Fidel Castro had survived dozens of attempts on his life by agents of the U.S. government (some involving poisoned cigars, lethal powders, and exploding seashells) as well as the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and other CIA-orchestrated raids. After one too many bazooka attacks, the dictator said, “Basta!” in the fall of 1963 and struck back. He found a willing assassin in Oswald, a known communist sympathizer.


Lyndon Johnson (eventually) and anti-Castro activist Carlos Bringuier.

Strange Details

• Oswald admired Castro, often referring to him as Uncle Fidel.

• In the summer of 1963 Oswald was planning to relocate his family to Havana.

Reasons to Believe

• In a September 1963 interview with the Associated Press, Castro called Kennedy a “cretin” and threatened to retaliate against him: “U.S. leaders should think that if they are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders…they themselves will not be safe.”

• On September 27, 1963, Oswald visited the Cuban consulate in Mexico City, ostensibly to obtain a visa. Eager to ingratiate himself with Cuban bureaucrats, he presented himself as “a friend of the Cuban revolution” and, some speculate, offered his services as an assassin.

• Autulio Ramírez Ortiz, a hijacker who claimed to have infiltrated Cuban intelligence in the early sixties, testified before the HSCA that he saw a file labeled “Osvaldo-Kennedy” at a Cuban intelligence facility. The file, Ortiz said, contained a photo of Oswald, a KGB recommendation, and this conclusion: “Oswald is an adventurer. Our embassy in Mexico has orders to get in contact with him. Be very careful.”

Reasons Not to Believe

• Castro had to have known that the U.S. would strike back if his plot were discovered.

• Oswald’s visa request at the Cuban consulate was turned down.

Recent Developments

According to National Security Agency documents released last year, the usually unflappable Castro was terrified the U.S. would retaliate against Cuba in the first hours after the assassination. The NSA intercepted messages going in and out of Cuba, including one from a foreign agent who saw Castro’s televised speech on the evening of November 23: “Fidel, emotional and uneasy, tried…to refute the accusations which were then appearing and to twist them so that the assassination would appear as the work of the Ultra Reaction, of the extreme racists of the Pentagon, who are fanatical supporters of war against Cuba and the Soviet Union. Although it was only the third time I had witnessed a speech by Fidel, I got the immediate impression that on this occasion he was frightened, if not terrified.”