Havana Surprise


A Sunday Times book review on Sunday 20 May 2012 by Stephen Robinson discusses a story of dread fascination to conspiracy theorists young and old. Castro’s Secrets: the CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine by Brian Latell, [Palgrave Macmillan £16.99  pp288] a former US spy with close connections to Cuba’s spooks, hooks the reader’s attention from the get-go. His story is that on November 22 1963, Florentino Aspillaga, a young, ideologically-committed member of Cuba’s formidable General Directorate of Intelligence, was warned at 9.30 that morning to stop what he was doing – monitoring CIA radio traffic – and “redirect all antennae to eavesdrop on radio communications in Texas”. By 12.30, as most people alive at the time can recall, POTUS, President of the United States, JF Kennedy, was dead. The sole assassin, according to the US-Government initiated Warren Report, was former US Marine, and full-time oddball, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Oswald, feted in the Stanley Kubrick film, Full Metal Jacket by an admiring US Marine Drill Sergeant for the apparently remarkable feat of skewering his Presidential target with three rifle bullets from an infeasible distance in a remarkably short space of time, is documented as having visited the Cuban consulate in Mexico City three times in the autumn of 1963. Many people, of course, maintain that Oswald did not act alone. Moreover, the Cubans had lots of reasons for wanting John Kennedy dead; aside from various US-directed attempts to assassinate the country’s dictator, Castro, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, a fiasco staged and funded by the CIA not long after Kennedy assumed the Presidency, meant that outright US hostility to the Castro regime was likely cause enough for the Cubans to seek revenge. And, of course, according to this account, Castro knew about the planned, and subsequently successful assassination. Conspiracy theorists have been aware of most of these facts for some years, but for most of us, this is a chilling and scarifying account.