Book Review: Castro's Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, the CIA, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy


by Brian Latell

New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012. Pp. xii, 278. Index. $27.00. ISBN: 0230621236

Was it Fidel after all? Since the assassination of JFK we have been inundated with scenarios, conspiracies, and attempts to indict this or that gangster, government agency or political group.  Then we have the “case closed” theorists who argue that Oswald acted alone and the Warren Report remains gospel.  So this new work that might just get us a bit closer to the truth comes as a welcome surprise.  Written in dispassionate, no-nonsense language by a former CIA analyst who spent some three decades working on South America and the Caribbean, we learn about the amazing effectiveness of the Cuban Direcciòn general de inteligencia or DGI.

Latell explores an almost unknown entity that has always been under Fidel Castro’s personal supervision and shows the dictator as a master of covert action, deception, and conspiracy.  Castro built and led the DGI since its inception, and until very recently handled its operations down to the minutest detail.  He ran a tight operation and could lament only a handful of betrayals by defectors.  One of these was Florentino Aspillaga a longtime DGI officer who defected in Eastern Europe and was extensively interviewed by the author.  The key revelation in the book is that Castro was aware ahead of time of Oswald’s resolve to kill Kennedy and did nothing to warn the Americans about it.

The DGI had been in contact with Oswald since 1959, when he was a marine in California and knew of him from the early years of the Castro regime.  Through many other clues, including Oswald’s noisy visits to the Cuban embassy in Mexico City, where he is said to have stated his intention to shoot JFK, the path to the assassination seems to have been smoothed for him.  There are few known links between Oswald and the Cubans, but it is a matter of record that he wanted a visa to travel to Cuba and meet with Castro himself.  The story is made extremely compelling by numerous details Latell uncovered from extensive interviews, declassified files, and other defectors.  But the most jolting revelation is that Aspillaga on November 22, 1963 was ordered to drop eavesdropping on CIA radio traffic in Florida to concentrate exclusively on ham radio and other transmissions from Texas before the assassination even took place! 

But did Fidel Castro have a hand in the actual murder?  Motive certainly did exist, including the fact that Kennedy had decided Fidel had to be removed from power one way or another before the 1964 election.  JFK dreaded the accusation of ‘Who lost Cuba?’ coming from his potential opponent Barry Goldwater and the Republican Party.  It would be a repeat of the lethal ‘Who lost China?’ lobby and the Kennedy brothers couldn’t let that happen.  Just as in Vietnam, when Ngo Dinh Diem was overthrown and murdered on November 1, 1963 for many reasons, including the secret talks Diem and Nhu were having with Ho Chi Minh that could affect the coming election, the Kennedy brothers were pressing the CIA to get rid of Castro without delay.  Fidel was well aware of the numerous plots against him when suddenly, as the book implies, a violent American known to the DGI burst into the Cuban embassy in Mexico City and demanded a visa to Havana, vowing out loud to kill JFK. 

According to Latell, therefore, the DGI let the Dallas assassination happen and simply guided or shadowed Oswald to his target, but we don’t know how all that actually took place. Did the DGI contact Oswald before his visit to Mexico City?  Did they meet with him again in Texas prior to the assassination?  Did Oswald have assurances he would be exfiltrated to Cuba after the murder?  Did he miss his rendezvous with DGI agents after the assassination?  Why did he shoot Officer Tippitt?  Finally the most baffling question of all: why did Jack Ruby shoot Oswald?  Was Ruby a DGI agent or cutout? These points are not addressed in the book and remain puzzling to this reviewer.

Many more questions will remain open until the DGI files are made available to scholars and researchers once the Castro regime disappears. U.S. opinion is being kept of two minds on the JFK murder: on the one hand, to question the Warren Report and lay the blame on the Mafia or the CIA appears to be the hobbyhorse of the left in the narrative that sees Fidel Castro as the ‘pure’ revolutionary who could not possibly be involved and the Soviets even less.  We now have the added disinformation of Oliver Stone and his pro-Communist and pro-Castro Untold History of the United States!  Many viewers of this multipart series are confused by the revisionist revisionism of Mr. Stone.  On the other hand if you do accept the Warren Report but see it as an emergency tool used by Lyndon Johnson to calm down American opinion that would have clamored for an immediate invasion of Cuba, then things can be placed in perspective.  No final answers, for now at least, no smoking guns, but many more questions that point directly to the dictator in Havana. 

Required reading for all those interested in true current history.


Note:  Castro’s Secrets is also availabel in paperbck, ISBN 1137278412, and as an e-book, ISBN 0230621236.


Our reviewer :  Robert Miller is the publisher of Enigma Books, and the executive director of the New York Military Affairs Symposium, NYMAS.    

Reviewer: Robert Miller   

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