become operational. A question was asked as to what decisions remain to be made. Mr. FitzGerald replied that we were looking for a reaffirmation of the program as presented, including sabotage and harassment. When asked what was planned in sabotage for the immediate future, he said that destruction operations should be carried out against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships. The question was also raised as to whether an air strike would be effective on some of these principal targets. The consensus was that CIA should proceed with its planning for this type of activity looking toward January.

Following the President’s assassination within a year these operations were scrapped and Fidel Castro would remain in power until 2006, then replaced by his brother Raul in a dynastic succession following a health crisis. General Raul Castro remains the maximum authority in Cuba today as head of the Cuban Communist Party. Fidel Castro died of old age after causing much suffering in Cuba and around the world in places such as Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Pedro Roig is not alone in presenting this thesis, and providing documentation. German journalist and documentary filmmaker Wilfried Huismann described the circumstances surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the subsequent cover up by the Johnson White House with the tacit approval of Robert Kennedy in his 2006 documentary Rendezvous with Death. The film was not screened in the United States, but is available online today. It is required viewing for anyone who wants to learn what happened in the days leading up to and following the events in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

It is doubtful that if President Kennedy had lived and Attorney General Robert Kennedy had continued Operation Mongoose that Fidel Castro would have died of old age in 2016 on a Black Friday following Thanksgiving.

What would have happened if Kennedy had gotten Castro first?

Cuban Studies Institute, November 23, 2020

President Johnson: “Fidel Castro Got Kennedy First”

By Pedro Roig

Could President Kennedy’s assassination had been prevented if the CIA and the FBI had alerted the Secret Service and Dallas FBI office about Lee Harvey Oswald disturbing behavior at the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City?

The answer given by FBI Director Clarence Kelly, is an emphatic YES!  Kelly asserted that if the FBI Dallas’ Office had been aware of what was known elsewhere in the FBI and CIA about Oswald, “without doubt, John F. Kennedy would not have died in Dallas on November 22, 1963.” [1]

What the CIA and the FBI Knew about Lee Harvey Oswald:

  • Emotionally disturbed person.

  • Was a former marine sharpshooter.

  • Prone to violent mood swings and sociopathic behavior.

  • A self-proclaimed Communist.

  • Nicknamed by his marine corpsmen as “Oswaldskovich.” [2]

  • With an obsessive admiration to Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union.

  • Faced two court-martials and suffered severe emotional breakdown.

  • Discharged from the Marines on September 11, 1959.

  • Took him five weeks to defect to the Soviet Union.

  • In September 1963, upon his return to the U.S., Oswald visited the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City.

  • Requested a transit visa to Russia via Cuba and was denied.

  • Turned violent and began screaming “I am going to kill Kennedy.”

Oswald Contact with Cuban Security Agents

  • Oswald made contact with Cuban intelligence officers while stationed at “El Toro” Marine Air Base in Santa Ana, California.

  • In response to the Warren Commission investigation, Nelson Delgado, a U.S. Marine friend of Oswald, testified that Oswald kept on asking him “how he could help Castro.”

  • Delgado recommended Oswald to get in touch with the Cuban Embassy. “After a while he told me he was in contact with them.”[3]

  • Under oath, Delgado stated that “Oswald told him he was receiving mail from Cubans and had developed contact with Cuban government officials in Los Angeles.”[4]

  • Delgado recalled that Oswald met with an unknown visitor. “It was a man…a civilian… and they spent about one and a half, two hours talking.”[5]

  • On October 16, 1959, Oswald defected to the Soviet Union.

  • The Soviet Security Agency, KGB, perceived Oswald as “mentally unstable.” [6]

  • On January 7, 1960, Oswald was sent to live in the Russian city of Minsk.

  • He was assigned to work at a radio and television factory.

  • Oswald dated several women and eventually married Marina Prusakova. They had a baby girl.

  • In Minsk, Oswald was directed to enroll in the Foreign Language School in Ulyanov Street.

  • The school was adjacent to the KGB Academy, attended by Cuban security personnel.

  • Among the Cubans that participated in the KGB spying courses, was Fabian Escalante.[7]

  • Marina’s uncle, Ylia Prusakova, was a high-ranking executive of the KGB Academy.

  • During Marina’s interrogation after the Kennedy assassination, she testified that Oswald bragged that he had gotten close to some of the Cubans who were attending the KGB Academy.[8]

  • Marina remembered the Cubans with pleasant memories: “They were outgoing and joyful…. Often played the guitar…danced so well. They were such fun.”[9]

  • In June 1961, Oswald, Marina, and the baby, left Russia and settled in Dallas, Texas.

Fabian Escalante

Major General of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), a disciplined, low profile, intelligent and conniving secret agent, performed his first spying assignment  in Costa Rica (September 1960) at the age of 19, ordered by Manuel Piñeiro (Barbaroja) to find out information regarding the creation of Cuban exiles training facilities in the region.

In April 1961, Escalante was sent to the KGB Intelligence Academy in the Soviet Union City of Kiev, where he met with Oswald and his wife Marina in social gatherings, where Oswald was enthralled with his Cuban friends.

According to the CIA investigation, on November 22, 1963 early in the morning, Fabian Escalante flew from Havana to Mexico’s airport, and there he transferred to another plane that immediately took off for Dallas, Texas.  Later that evening, the same plane returned from Dallas and Escalante transferred to a Cuban aircraft that flew back to Havana.  In 1976, Escalante was appointed as head of the Department of Security. [10]  In 1993 Escalante was appointed Director of Cuba’s Institute of Security Studies.

Oswald Visit to The Cuban Consulate in Mexico City

In April 1963, Oswald briefly moved to New Orleans, where he became a militant advocate of the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”  The FPCC was a Communist front that supported the Castro’s Marxist-Leninist revolution.  While distributing pro-Castro propaganda he had a confrontation with Cuban exiles that was reported by the city police.

On September 27, 1963, Oswald traveled by bus to Mexico City, and visited the Cuban and the nearby Soviet Consulate several times (the Cuban Consulate was located within the fenced Cuban Embassy).  It was the frequency of Oswald walking back and forth that caught the CIA agents’ attention in their surveillance facility across the street from the Cuban Consulate.

Winston Scott, the chief of the CIA station in Mexico (1956-1969), wrote in his unpublished autobiography Foul Foe: “Lee Harvey Oswald became a person of great interest to us during the September 27 to October 2, 1963 period….  Every piece of information concerning Oswald was reported immediately after it was received.  These reports were made on all his contacts, with both the Cuban Consulate and the Soviets…Persons watching these embassies photographed Oswald as he entered and left; and clocked the time he spent on each visit.”[11] 

In March 1968, President Lyndon Johnson, who was deeply disturbed by the confusing information on Oswald’s visit to the Cuban consulate in Mexico City, requested from his close associate Marty Underwood to meet with Winton Scott in Mexico City.[12]

The timing was excellent.  One month earlier, Scott and his assistant Anne G. Goodpasture had completed an exhaustive nine-month review of Oswald’ stay in Mexico City, as ordered by the CIA director Richard Helms (1966-1973). In their investigation a startling event was uncovered.  A solo passenger that flew from Havana to Dallas via Mexico City.  They are referring to Fabian Escalante.

With the largest and efficient operational personnel in the Americas and state-of-the-art spaying equipment, the capability of the Mexico City CIA station had a hard-won reputation for knowing everything about the Cuban and Soviet Embassies.  Its operation was designed to ensure that every phone line was tapped, and every visitor photographed.[13] 

State Department: “Do Not Implicate Cuba”

 What happened to the CIA files on Oswald’s visits to the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City?  Why was it marginally mentioned in the Warren Commission Assassination Report?

Thomas Mann has the answer.  The former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (April 18, 1961-December 22, 1963) stated to the House investigating officers that he was personally ordered by the State Department, a few days after Oswald murdered President Kennedy, to shut down any investigation that would implicate Cuba’s involvement in the assassination. [14] 

Fidel Castro Vs. John F. Kennedy

They were the political antithesis of each other. Kennedy, the youngest president of the United States was to become the champion of civil rights and individual freedom, while Fidel Castro was the essence of the “Orwellian Big Brother” totalitarian state. The clash was unavoidable.

President John F. Kennedy receives the Brigade 2506 flag from Bay of pig veterans Manuel Artimes y Erneido Oliva at the Orange Bowl stadium in Miami in Dec. 29, 1962

President John F. Kennedy receives the Brigade 2506 flag from Bay of pig veterans Manuel Artimes y Erneido Oliva at the Orange Bowl stadium in Miami in Dec. 29, 1962

On December 24, 1962, the Brigade 2506 was released from Castro’s prison and flew to Miami. On December 29, 1962, John and Jacqueline Kennedy met at the Orange Bowl with the veteran fighters of the Bay of Pigs, and over 40,000 Cuban exiles.  On that day the returning veterans gave Kennedy the flag of the Brigade and the President sworn a spontaneous oath that the Brigade flag was to “fly again in a free Havana.”[15]

From that day on, Castro went on a rampage of vituperations against John F. Kennedy.  The mutual antagonism had escalated.  It was a personal fight to the end.

Rolando Cubela Secade: The Double Agent Choice to Kill Fidel Castro

Rolando Cubela, emotionally unstable and courageous warrior, was a founder member of the Directorio Revolucionario (DR), and later a leader of the DR guerrilla forces fighting Batista’s regime in the Escambray Mountains in Central Cuba.  He was wounded leading the rebel forces in the capture of Santa Clara, capital of Las Villas province, where he fought side by side with “Che” Guevara.

Upon his return to the Escuela de Medicina at the University of Havana, Cubela, with the support of Raul Castro, ran for president of the University of Havana Student Federation.  Despite a bitter election, Cubela won and became a popular leader, with the top rank of “comandante” of the revolution.

By 1961, Cubela portrayed himself as betrayed by Castro’s communist trend.  It was through his friend Carlos Tepedino, a CIA operative, that Cubela established a link with the CIA (August 2, 1962) that was to develop into a controversial, and at the time perceived as the most valuable asset of the Agency in their main objective to kill Fidel Castro.  Cubela cryptonym at the CIA was AM/LASH.[16]

In August 1965, Carlos Tepedino admitted to the CIA that Cubela “had strong connections with Cuban intelligence…working with them closely. It can be said unequivocally that he (Cubela) conspired with Fidel.”[17]

On September 5, 1963, the CIA officer Nestor Sanchez met with Cubela in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  In the meeting Cubela requested for him and his military conspirators a high-level American assurance.[18]

The same day that Cubela was meeting with the CIA in Brazil, Fidel Castro spoke at the Brazilian Embassy in Havana with Daniel Harker a Colombian Associated Press reporter.  In his usual commanding voice, within earshot of other journalists, Castro stated: “Kennedy is a cretin…the Batista of our time… If U.S. leaders are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe.  [19]

The Cuban Exile Clandestine Operations

True to his commitment to get rid of Fidel Castro, the President had placed his brother Robert, the Attorney General, in charge of the plan led by Manuel Artime, a charismatic Cuban exile leader and Bay of Pigs veteran. In January 1963 (10 months before Kennedy was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald), Robert Kennedy met privately with Artime, at his Hickory Hill Estate in Virginia to implement the clandestine operations against the communist regime that included the execution of Fidel Castro.

President Kennedy had ordered the creation of a well-funded Special Operation Division (SOD) led by “Ted” Shackley and Graystone Lynch, two outstanding CIA war veterans of exceptional courage and operational experience.  Over two thousand young Cuban exiles fought with extraordinary courage and patriotism.  The SOD recorded 2,126 clandestine operations of which 113 were conducted by commando groups.[20]  The main headquarter was located in the area that is now the Miami Zoo.[21]

The SOD mission was to provide support for a Cuban army uprising and for the execution of Fidel Castro.  This plan covered everything from commando raids to the insertion of Cuban fighters and the Maritime supply to resistance forces in the island. It was a clandestine war waged by the Kennedy’s White House.  The initial order to begin operation contained the words “Set Cuba a Flamed.”[22]

“Listen to Communications from Texas”

The Cuban Directorio General de Inteligencia (DGI) established a large operation to fight back.  Among the best DGI agents was Florentino Aspillaga Lombard.  His task was to pinpoint the location of the CIA underground communication agents with their bases in Florida including their maritime operation.  Years later, in June 6, 1987, Aspillaga, working as a diplomatic intelligence officer in the Cuban Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia, crossed the Austrian frontier and defected from Castro’s communist regime, becoming “the most knowledgeable Cuban defector ever to change sides.”[23]

Back in 1963, Aspillaga, working from Jaimanitas coastal hamlet, was assigned to track the electronic transmissions from the courageous underground fighters and exile infiltration teams, launched from swift boats bases in South Florida.

On Friday morning, November 22, 1963, Aspillaga received precise orders: “The leadership wants you to stop all your CIA work, (repeat), All your CIA work,” [24] and listen to communications from Texas.  Around 1:30 (Havana time), “I began hearing broadcast on amateur radio bands about the shooting of President Kennedy in Dallas.”[25]  It is evident that Cuba had advanced notice that Kennedy would be shot.

The Paris Meeting: Assurance of American Support

Fully engaged in the clandestine war, Robert Kennedy ordered Des Fitzgerald, Head of the Cuban Task Force and in charge of the AM/LASH operation, to speed up the physical elimination of Fidel Castro and to arrange a meeting with Cubela in Paris.[26]  This was a controversial meeting.  Finally, on October 29, 1963, Fitzgerald and Nestor D. Sanchez met with Cubela in Paris.  Twenty-two day later, John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.

In the Paris meeting, Cubela demanded “Robert Kennedy’s personal assurance of American support for any activity he undertakes” against Castro. [27]

On November 18, 1963, at a Gala dinner for the Interamerican Press Association in Miami Beach, President Kennedy delivered a firebrand speech stating that Castro “had betrayed the original goals of the Revolution.”  In fact, Kennedy was openly calling for a military rebellion to topple Fidel Castro.  In his speech, the President unequivocally said that “the revolution stripped the Cuban people of their freedom…”  “This and this alone divides us…Once this barrier is removed, we will be anxious to work with the Cuban people.”  [28] This was Kennedy’s assurance of support for Cubela’s plan.

But Cubela was a fake conspirator. Carlos Tepedino said that “a group as such was nonexistent.” [29].  The army upraising was a farse.

The DGI Manipulated Oswald’s Violent Outburst at The Cuban Consulate in Mexico City?

 Oswald requested at the Cuban Consulate in the City of Mexico a transit visa to Russia via Cuba and was denied, Oswald turned violent and began screaming “I am going to kill Kennedy.”[30]  Was this outrageous behavior and  Cuba’s refusal to authorize Oswald’s visa a deliberated, premediated show for future denial of complicity?

Cuban intelligence had been in contact with Oswald since the Minsk encounters and they knew that the sophisticated CIA surveillance equipment operating inside and around the Cuban embassy was listening and recording Oswald in real time. It seems that Oswald’s visit to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City was a calculated performance for Castro’s future disinformation campaign.

According to Brian Latell, the distinguished CIA officer and scholar: “Seven weeks before he fired the shots that killed President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald loitered in Mexico City for five days and nights.  The visits have remained the most tantalizing of the unresolved mysteries surrounding the assassination.  Yet, evidence that has accumulated since 1963, indicates that Oswald’s engagement with Cuban intelligence agents and assets in the Aztec capital was more extensive than previously known.”[31]

Vladimir Rodriguez Lahera, a top-ranking Cuban intelligence agent, defected in April 1964 in Ottawa, Canada.  He requested asylum in the U.S.   He turned to be a motherload of information.   On the specific question if Castro’s agents had any previous connection with Oswald, the answer was yes.  Oswald was in contact with Cuban agents before his trip to Mexico City on September 27, 1963.  He had maintained contact with them after he returned to the U.S.[32]  Rodriguez Lahera also stated that Oswald contacts in the Cuban Consulate included Luisa Calderon, a DGI officer on the secretarial staff at the Embassy.  She was rushed into seclusion immediately after Kennedy’s assassination.  She was not allowed to testify for the Warren Commission.  In 1997 Luisa Calderon was reported working for a government radio station as an English language editor.[33]

In 2005, Oscar Marino an intelligence Cuban defector, detailed what he knew of Oswald’s visit to the Cuban diplomatic mission in Mexico City. Marino stated that “Oswald volunteered to kill Kennedy and that Cuban diplomats in Mexico City had advanced knowledge of Oswald’s assassination plan.” “He adopted our plans as his own- his idea was a natural project of our wish. He was an instrument of the G2 (Cuban Intelligence).  It makes no difference whether he volunteered or was used. It ends up the same.”[34]

As soon as John F. Kennedy was murdered, Fidel Castro began a disinformation campaign, implicating the Mafia who owned gambling casinos in pre-Castro Cuba, the teamster Union (Hoffa), and Cuban exiles.  Castro claimed that he knew nothing of Oswald existence before the Dallas’ assassination and that he was never informed on Oswald’s threatening remarks against Kennedy in the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City.  These outrageous lies were part of a premediated deniability perfidy.

Fidel Castro Got Kennedy First

In an extraordinary revelation, President Lyndon Johnson, with access to top secret information, stated that Castro was involved in John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  In a TV interview with Howard K.  Smith, President Johnson stated: “Well, Kennedy tried to get Fidel Castro, but Fidel Castro got Kennedy first.[35]

* Pedro Roig is Executive Director of the Cuban Studies Institute. Roig is an attorney and historian that has written several books, including the Death of a Dream: A History of Cuba. He is a veteran of the Brigade 2506.


[1] Philip Shenon, “A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination.” Holts, Henry & Company Publishers, New York, 2013., p. 542.

[2] Gus Russo and Stephen Molton “Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys; the Castros, and the Politics of Murder” Bloomsbury USA, New York, NY, 2008, p.51.

[3] Nelson Delgado, Warren Commission testimony, April 16, 1964, Vol. VIII, p. 240-242.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Declassified Items of Oswald Links to the KGB. (2017) United States Department of Justice-FBI-Washington, D.C. 20535. December 1, 1966.

[7] Russo, op cit. P.67.

[8] Ibid. p.70

[9] Ibid. p69

[10] Russo and Molton, p. 455.

[11] The U.S. House Select Committee on Assassination-Mexico City Report, p.125.

[12] Russo & Molton, p. 454.

[13] Jefferson Morley, “Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA.” University Press of Kansas, 2006, p.178.

[14] Shenon, op cit. p. 561.

[15] Russo & Molton,;.238

[16] Brian Latell, “Castro’s Secrets,” eBook, MacMillan Corporate.  First published in hardcover in 2012 by Palgrave MacMillan in the U.S..451

[17] Latell, p.534

[18] Latell, p.473

[19] Associated Press and New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 9, 1963.

[20] Graystone Lynch, “Decision for Disaster,” Potomac Books, 200, p.480

[21] Lynch, op cit, p.477

[22] Lynch op cit p.480.

[23] Latell, p.9.

[24] Latell, p.314

[25] Latell, p.315

[26] Russo & Molton, p,295.

[27] Latell, p. 516

[28] Vincent Bugliois, “Reclaiming History.” New York: Norton, 2007, p.783

[29] Latell, p. 535.

[30] Russo, op cit, p.310

[31] The Latell Report, Cuban Transition Project, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, December 2013.

[32] Russo and Molton, p. 405.

[33] Latell, p.616

[34] Russo and Molton, p.405

[35] Georgie Ann Geyer, “Guerrilla Prince.”  Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1991. P.299