In September 1963, just two months before the assassination, Cuban UN Ambassador Lechuga was contacted by one of Kennedy's trusted UN delegates, William Attwood. "He told me this was a private interview," Lechuga recalls. "We spoke on three occasions, trying to break the ice between our countries. Attwood said we should begin a dialogue. He said the idea came from Kennedy, but that we should keep the conversations secret because if the Republicans found out there would be a huge scandal in Congress."
Lechuga says he was surprised by the American approach, because exile raids and efforts to destabilize Cuba were continuing. Adds Escalante: "There was a double track happening. One path was continued sabotage and isolation of Cuba, to force us to sit down at the negotiating table under very disadvantageous conditions. So the Cuban government took its time to deeply study Attwood's proposal. In our view, one strategy was coming from the Administration and another from the CIA, the exiles and the Mafia." The Cubans are convinced that word about the secret talks leaked out, and sparked a conspiracy to kill the American President and invade Cuba.
In September 1963, Rolando Cubela travelled to Brazil to meet with CIA contacts about killing Castro. Simultaneously, an American journalist, Daniel Harker, interviewed Castro at a gathering inside Havana's Brazilian Embassy. Harker's article quoted Castro saying: "United States leaders should think that if they assist in terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe." The story, widely disseminated in the US press, would be used by right-wing elements as evidence that Cuba was behind the assassination.
But Escalante says the article was a distortion. He says what Castro really stated was: "American leaders should be careful because [the anti-Castro operations] were something nobody could control." He was not threatening JFK, but warning him.
In late September that year, Oswald left New Orleans for Mexico City. On the way, he showed up in Dallas at the door of Cuban exile Silvia Odio, in the company of two Latins who identified themselves as "Angel" and "Leopoldo," who told Odio they were soliciting funds for the Revolutionary Junta (JURE), Odio's exile organization. After the visit, according to Odio, "Leopoldo" telephoned her and described their US companion as "kind of loco. He could go either way. He could do anything - like getting underground in Cuba, like killing Castro. He says we should have shot President Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs."
The Cuban hypothesis is that the Odio incident had a dual design. JURE was run by Manuel Ray, a moderate exile leader opposed by the CIA but in close touch with the Kennedy Administration. But the Cubans say "Angel" and "Leopoldo" were agents from the right-wing exile group Revolutionary Student Directorate (DRE), which operated under the CIA's direction. It was the DRE's propagandists who actively sought to tie Oswald to Cuba immediately after the assassination. Escalante offered a possible identification of "Angel" as DRE leader Isidro Borja, who closely resembled a man seen standing behind Oswald in a famous photo, helping him pass out "Fair Play for Cuba" leaflets in New Orleans.
Then on September 27, 1963, Oswald showed up three times at the Cuban consulate in Mexico City, seeking an immediate visa to visit the island. He also visited the Soviet embassy on the same day. (Some researchers believe this could have been an imposter "Oswald", but the Cubans say it was the real Oswald.) Oswald's request was turned down. He angrily stormed out, and shortly returned to Dallas. Says Escalante: "We believe Oswald was acting according to plan - to travel to Cuba for a few days, in order to appear as a Cuban agent after the assassination. Escalante further claims that when that plan failed, the CIA's David Phillips arranged to have letters addressed to Oswald from Havana. On the final day of the 1995 Nassau conference, a slide-show depicted five letters addressed to Oswald from Cuba; two dated before the assassination, three immediately after. One of these letters, intercepted by Cuban authorities, was dated November 14, 1963 and addressed to "Lee Harvey Oswald, Royalton Hotel, Miami" (where Oswald never, in fact, stayed). It was signed "Jorge". According to Arturo Rodriguez, "The text was of a conspiratorial character. It was written on the same kind of typewriter as the two others, which the FBI has concluded were composed on the same machine. We think all these letters were written by the same person--as part of a plan to blame our country for the assassination."
Felipe Vidal Santiago told Cuban intelligence that on the weekend before the assassination, he was invited to a meeting in Dallas by the CIA's Colonel William Bishop. "It was supposed to be a meeting with a few wealthy people to talk about financing anti-Castro operations," says Escalante. Bishop left on his own "for interviews" numerous times during their stay in Dallas. After approximately four days they returned to Miami.
Not long before his death in 1993, Col. Bishop confirmed to this writer that he had knowledge of the JFK plot. The Cubans indicate that the Vidal-Bishop Dallas trip concerned plans for re-taking the island once Castro's people had been implicated in the assassination. Escalante surmises: "Oswald was an intelligence agent of the US-CIA, FBI, military, or all of these, we don't know. He was manipulated, told he was penetrating a group of Cuban agents that wanted to kill Kennedy. But from the very beginning, he was to be the element to blame Cuba."
"Not less than 15 persons took part in the assassination," Escalante theorizes. "At the same time, knowing a little about CIA operations, we see how they used the principle of decentralized operations - independent parties with a specific role, to guarantee compartmentalization and to keep it simple."