Fabian Escalante was born in Cuba in 1941. A supporter of Fidel Castro he joined the Department of State Security (G-2) in 1960. At the time of assassination of John F. Kennedy, Escalante was head of a counter-intelligence unit and was part of a team investigating a CIA operation called Sentinels of Liberty, an attempt to recruit Cubans willing to work against Castro.
In 1965 Escalante was part of the operational unit that investigated the involvement of Rolando Cubela in the attempt to assassinate Castro. During this period, one of G-2’s agents, Juan Feliafel Canahan, had infiltrated the anti-Castro movement and was very close to Manuel Artime (Movement for the Recovery of the Revolution). He provided important information to G-2, including the fact that David Sanchez Morales appeared to be working very closely with Cubela.
Escalante was appointed as head of the Department of State Security (DSE) in 1976. Later that year members of the US House of Representatives Select Committee visited Cuba and requested help with investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Escalante was asked to oversee this investigation. This involved studying the files of revolutionaries, terrorists and émigrés. The final report was sent to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). However, it contained information that the HSCA did not want to hear and it has never been published.
In 1978 President Jimmy Carter arranged for a group of imprisoned exiles to be released. This included Tony Cuesta who was involved in an attack on Cuba on 29th May, 1966. A member of his team, Herminio Diaz Garcia, was killed during the raid. Cuesta, who always vowed that Castro would never take him alive, attempted suicide by setting off a grenade, which blinded him and blew off his right hand. Cuesta spent a long time in hospital as a result of his serious injuries.
Just before leaving Cuba Cuesta asked to see Escalante. Cuesta told Escalante that he had been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He also named Herminio Diaz Garcia and Eladio del Valle as being involved in the conspiracy. Cuesta asked Escalante not to make this information "public because I am returning to my family in Miami - and this could be very dangerous."
In 1982 Escalante became a senior official in the Interior Ministry. By this time Escalante was considered to be Cuba's leading authority on the history of CIA activities against his country.
Escalante became head of the Cuban Security Studies Center in 1993. This allowed him to re-examine the assassination of John F. Kennedy. As he points out, along with “Colonel Arturo Rodreiguez Mendoza (now deceased), I studied all the available material and publications, consulted with former agents and operatives, and investigated all the accessible documentation.”
In a Cuban television documentary broadcast on November 26, 1993, Escalante named the gunmen who killed John F. Kennedy as three Chicago mobsters (Lenny Patrick, David Yaras, and Richard Cain), and two Cuban exiles (Herminio Diaz Garcia and Eladio del Valle), but said that many in the CIA and elsewhere knew what was going to happen.
Jim Blight and Fabian Escalante at a meeting in 1996
Tony Cuesta returned to Miami and died in 1994. The following year, Wayne Smith, chief of the Centre for International Policy in Washington, arranged a meeting on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in Nassau, Bahamas. Others in attendance were: Gaeton Fonzi, Dick Russell, Noel Twyman, Anthony Summers, Peter Dale Scott, John M. Newman, Jeremy Gunn, John Judge, Andy Kolis, Peter Kornbluh, Mary & Ray LaFontaine, Jim Lesar, Russ Swickard, Ed Sherry, and Gordon Winslow.
Some high-level Cuban officials attended the conference. This included Fabian Escalante, Carlos Lechuga, a former Cuban diplomat, and Arturo Rodriguez, a State Security official. Escalante revealed details of Cuesta's confession. He also informed the group they had a spy in the anti-Castro community in Miami and knew about the plot to kill Kennedy.
Fabian Escalante is the author of several books, including The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995) and CIA Targets Fidel: The Secret Assassination Report (1996).
In 2006 Escalante published JFK: The Cuba Files. In the book Escalante describes the conspiracy uncovered by Cuba's investigation, which reviewed declassified US files and reports from Cuban intelligence units that had infiltrated anti-Castro groups in Miami.
(1) Fabian Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995)
On August 22, 1958, in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Commander Raul Castro signed a decree establishing the Basic Intelligence Service (SIB). On January 14,1959, at the suggestion of Commander Fidel Castro, the Investigation Department of the Rebel Army (DIER) was created. On March 26, 1959, the Intelligence Information Department of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (DIIFAR) was formed. On June 6,1961, the DIER and the DIIFAR joined together under the name of the Department of State Security (DSE).
(2) Fabian Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995)
On December 11, Colonel King wrote a confidential memorandum to the head of the CIA which affirmed that in Cuba there existed a "far-left dictatorship, which if allowed to remain will encourage similar actions against U.S. holdings in other Latin American countries."
King recommended various actions to solve the Cuban problem, one of which was to consider the elimination of Fidel Castro. He affirmed that none of the other Cuban leaders "have the same mesmeric appeal to the masses. Many informed people believe that the disappearance of Fidel would greatly accelerate the fall of the present government."
CIA Director Alien Dulles passed on King's memorandum to the NSC a few days later, and it approved the suggestion to form a working group in the Agency which, within a short period of time, could come up with "alternative solutions to the Cuban problem." Thus "Operation 40" was born, taking its name from that of the Special Group formed by the NSC to follow the Cuban case. The group was presided over by Richard Nixon and included Admiral Arleigh Burke, Livingston Merchant of the State Department, National Security Adviser Gordon Gray, and Alien Dulles of the CIA.
Tracy Bames functioned as head of the Cuban Task Force. He called a meeting on January 18,1960, in his office in Quarters Eyes, near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, which the navy had lent while new buildings were being constructed in Langley. Those who gathered there included the eccentric Howard Hunt, future head of the Watergate team and a writer of crime novels; the egocentric Frank Bender, a friend of Trujillo; Jack Esterline, who had come straight from Venezuela where he directed a CIA group; psychological warfare expert David A. Phillips, and others.
(3) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
He (Felipe Vidal Santiago) was arrested in March of 1964 when he tried to ram his boat in Cuba with three others to perform acts of sabotage. There he had many conversations with us. He just told us this of his own accord. We didn't ask questions. Our interest really were in the plan of sabotage. Sabotage when and where. We wanted to know what was behind the sabotage and then he started to talk about his subject. So then, that's why a decision was made to take down everything he said. And that's why we have tapes. He talked about things not associated with the sabotage. There were too many people, we didn't have the resources or tapes to take it. It was in his first declaration, it was political information. He came to us for the first time to talk to us about September of 1962, opening a communication with Cuba. And that was very important to tape all of his conversations about Cuba.
He was informing the groups of exiles in the United States about Kennedy administrations attempts to have dialog with Cuba. While interrogating Santiago in Cuba, we came up with some more interesting information. He was arrested in 1964, March. A few months after the assassination. He explained that he had a relationship with a CIA official, who was military intelligence - William Bishop. He says that in November of 1963, William Bishop invited him to a meeting in Dallas. It was a meeting with a few wealthy people in Dallas talking about financing an anti-Castro.
The first few days of November, 1963. He says that William Bishop picked him up in his car in Miami and they drove to Dallas. They were there for about four days. This would had to have happened the weekend before the assassination, according to what he says. They stayed in a second class hotel. They stayed in a second class hotel. Bishop left several times to have interviews. But this guy did not know who he was talking to. After approximately four days, they returned to Miami. After the assassination, they were in Tallahassee, when he went to visit a new house for a new car. He passed information.
(4) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
Eladio Del Valle worked for two police services - military intelligence and the traditional police. He was in charge of narcotics. He was also a legislature in the government - a representative. He was from a little town from the south of Havana. He was a captain in the merchant marines. In 1958 he was doing business dealings with Santos Trafficante in a little coastal town south of Havana. There he brought in contraband whose destination was Santos Trafficante. When the revolution triumphed, he went to Miami. Eladio Del Valle went to Miami. He settled in Miami, we don't know the address and he allied himself with Rolando Masferrer and other Batista supporters and they formed an organization called the Anti Communist Cuban Liberation Movement. From that moment on, Eladio was involved in many project against Cuba. But as I told you yesterday, we managed to penetrate this organization. And we came to know of a lot of projects, efforts, for an invasion of Cuba in secret. In order to provide arms to internal rebel groups, they needed David Ferrie as the pilot on these flights. In 1962 Eladio Del Valle tried to infiltrate Cuba with a commando group of 22 men but their boat had an English key - a little island. In the middle of 1962. Of course, we knew this. I tell you about this, because one of our agents who was one of the people helping to bring this group to Cuba, was a man of very little education. They talked English on many occasions on this little island with Eladio Del Valle told this person, on many occasions, that Kennedy must be killed to solve the Cuban problem. After that we had another piece of information on Eladio Del Valle. This was offered to us by Tony Cuesta. He told us that Eladio Del Valle was one of the people involved in the assassination plot against Kennedy. As you know, he was taken prisoner and he was very thankful to be taken back - he was blind.
He asked that this information not be public. I am only saying it here, because he is already dead. It is finished. We didn't have any other kind of information to give. There are some things you must respect. He gave us this information and in 1978 we didn't know if it was true or not. In 1978, we were not aware of the participation of Eladio Del Valle. We didn't know who he was. Remember that I explained to you yesterday that when the Select Committee when they came to Havana - they didn't give us any specific information. They just came to question us. We didn't know the relationships.
(5) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
He was called Carlos Tepedino. His code name was AM/WIN. He was a good friend of Cubela in 1956. At the same time he was good friends with Santos Trafficante. And after 1960, he played an important role in the recruitment of Cubela by the CIA. He met with Cubela in Italy in 1960, June or July, and in February of 1961 he participated in the recruitment of Cubela in 1961 in Mexico along with a CIA agent. This is a description of this CIA agent. Very interesting. In taking into consideration Cubela's description about the CIA official/agent who had met in Mexico. The Inspector General's report in 1967 and according to this report the fact that the official had met with Cubela in Havana when he was assigned and a similar contact was planned that could never have taken place, it is probably the identity of this official could be David Phillips. The description of this character: he was a tall man, approximately 40 years old, thin, with a receding hairline, shadows under his eyes, good manners, well dressed, sociable, and speaks fluent Spanish. That's enough. We are not sure if it is Phillips but it is a very similar description.
(6) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
Following the Bay of Pigs developed a hostile attitude in the exile community. They were convinced that Kennedy was responsible for the failure of the Bay of Pigs and that he was even a communist. In the middle of 1963 they had infiltrated a special group within the CIA. And one day an official of the CIA came to the safe house, a Cuban house. Around that time Kennedy had made a public statement. Officials were bothered by this. It was said, "the Cubans must eliminate the pinko in the White House." That's the type of info I have.
(7) Fabian Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995)
One of Howard Hunt's first jobs when he arrived in Miami was to find an efficient assistant. His mission was to convince "prominent" Cubans there to form a front to back-up the operational plans of the CIA in the months ahead. He selected Bernard Baker, the CIA agent who, months earlier, had helped Manuel Artime flee from Cuba. He also talked with Batista supporters, organized into the Anticommunist Crusade. They were a powerful force that could not be ignored. Besides, Colonel King had instructed Hunt to give preferential attention to this group, which was favorably disposed to the United States, and with whom they could do business once their cause triumphed.
Hunt had risen as far as he could in the CIA and knew that he would never be made division chief; therefore this mission suited him perfectly. He would do his job for the Agency while preparing himself for the new life he envisioned as a businessman after the fall of "the Castro regime."
Meanwhile, other plans were underway in Langley. Tracy Barnes and Frank Bender knew that Batista and his supporters had lost all prestige in Cuba and Latin America in general. The Agency was also looking for its own candidates. Two men were particularly favored because they represented two different generations of Cuban politicians: one was Tony Varona, and the other Manuel Artime Buesa. Another important candidate was the deserter Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz.
Personal interests interfered with the work of the CIA operatives. Finally a deal was struck: the political front would be represented by all of the tendencies in exile, including the Batista supporters. Howard Hunt heaved a sigh of relief; however, he still continued to question the decision by Barnes and Bender not to give that group the preferential treatment that Colonel King, the division chief, had ordered.
(8) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
On September 8, there was a reception at the embassy in Havana. Daniel Harker, an American journalist interviewed Fidel. It was not a formal interview, just some questions as he arrived to the reception. He asked several questions. One was related to the CIA attempts to assassinate him. Fidel said something such as, "The American leaders should be careful. This is something the government could control." Or this type of - somebody organized it to happen. Political assassination, this could become anything, however Daniel Harker didn't say that in his report. Daniel Harker in his report suggested that Fidel Castro was making a threat against Kennedy. And that is very interesting. That news was published in New Orleans precisely during the days when all of us are trying to travel to Cuba. These acts can not be isolated, in all this that started at the end of April 1963. In April 1963 the Cuban Revolutionary Council, that was an organization that was CIA in the back of, accuses Kennedy of abandoning the Cuban cause... Orlando Bosch prints a pamphlet that was called the "Cuban Tragedy" that accused Kennedy of being a traitor to the Cuban cause. This was sent to the White House in May. Immediately after, Oswald brought activism in New Orleans. Here Oswald's history starts. And it's going to have it's high point when he is arrested by police in a public discussion with some Cuban exiles. Afterwards this makes the discussion of Daniel Harker with Castro very famous.
(9) Anthony Summers and Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
Anthony Summers: There is quite a lot of work being done in the last year or two that whatever the Kennedy administration was doing in conversations through Attwood and Colonel Lechuga, at the same time Robert Kennedy - and presumably the President too - was personally behind a major effort that envisioned the overthrow of Castro in the fall of 1963. Which would involve an internal coup with the death of Castro. After that, massive American backing for which Kennedy's perceived as being (Cuban) democrats as opposed to being right-wing extremists.
I asked Dean Rusk about this, shortly before his death a year or so before. And he told me, yes he learned about the plans for such a coup. They were indeed backed by JFK and understood by his brother and were in charge of it. That he learned of this in 1964 during meetings of the National Security Council. And what can one make of this? One is talking about not a double track, but a double cross? If the Kennedy's were talking peace on the one hand and a full 1963 coup on the other? He said, yes but they did this all the time. And he found that not surprising. He said the Kennedy's work that way. And he said rather cynically, do governments everywhere. In your research in Cuba, have Mr. Escalante and Lechuga gotten a similar picture of double-track, double-cross?
Fabian Escalante: Look, I'm going to answer very briefly. In 1963 McGeorge Bundy designed this new approach towards Cuba. It involved a double track or multiple track. This appeared in documents in the Church Committee. One of the tracks was to strengthen the blockade against Cuba, political pressure, the isolation of Cuba from the continent and also from Western Europe. To destroy through sabotage and external operations all the energy and industrial infrastructure in the country. In 1963 there were two major plans of sabotage proved against Cuba. Two paths, with one objective. To force Cuba to sit down at the negotiating table, but under very disadvantaged circumstances. That's why we never really heard what the possible American agenda would be. We never heard anything... That's why the Cuban government took its time to deeply study the proposal put forth by Attwood.
What could they possible been trying to do by trying to start a dialogue. So they took their time. Here's what happened according to our judgement. The hawks never supported, they didn't understand this strategy, didn't agree. Anything that didn't agree with a new invasion of Cuba, they didn't agree with. We think the hawks felt themselves betrayed. According to our judgement there were two strategies to be followed by the US: (1) from the administration; (2) and one from the CIA, the Cuban exiles, and the Mafia - and even they had their own independent objectives. Around that on the part of this latter group, there developed this need to assassinate Kennedy. It seemed to them that Kennedy was not in agreement to the new invasion. That's our hypothesis.
Anthony Summers: Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. The information that's been coming out, new scholarship that Robert Kennedy personally in those weeks heading up to November 22, in the weeks leading up, was behind a detailed plan for the killing, overthrow of Castro, the killing of Raul, key leaders of the revolution. To be followed by massive American support for take over in Cuba by the so-called Cuban democrats. This was a real plan in the works. This is different from, maybe connected with but very specific and different from conversation.
(10) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
In the late 1980's we came into contact with an informant who had known Phillips and who had contact with Phillips in 1958-59. This person told us about three Cubans who had had contact with Phillips at this time. (Juan) Manuel Salvat, Isidro Borja and Antonio Veciana... That is something our agent informed us of. We did a spoken picture of this Harold Benson as we do always. But we didn't know really know who he was. In 1972, this CIA official had an interview with our agent. Our agent at that time had a different case official. But this man came as a.... as a leader, as a boss or something. Had an interview with our agent. This interview was... took place in Mexico they were just having a few drinks. In between, Kennedy's name came into the conversation they were talking about... into the conversation, not Kennedy came to, into... So when the subject comes up this character explains to our agent that after Kennedy's death, he visited his grave and peed on it and said he (JFK) was a communist and such and such. We still didn't know who Harold Benson was but when Claudia Furiati did her research, among the people we interviewed was this agent. We showed him a group of photographs. Plus we already knew about David Phillips. I'm speaking of 1992 and 1993. And the photograph that we showed him was a photograph of David Phillips. And so he pointed out as Harold Benson.
(11) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
Morales, we knew him in 1960. He was another from the United States Embassy in Havana and he was linked to another official, an American official from the embassy Robert Van Horn. He was a major in a conspiracy with Rolando Masferrer and a North American citizen Geraldine Chapman. This was a plot to kill Fidel Castro to promote an armed uprising. This plot started in 1959 and our agent, which is already dead was a man that had lived many years in New Orleans and then lived in Miami in 1959, and he was named Luis Tacornal. And also there was another agent that was his partner in New Orleans and had always things to do with the case.
The plot had as a main operative to kill Fidel Castro in Ramiro Valdez house at that time he was the head of the security service. In February 1960 there was an official from the (CIA) headquarters called Luis C. Herber to supervise the operation. Of course we made this operation fail. We have penetration of all the organizations and in November all the people in the plot were arrested except for the diplomatic, of course. And this was published in the Cuban press. They were on trial in it.
There is another moment when we knew about David Morales. In 1973 we arrested one of the CIA agents that used to be a member of the Batista police he was recruited in 1958. He was called Francisco Munoz Olivette and he told us about the official that was in charge but of course he had a different name... We didn't know who he was. However, he was sure that it was someone who had worked in the embassy. So we showed him the photographs of the people working in the embassy... and he identified David Morales as Moralma. He told us in those days, I mean, I mean Francisco Munoz Olivette, but in several moments Morales or Moralma had told him about a plot against Fidel Castro's life that he had headed in 1959. And that this plot was going on, to be carried out in the headquarters of the military air force. We never knew who this person was. But after having so much information in our hands we think that this could be Frank Sturgis because Frank Sturgis was in a plot with Fidel in the Air Force with Jerry Hemming and with Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz and the last information on Morales. We have it from Cubela. Cubela told us when he was arrested that he had interviews with at least three CIA officials from Latin origin. In different moments we didn't know who they were but in 1978 in Havana there was a youth festival and there was an activity that had to do with an explanation to the youth about the CIA activities against Cuba. Cubela agreed on going to this meeting to explain which were his activities with the CIA in those days. It was published by the Grama magazine newspaper several histories about CIA activities, one of them was this one about Francisco Munoz, where David Morales photograph was shown.
(12) Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians Conference (7th December, 1995)
They were going to demand that somebody would be a part of that new government to be established in Cuba and who would be better than Manolo Ray, who used to be a minister in that government. Manolo Ray, that was a person that didn't have good relations with the CIA. He was a social democrat. And it turns out to be that Silvia Odio belongs to the same group. So I could think that Oswald's presence, and Emilio Cordo might have some link to some involvement of JURE? as Castro agents... who is a Castro agent that later would kill Kennedy. So I think all these episodes have to be seen related one to another. For instance, I think the same way you... some of you do that Oswald was taken to a trap from the very beginning. But he was penetrating a Castro group that wanted to kill Kennedy. But I don't think that Veciana had anything to do with it. I think that people that had to do with that, are people in the DRE, but here I am just... using some technical... because when you are going to carry out an operation as complex as this one, you cannot put all your money in one single horse. You have to use different ways in order not to have any mistakes. And obviously, the DRE was in the whole plot against Cuba.
(13) Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1992)
The most intriguing news to come out of the Nassau conference, however, was Escalante's revelation about what another leader of the Alpha 66 group allegedly told him. As we have seen, Nagell would never reveal the true identities of "Angel" and "Leopoldo" - the two Cuban exiles who he said had deceived Oswald into believing they were Castro operatives. Instead, on several occasions when I prodded him, Nagell had cleverly steered the conversation toward a man named Tony Cuesta - indicating that this individual possessed the knowledge that he himself chose not to express. Cuesta, as noted earlier, had been taken prisoner in Cuba during a raid in 1966.
"Cuesta was blinded (in an explosion) and spent most of his time in the hospital," Escalante recalled. In 1978, he was among a group of imprisoned exiles released through an initiative of the Carter Administration. "A few days before he was to leave," according to Escalante, "I had several conversations with Cuesta. He volunteered, 'I want to tell you something very important, but I do not want this made public because I am returning to my family in Miami - and this could be very dangerous.' I think this was a little bit of thanks on his part for the medical care he received."
Escalante said he was only revealing Cuesta's story because the man had died in Miami in 1994. In a declaration he is said to have written for the Cubans, Cuesta named two other exiles as having been involved in plotting the Kennedy assassination. Their names were Eladio del Valle and Herminio Diaz Garcia.
(14) Jean-Guy Allard, Who had the means and motives to kill Kennedy in 1963? (22nd May, 2005)
Who in 1963 had the resources to assassinate Kennedy? Who had the means and who had the motives to kill the U.S. president?, asks General Fabian Escalante in an exclusive interview in his Havana office. And he gives the answer: "CIA agents from Operation 40 who were rabidly anti-Kennedy. And among them were Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, Antonio Veciana and Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia."
Who were the ones who had the training to murder Kennedy? The ones who had all of the capabilities to carry it out? Who were the expert marksmen?" continues Escalante, pointing out that the case of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has to be seen within the historical context of what he calls "the machinery of the Cuban American mafia."
And in the heart of that machinery is Operation 40, created by the CIA on the eve of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, says the ex-chief of Cuban intelligence, author of The Plot (Ocean Press), about the assassination of the U.S. leader.
"The first news that we have of Operation 40 is a statement made by a mercenary of the Bay of Pigs who was the chief of military intelligence of the invading brigade and whose name was Jose Raul de Varona Gonzalez," says Escalante.
"In his statement this man said the following: in the month of March, 1961, around the seventh, Mr. Vicente Leon arrived at the base in Guatemala at the head of some 53 men saying that he had been sent by the office of Mr. Joaquin Sanjenis, Chief of Civilian Intelligence, with a mission he said was called Operation 40. It was a special group that didn't have anything to do with the brigade and which would go in the rearguard occupying towns and cities. His prime mission was to take over the files of intelligence agencies, public buildings, banks, industries, and capture the heads and leaders in all of the cities and interrogate them. Interrogate them in his own way.
The individuals who comprised Operation 40 had been selected by Sangenis in Miami and taken to a nearby farm "where they took some courses and were subjected to a lie detector."
Joaquin Sangenis was Chief of Police in the time of President Carlos Prio, recalls Escalante. "I don't know if he was Chief of the Palace Secret Service but he was very close to Carlos Prio. And in 1973 he dies under very strange circumstances. He disappears. In Miami, people learn to their surprise -- without any prior illness and without any homicidal act -- that Sangenis, who wasn't that old in '73, had died unexpectedly. There was no wake. He was buried in a hurry."
Operation 40 had "in the year '61, 86 employees, of which 37 had been trained as case officers...while in Cuba we probably didn't have one single case officer trained. I didn't finish the course until July of '61 and I was in the first training group."
After the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA organizes a Domestic Affairs Division. "For the first time, the CIA is going to work inside of the U.S. because until that moment, it wasn't doing it. It was prohibited.
"And at the head of this division they put Tracy Barnes, who was chief of the CIA operations group which operated against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, and he brought to the same group of officers David Atlee Phillips, David Sanchez Morales and Howard Hunt, and two or three other Americans who just as surely worked on the Guatemala project."
The first CIA project against the Cuban revolution wasn't a landing and assault brigade, remarks the general. "The first CIA project was to create a civil war inside of Cuba. They were thinking of creating political leaders overseas, organizing a series of military cadres overseas who are the ones who will infiltrate Cuba and who will place themselves at the head of this civil war they are planning to carry out. And furthermore parallel to that, to make an intelligence network. All of this falls apart almost as soon as it is born.
"In October 1960, they realize that this project has failed, and that is when Brigade 2506 is formed, when due to the uprising of a group of patriotic military officers in Puerto Barrios in Guatemala and, this was in November, they send the Cuban mercenaries in Brigade 2506 to put down this operation."
Escalante remembers that in 1959 a "very strong" CIA center existed in Cuba with several case officers based in Havana. Among them two very important figures: David Sanchez Morales, registered as a diplomat with the U.S. embassy, and David Atlee Phillips who was doing business in Cuba since 1957.
"Phillips had a press agency, David Phillips Associates, which had offices on Humbolt St., behind the Rampa theater. We had information from a person who was his personal secretary at the time and he was using the Berlitz Academy, where he would meet with people he wanted to recruit. The Berlitz Academy was not his business, but he had recruited its director and that's why he was using it to train his agents.
"And at that time he recruits Antonio Veciana, Juan Manuel Salvat, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Isidro Borjas, a person of Mexican origin, to carry out the internal counterrevolution."
Phillips will train illegal cadres while Morales, on his part, directs a group of North Americans who are infiltrated in the Rebel Army: Frank Sturgis, Gerry Hemming, William Morgan.
"When the revolution triumphs these people are officers in the Rebel Army, many of them in the air force because the chief there is Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, who was the first chief of the rebel air force and who later leaves the country when an assassination attempt against Fidel fails. He will also direct Howard Hunt, who is visiting Cuba in '59 and '60 and who will write a far-fetched chronicle about Havana which is a series of lies. Hunt is a professional liar.
"There was information that at the end of '58, when CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick came to tell Batista to leave power, he has an interview with a group of figures. And since this Phillips was passing himself off as a respectable North American businessman, Kirkpatrick has an interview with him. And Phillips explains to him that the situation is very difficult."
In this context, now in the middle of '58, the CIA plans an assassination attempt on Fidel with a North American citizen, Alan Robert Nye, and ex-marine recruited in Fort Lauderdale by agents of the FBI and by the Cuban military intelligence service.
"He was received here in Havana, they put him up at the Comodoro hotel, fortunately they paid his bill and that was how he was later discovered. They sent him to a zone near Bayamo where Fidel was, in a zone called Santa Rita and he was arrested there by the Rebel Army. He had instructions to introduce himself to Fidel as a sympathizer of the Cuban cause and to assassinate him at the first opportunity," recalls Escalante.
The man is arrested on December 12, 1958, by rebel forces and remains in custody until the beginning of 1959. "An officer of the Rebel Army is in charge of the investigation. Knight says that he was lodged at the Comodoro hotel and it turns out that the ones who had paid this gentleman's expenses were none other than Col. Orlando Piedra, the chief of the investigation bureau of the police, and Col. Tabernilla II, the son of the head of the army."
"These are the principal artists," says the ex-chief of Cuban intelligence. "David Phillips; David Morales; Howard Hunt; a figure who disappeared later and who was head of the CIA until diplomatic relations were broken, James Noel; and several more who were working actively."
When the Domestic Affairs Division is created, the large CIA operations base in Miami was subordinate to the central division of the CIA; "that is to say that the JM/WAVE station, which had 400 officers plus 4,000 Cuban agents, was directed by the main center in Langley.
"Whom are they going to use? Operation 40. That is to say all of the specialists who are already trained, have gone through the school, have already participated in operations against Cuba...I refer to the group of Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia, Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Virgilio Paz, Alvin Ross, Jose Dionisio Suarez, Antonio Veciana, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Felipe Rivero, who recently died, the Novo Sampoll brothers, Gaspar "Gasparito" Jimenez Escobedo, Juan Manuel Salvat, Nazario Sargent, Carlos Bringuier, Antonio Cuesta, Eladio del Valle, Herminio Diaz, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Rafael "Chichi" Quintero, Jose Basulto, Paulino Sierra, Bernard Baker, who was a Cuban with a North American name -- he was a guard at the U.S. embassy -- and Eugenio Martinez, alias 'Musculito.'
"And there was the team that brought together all of the North Americans: David Morales; David Phillips; Howard Hunt; Willian Harvey; Frank Sturgis; Gerry Hemming; John Rosselli, who was second head of the Chicago mafia and at that time in '62; Porter Goss, the current head of the CIA, who is in the JM/WAVE as a subordinate of Phillips and Morales."
"Operation 40 is the grandmother and great-grandmother of all of the operations that are formed later," continues Escalante.
"The Domestic Affairs Division will have its missions...You have to remember the scandal of the Pentagon papers; a long time later, the Watergate scandal...which are the things that were found out. These people were the plumbers of the division, the men that carried it out."
In 1966 and '67, Felix Rodriguez is in charge of the task force the CIA sends to Bolivia against Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. "He used several names. He is there and he ends up participating directly in the murder of Che. Also there, in another position, is Antonio Veciana. He is there as a bank consultant in La Paz but he runs the center which is coordinating intelligence gathering in the rear guard, working with the Bolivian intelligence services.
"This is very interesting because we are then going to see this whole group in the second large operation they organize, which is advising the secret police of Latin America. We are going to see Felix Rodriguez in 1980 in Argentina, we are going to see Posada in Venezuela..."
Luis Posada Carriles next appears in Venezuela.
"Posada says he arrived in Caracas in 1969, which is not true, he arrived in '67. What is happening is that he is a CIA advisor and it doesn't suit him in his book to talk about that; he says he was recruited in Miami by a chief of DIGEPOL. He's a tremendous storyteller. In reality, Posada is already there in '67 helping DIGEPOL as a CIA advisor.
"After that we are going to see Orlando Bosch's group: Virgilio Paz, Alvin Ross, Dionisio Suarez in Chile after '73. We are going to find 'Mono' Morales Navarrete in Venezuela and Felipe Rivero in Chile...That is to say that this group is going to be spread out in Latin America with actions everywhere."
All of them have devoted themselves, besides the subversive activities, "to drug smuggling, which began when they were training for the Bay of Pigs," says the general.
"The planes came from Miami to Guatemala loaded with weapons, ammunition, personnel, and they returned...even with blood plasma. They were even smuggling blood plasma which Manuel Artime commercialized with the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. Drugs started to be included, cocaine."
Phillips was head of Operation 40 from 1960 to 1973..."It is assumed that in '73 Operation 40 was 'discontinued,' as the North Americans say, but that is absolutely not true.
"You have to remember that in '73, the Watergate scandal broke out. Who were the ones who broke into the offices of the Democratic Party? This same group. We are talking about Bernard Baker, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, Ferry Hemming, and we learned this from the documents from the Church Commission.
"And after he got out of prison, Eugenio Martinez came to Cuba. Martinez, alias 'Musculito,' was penalized for the Watergate scandal and is in prison for a time. And after he gets out of prison - it's the Carter period, the period of dialogue, in '78, there is a different international climate - Eugenio Martinez asks for a contract and one fine day he appears on a boat here... and of course he didn't make any big statements, he didn't say much that we didn't know but he talked about those things, about this Operation 40 group, about what they had done at the Democratic Party headquarters..."
And who are directing the operation against Allende, asks Escalante. "In the first and second part, David Phillips, first as chief of the operations group, and afterwards he moved up to Western Hemisphere division chief of the CIA until 1975. He participates in that and participates in the formation of Operation Condor, which was formed in 1974 when the first meeting of intelligence chiefs of the Southern Cone is held in Santiago, Chile." The veterans of Operation 40 will also participate in Operation Hoja de Parra, which Argentinian intelligence organizes to spy on political emigres throughout Latin America.
Then they appear in Operation Calypso, part of the Nicaraguan contras: "That is to say, when the Argentinian army sends Col. Osvaldo Rivero, first to Miami and then to Honduras, with a group of Argentinian specialists, they fail and the Cubans from Operation 40 have to come; Felix Rodriguez and Luis Posada who in '85 replace the Argentinians and transfer the general headquarters from Tegucigalpa to San Salvador. And the El Aguacate air base which belonged to the Hondurans stops being the main base of air supplies..."
All of the operations carried out, after a certain time, by members of Operation 40 are operations called "autonomous" where the CIA officer who directs the terrorist group -- we're talking about terrorist "action" groups, as they call them -- discusses the objectives of that group, approves it, facilitates all necessary resources "and afterwards reads about the results in the newspaper."
About the Kennedy case, Escalante recalls how Cuban intelligence services would receive in the '60s much information from North Americans, from Cubans outside of the country and from Central Americans, about subversive activities.
"By correspondence... Letters would arrive that many times, of course, they would come without a return address or with a fake address. And we started to have information from these figures through this means.
"There is a source who participates in a meeting in Miami in the year '63 in a CIA safe house and who, from what I remember, was related to Veciana, very close to Veciana. This source identifies Luis Posada Carriles, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz and, I believe, the Novo Sampol brothers...and that same source later recognizes Lee Harvey Oswald as one of the participants.
"The last time we heard about this source was in the '70s when he refers to a meeting with Antonio Veciana and Phillips in Puerto Rico," says Escalante.
"I'm convinced that they wanted to kill Kennedy in different places. Probably that Dallas had better conditions. But I'm under the impression from some very fragmented information I had access to one time, that they wanted to assassinate him in Miami. And I can't exclude, without confirming it, because this information is very relative, that these people had been gathered there for that reason...
"There is another source, who is Maria Lorentz, who relates something similar to this, that is to say that she was in a meeting in Miami, that she saw these people, that she went with them to Dallas, around November 20."
Escalante underlines how a Cuban, Manuel "Manolito" Rodriguez Orcarberro, arrives in Dallas two months before the Kennedy assassination "and he leaves afterwards at full speed."
There he opens an office of Alpha 66, where Oswald will enter at one time, according to the testimony of the assistant police chief of Dallas.
"This Cuban sought asylum in 1960 in the Brazilian embassy together with two known CIA agents. Who were they? Ricardo 'El Mono' Morales Navarrete and Isidro Borgas, a figure of Mexican origin who looks a lot like one of the figures who is with Oswald handing out proclamations supposedly in favor of Cuba in New Orleans - all of that which was a show put on where Carlos Bringuier goes to challenge them, a fight erupts, and the police arrest all of them..."
And who is the boss of Rodriguez and of Alpha 66? "Antonio Veciana, from Operation 40. That same Veciana whose testimony would lead Gaeton Fonzi to interview Luis Posada in Caracas when he was in prison, due to the similarity between the plan he prepared to assassinate Fidel in Chile and the Kennedy assassination."
Even more: the name that one of the "cameramen" used in Chile is Ramon Medina "which is a pseudonym Posada later used in Ilopango."
There are several sources who place Luis Posada Carriles in Dallas on November 20, 1963, says Escalante.
The ex-chief of Cuban security points to a recent investigation by the Dutchman Wim Dankbaar: "There are elements which even say that Posada was one of the shooters, which cannot be ruled out because Posada is an expert marksman.
"Posada who is an expert marksman who graduated from a North American military school. Posada who afterwards becomes, together with Orlando Bosch and all of that gang, one of the leaders of the terrorist groups. Within the mechanism of Operation 40. Posada who since then has always been protected by U.S. authorities, protected by the Cuban American National Foundation, protected by Jorge Mas Canosa."
The assassination of Kennedy could not have been an improvised action in any manner, says Escalante. "If they detoured Kennedy from the avenue where he was traveling to drive around a park, it wasn't for any other reason than to slow down the car to be able to fire at him. Because this famous detour to Dealey Plaza makes no sense. Evidently this makes the vehicle travel at 20 kilometers per hour. And there the fatal shots are fired, from behind and from ahead.
"It had to be a complex operation in which a large group of people participated, because if they shot at him from three shooters' nests which had to have an element of communication as well, to have the means to get out of that place and afterwards to get out of Dallas. We are talking about between 10 and 15 people in the least of cases."
Returning to the subject of the explosion of the Cuban airplane in 1976, Escalante underlines that, in the weeks preceding the attack, Orlando Bosch is in the Dominican Republic, goes to Nicaragua, and then to Caracas with a fake Dominican passport.
"Allegedly invited by Orlando Garcia who if he wasn't head of DISIP at that time was chief of personal security for Carlos Andres Perez. This at the same time that Mono Morales Navarrete had become head of division 54 of DISIP.
"Navarrete arrived when Posada left DISIP, in '74, to organize that front of the Industrial and Commercial Investigations Office. A CIA front which was probably connected with Operation Condor...Why does Posada go over to DISIP? Why does he have disagreements? If he is operations chief of DISIP, he has contact with the U.S. embassy, he's supported by the CIA. Why is he tired of torturing, which is what he did there at DISIP?"
According to reports from the time, at the office of Posada's detectives agency in Caracas they also found plans for the assassination of Orlando Letelier, which occured in Washington on September 21, barely two weeks prior. "Bosch had coordinated the operation in Santiago where he met with General Manuel Contreras, head of DINA." (Chilean secret police)
"In '74, Bosch had already gone to Chile with Virgilio Paz, Alvin Ross, Jose Dionisio Suarez to offer himself to Contreras and Pinochet as hit men for Condor... The same Bosch who in 1976 returns to the Dominican Republic, then goes to Nicaragua, meets with the Somoza dictatorship, and then to Venezuela for this operation...Bosch arrives in Venezuela in September and the blowing up of the Cubana airplane was on October 6.
"Where do instructions come from? Where is the plan drawn up? It is drawn up in Caracas. Who are in Caracas? Bosch, Posada and Morales Navarrete. Those are the three figures who are there. This is perfectly documented. As if that weren't enough, Morales Navarrete is an FBI informant, they passed him the bill themselves in '82 for that reason. The FBI was aware of everything they were doing. Probably the CIA gave them the objectives with that cover of autonomous operations. Who was head of the CIA in '76? George Bush Sr. And so...as clear as day! Was Posada still with the CIA?
"In a declassified document from July 1976, the CIA says it broke off with Posada because it had suspicions that he was involved in drug smuggling. That's what it says, that's what it says... when David Phillips gave Veciana a quarter million dollars so he could go to prison for 18 months for a drug trafficking charge," answers the general.
© John Simkin, March 2013