Cuba Libre

Conspiracy theories: The Cuban Exiles Theory.

In the early days of the Kennedy administration, Cuban exiles reserved their contempt for Castro, who had taken away their homeland. But after the Bay of Pigs invasion, they felt equally betrayed by Kennedy, who had withheld air support during the operation, leaving 1,500 Cuban soldiers stranded and at the mercy of Castro’s army. After Kennedy thwarted subsequent plans to invade, enraged exiles orchestrated the president’s murder with help from their CIA associates, either in retaliation for the deaths of their brothers-in-arms or to frame Castro for Kennedy’s murder, thereby forcing a full-scale U.S. invasion. Oswald, who had tried to infiltrate the anti-Castro movement in New Orleans, was either the exiles’ agent or their patsy.

Believers

HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi, authors Bernard Fensterwald (Coincidence or Conspiracy?) and Sylvia Meagher (Accessories After the Fact), and CBS newsman Peter Noyes.

Strange Details

In August 1963 Oswald approached Carlos Bringuier, a New Orleans shopkeeper active in the anti-Castro movement, and asked to join his organization. Four days later Oswald was arrested for disturbing the peace while passing out pro-Castro leaflets—an elaborate scheme, some say, to deflect attention from his involvement in the anti-Castro conspiracy.

Reasons to Believe

• Cuban exile Sylvia Odio told the HSCA that in late September 1963, three men showed up at her Dallas apartment and convinced her and her sister that they were members of the cause. Two of the men, “Leopoldo” and “Angelo,” were Cubans, while the third, “Leon Oswald,” was an American, described later as a former Marine, a man who thought Kennedy should be assassinated because of the Bay of Pigs, a good shot, and “kind of nuts.” Two months later Odio and her sister were shocked when they recognized the president’s assassin: Leon was Lee Harvey Oswald. The HSCA later termed Odio a “credible” witness.

• Cuban exiles viewed the Bay of Pigs as nothing less than unforgivable treachery on Kennedy’s part. At the end of 1962 he added fuel to the fire when he shut down Operation Mongoose (a CIA program that was preparing Cuban pilots and soldiers for another invasion) in exchange for Khrushchev’s dismantling of Russian missiles on the island. By 1963 the Kennedy administration was cracking down on Cuban exiles, raiding their paramilitary training camps in Louisiana and Florida.

Reasons Not to Believe

• Oswald was in Mexico City on the day Odio says he visited her.

• Why would virulent anti-communists trust Oswald, a known Red?

Recent Developments

In 1994 Florence Martino told writer Anthony Summers that on the morning of November 22, 1963, her husband, John—an anti-Castro activist—said, “Flo, they’re going to kill him. They’re going to kill him when he gets to Texas.” Then, she said, John got a bunch of phone calls from Texas. “I don’t know who called him, but he was on the phone, on the phone, on the phone…” John Martino, who had once worked for Santos Trafficante, had been imprisoned by Castro from 1959 to 1962. (He later wrote a book, I Was Castro’s Prisoner. ) After his release he threw in with Cuban exiles and later claimed that they had framed Oswald. He died in 1975.

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