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tv   Attempts to Overthrow Cuban Leader Fidel Castro  CSPAN  July 8, 2021 3:36pm-5:10pm EDT

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tens of thousands of anti-vietnam war protesters converged on washington, d.c. in may of 1971. more than 7,000 of them were arrested in a single day. tonight on american history tv, we look back 50 years at the forces that collided on the capitol streets that spring with journalist lawrence roberts. he's the author of may day 1971, a white house at war, a revolt in the streets, and the untold history of america's biggest mass arrest. that's at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. next, on american history tv, international spy museum yum
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historian vince horton examines the bay of business invasion, also lesser known plans involving poison, drugged coffee, and exploding cigars. the 90-minute presentation is co-hosted by the smithsonian associates and the international spy museum in washington, d.c. good morning, everyone. good morning. yes, it is a good morning. it's a great day. and after that -- well, we won't even go into that. i think it goes downhill. i'm peter earnest, the executive director. we are delighted to have all of you here with us. let us once again thank the smithsonian volunteers for being with us for this event. last thing, if you would be kind enough to turn off your mobile devices, cell phones, and so forth. i, as an agency officer, cia officer who went through the church pike hearings, part of
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which will be discussed today by vicinity haughton, almost before -- attempted assassinations, i should say, none of which succeeded custom either reflects incompetence or a lack of commitment. we will hear one of them today. but looking back at that period the charges almost seem quaint because today there is very little headtation by successive administrations of both parties in knocking off the heads of terrorist groups and the leaders of these folks, right and left. as you know, at least on a couple of occasions taking out an american citizen. so looking back on that period, as i say, it almost seems quaint. however, it will be fun to revisit it with my colleague, vicinity haughton, who holds a ph.d. from the university of maryland in diplomatic and military history. the area of his research was scientific and technological issues or developments, if you
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will, during the -- during world war ii and early part of the cold war. vince also got a masters in relations between the soviet union and the united states, also of interest. you may get questions on that, vince. that's a lively topic today. i should say that vince has also taught extensively, both at the university level, the high school level, and middle school. i would think middle school would have been the most challenging. >> of course. >> the worst. >> the worst. >> okay. good for you for being a teacher. okay. he's a u.s. army veteran and served in the balkans and worked in several capacity with both civilian and military intelligence. so it's my pleasure to introduce my colleague, dr. vince haughton. [ applause ] >> all right. thank you, peter.
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this is interestingly enough, when we planned this series, we talked about doing these four great assassinations with one not so great assassination thrown in. well, it won't really matter that castro is still alive because we planned these back, let's say in october. things have changed a little bit. but the basic idea behind this is killing fidel, or not killing fidel. for a lot of younger people, which i deal with on a day to day basis here at museum, castro or the mystique of fidel castro is not as well-known as it would be for other generations. he hadn't been in charge for a while. he really wasn't this, you know, mean ogre of a person who was leading cuba. he certainly still was for a lot of people that remember the cold war. a lot of people who lived through the time period. for the most part, castro was somewhat of a caricature of himself at the very end. i love this cartoon. to me, it really spells out the
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end of castro's career once he had been retired. and so when he died, it was a big deal a lot of places. but for many of college aged students or even older than that, it was like, okay, some old guy who used to be a bad person died. it really didn't matter a whole lot when it came to the relationship between the united states and cuba or the broader world. here we are going talk a little bit differently. we are going to look at the cia attempts on castro's life. the number 638 is according to castro's retired chief of cuban counter-intelligence, fabian he is ka atlantice who in an interview said we counted 638 different attempts by the cia on castro's life. for the next 638 slides, 14 hours, we are going to
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systematically go through -- no. i included this quote from castro f surviving assassination attempts were an olympic event i would win the gold medal. i now have acquired the name the top secret operation that finally, finally got fidel castro. the name is a little on the nose. they are not as creative as they used to be. this is not an operation overlord kinds of thing but we finally paid off. mission accomplished. we finally got fidel. it's a really funny story for me and my mom will never let me live this down. my fascination with castro started at an early age. fascination is the right word. i grew up in miami. i am not cuban, the blond hair,
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green ice and transparents skin gives that away. all of my friends were, their parents, grand parents friends were vef gees. these are people who came over because they had to, to miami. and the funny story behind this is my mom still lives in miami. my whole family was down there for many, many years. and i have been up here for ten years. i lived in washington for the last ten years. every thanksgiving, i went home to miami. because that's where the family was. actually my wife's family is in miami as well. every thanksgiving except for this year. the one year i said, i have done a lot of traveling we have been out of a town a lot. let's just stay in washington this thanksgiving. and of course fidel castro dies two days after thanksgiving when i would have been in miami for greatest party in the history of the universe. my mom will never let me live it
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down. that's what happens when you don't come home for thanksgiving a. horrible dictator dies and you miss good party. it really was from the very beginning a question that i had to deal with, this idea of who was this man? he was somebody who, as a historian -- i knew i was going to be one from a very early age -- was somebody that i just couldn't reconcile, the image of castro that i got from my friends's families, the image of this monster, with a lot of information that i had read from, let's say more objective sources. the problem you run into is there is not a lot of objective sources when it comes to castro. you have the people who knew him best, many were till procastro, so you really can't get inside his head because it is skewed. and the others are arch enemies now or were, and you are not going to get a straight story from them either. how do you look at it?
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you look at this saying this is a man, with an incredible following, a man with lot of charisma who got people to follow him and do things they wouldn't have done otherwise. and everything is free. later i learned those stories were half true, half nonsense. cuba has some of the greatest medical schools in the world but the doctors have been shipped overseas. the medical care in cuba not very good for most people because the doctors are the best in the world but they are somewhere else. you look at things like -- these are the pictures of castro before he became, el commandante. playing baseball, basketball. he wanted to be a baseball pitcher. they said he had a wicked kburve but his fastball was pedestrian. he wanted to be -- he was a
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great athlete, good a basketball, somebody who was an avid reader, who understood history. it was difficult to reconcile this with the monster i had grown up to think about based on my friends and friends' family. let's tackle the broader question of who was fidel. this is going to be an incredible controversial topic. again, there is no one that has a blank objective opinion about this. there are people who think he was the world's worst dictator. there are people who think he was a great guy. i am going to come down somewhere in the middle. ask some of these questions, was he a communist? in the end, yes. did he start out a unkmooist? that's up for historical debate. i have even asked this question of cuban exiles, people who fought against castro for decades. i said, did castro start out a communist? >> most of them kind of hedged the question because they know it is very difficult to say yes, castro started out a communist. he came to power and worried the
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united states not because he was a card-carrying marxist. he worried the united states because he immediately started nationalizing companies that we had economic ties to and we owned outright. you might say it sounds like a communist to me. he didn't couch it in marxist terms like the cold war idea of marxism leninism is taking over the world he talked about wrig it back to cuba. for of a nationalist, we need to bring these companies back to the cuban people. could he have been a potential partner? this is another wolf counter-factual. anyone know what country castro visited first when he took power? yeah. he came here. right? a lot of people are surprised thinking he went straight to moscow. no, he came to the united states. he came the try to meet with president eisenhower and vice president nixon, neither of whom were available. i guess ike was playing golf. it was purposeful.
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they did not want to meet with him. actually it was so purposeful that castro when he visited new york couldn't find a hotel except for in harlem. the united states made it difficult for him to stay in a hotel in new york. there is the argument that we pushed him into the hands of the russians. the next question, was he ready to embrace a soviet partnership from the beginning? i think the answer is unown. i don't think he would have come to the united states if he didn't think there was a possibility he thought we could work with him. you could call this naive. simultaneously as he was trying to meet with the americans here in the united states his brother, raul, who is the current president of cuba and which he guevara, one of his top lieutenants were in moscow meeting with nikita crew sheriff. they knew we would not allow for
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the nationalization of the united fruit company and organizations that were billions of dollars for american economics. they knew the writing on the wall probably before fidel did. one way or another, once fidel realized there was no possible way of any kind of relationship with the united states he does reach out to the soviet union. and puts himself in direct let's call it a direct confrontational situation with the united states. we are not in a position where we would let a soviet satellite state be so close. you know, this wasn't kind of sort of reaching out to the soviets. this is a full embrace of soviet ideology. i like to call castro a born hen communist. in many ways he was, when he came back from his trip and realized he was going to have to reach out and embrace other major power in the world, he very quickly started adopting a
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lot of these marxist leninist terminology that he wasn't using before. and it worked. he and khrushchev had a relationship. there is a lot of history here. we are not going to cover all of it. we are going to focus more on our attempts to get rids of him. we will get to the bay of pigs but there were skpeems brought up before the bay of pigs. before 1960, castro takes power on essentially new year's day 1959, if you have seen godfather part two, you know the story. and prior to the eisenhower administration there were some basic schemes -- schemes is a good word here, as you will see, for trying to take castro out. one of them involved a radio station. castro gave broadcasts.
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about once a week he would give a stirring patriotic this is what we are doing inside cuba broadcast to the people inside cuba. one of the early ideas was to spray this radio station with lsd so that when castro was giving his broadcast he would be tripping on acid and say crazy stuff and people would stop following him. then there was the idea of taking his cigars and putting lsd inside his cigars so he would also trip whenever he smoked a cigar. there was an idea to put a substance inside his cigar that would make his hair fall out. they will yum salts inside his shoes, which makes his hair fall out. cuban society was macho. people thought in the united states that if his beard fell out he would lose this matchismo
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and if he had no beard people wouldn't follow him anymore. these are your tax dollars at work. these are the ideas thought up before the big idea, the full-fledged invasion, the bay of pigs. april 1961, when the invasion takes place -- we could talk for hours about this. i won't just because we have other things to talk about. the bay of pigs was designed to take castro out in one fell swoop. the flag you are seeing on here is the flag of the 2506 assault brigade. there is a story. it was named that because each of the members of the brigade had a number not under name. 2506 was the number of the first man who died during training. they named the group after him. there weren't this many people in the brigade. there were only about 1500 people in the brigade that
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attacked cuba. but the idea was to start the number system higher so that if someone was captures they would say what is your name, they will say my them is 2605 they will say oh, my, there are 2600 of you here. deception. it was thought up by administration and happened off and dumped on the kennedy administration because kennedy was a lieutenant during world war ii and eisenhower was a five star general when eisenhower said this is a good plan kennedy didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. that's the nicest thing we say about kennedy. the cubans in miami don't have nice things to say about kennedy because of the bay of pigs. many of them today still refuse to vote for a democratic because of what kennedy did. every one of their statements has a four letter word that i won't say because c-span is covering there.
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the most charitable thing to say is kennedy didn't know what he was getting himself into. it was a failure. members of the brigade were rounded up and captured. in many respects, according to che guevara the bay of pigs helps castro school days his power inside castro. before the bay of pigs there were embryonic movements against castro, but after the bay of pigs he was able to crack down on the opposition moves and really lock in his power. dean rusk, the secretary of state under kennedy said thank you so much for that ridiculous operation, because it allowed us to lock down power inside cuba. so let's look quickly at what went wrong. there was a lot of rushed planning when it came to the bay of i go approximates. we knew through intelligence
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that the soviets were to ship advance weapons to as part of the deal that castro made with khrushchev. we knew we didn't have a lot of time because if we did we would be running up against state-of-the-art weapons. in 1961, they were not going up against state-of-the-art soviet equipment. the idea was let's get in as quickly as we can so we are not running up against top level equipment. the broader problem is the level of security in the bay of pigs invasion. there is a lot to it. one of which is how good cuban counter-intelligence was. as an aside, cuban intelligence is one of the best in the world. i mean per capita, arguably the best in the world. they have a huge advantage. the huge advantage is they only have one external enemy they are
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focused on. us. if the cia only had one country to pay attention to, we would be good at what we do. the cubans only needed to focus on the united states. and they were very, very good at doing it. as many of the refugees passed over the florida straits into miami, estimates vary but there are numbers that say as high as one out of every ten refugees was actually a member of cuban intelligence. when the cuban refugee community in miami was planning this operation there were cuban intelligence assets inside the planning, inside the operation, passing information back to cuba to the point that week before -- actually, it is only five days before the bay of pigs invasion, radio moscow, the equivalent of radio for europe or voice of america broad kags a message saying cuban exiles are about to invade cuba to kick castro out. you would think the united states government would say this is blown.
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they obviously know we are coming, this is a problem. but they don't. they ignore the warning signs. the miami herald was ready to publish a piece weeks before the invasion detailing there was a group of training camps in guatemala of cuban exiles planning to take out castro. and they sat on it. but the fact that the herald knew about this, right, they weren't in any top secret briefings, mapt that everybody knew about this. but even assuming they had good internal security, even assuming that the planning was done well, the plan counted on a popular uprising inside cuba. the idea was that the 1500 men of brigade 2506 would land on the beach and then the cuban people who rise up against castro. this was wishful thinking. there was no popular uprising. there was no rallying in the streets against fidel. really what we ended up with was the men of the brigade defending 40 miles of beach along the long coastline against the entire
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cuban army, plus militia. it didn't go well. this is a picked of me standing on the beach at the bay of pigs. this is a big open beach, d day, it is not where you want to just drop 1500 relatively armed men on the beach against the entire cuban area. it is not a great area for operations. it is not a way to effectively start a revolution. if you don't get through the beachhead, which they don't, you are screwed. you are being pushed back into the sea and there is not much you can do. the problem really stems down to this concept of group think. the plan came up during the eisenhower administration, kennedy said this is a good idea because of course eisenhower is a five-star general. and then no one would stand up and say, mr. president, this is stupid. everyone was convinced that, yeah, the cuban peopl will rise up. that's a great idea. yeah, these 1500 guys can start
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a revolution and defeat castro. that's great idea. no one had -- i don't want to put it on their shoulders to say no one had the courage to stand up, i think it is more that people were just wishful thinking and everyone began wishful thinking that this was going to be a successful operation. let's look quickly -- this is huge, kirkpatrick, the inspector general of the cia did a postmortem after the bay of pigs. it is a massive document but i wanted to pull out key ideas as to why this goes bad. the cia exceeded his capabilities. this is the cia in 1961. during in 1950s, the cia got let's argue too big for its britches. they had a bunch of successful operations around the world overthrowing governments in guatemala and iran, fixing elections in italy. but they are not jet the cia we know and love today. they are not yet at the capability of running a massive paramilitary operation in 1961.
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they get really good during vietnam. they get really good during the vet war on laos but by 1961 they are not there yet. this is not the same thing as fixing an election in italy. this is a massive paramilitary operation. so the idea that the cia is going to run this operation to kick out a very popular president was laughable at this point. let's go to the next red bullet point here. failure to competently collect and analyze intelligence about cuban forces. that's a problem. that's the basics. peter can tell you, that's probably plan number one you should be doing if you are thinking about an invasion of a. they just didn't take the time to do it. it has a lot to do with the presidential transition. and more to do with the fact the cia just didn't know anything about what was happening inside cuba. insufficient spanish speakers. i don't remember one of those guerrilla operations in cuba 101
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kind of things that you should know. and then lack of contingency plans. this is an issue where when the plan went bad, which it did in the very beginning. the "uss houston" was a ship barbouroed from the u.s. navy. it was carrying the am mission and explosives. it was blown up before they got to the grounds. as it was aroaching the bay of pigs it was hit by an artillery round and exploded. there went the ammo, all the heavy weapons. what do you do now? what's plan b? there wasn't a plan b, there was no how do we fix this, how do we get them out of this situation. again not great planning. the bay of pigs is a failure. kennedy fires all of the top leadership of cia including director alan dulles who had been the man who built the cia into what it was at that point.
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dulles falls on his sword in this case. it wasn't necessarily his fault but kennedy felt he needed to clean house and bring in his own team. he does. his own team really begins to take things in a different direction. stead of look at the big huge broad paramilitary actions they start thinking covert. how can we take out castro in a way that's not going to embarrass us if it goes bad and it is not going to get us into a shooting war with the soviets. the answer to that is a problem called operation mongoose. many of you heard of it. it became a catch-all for anything that was focused on destabilizing the cuban government and taking out fidel castro. so there are programs -- out of those 638 different operations -- which is a nonsense number. it is not that high. they are counting everything from when a random cuban tried to do something against casse toe to one of those groups that run around the everglades
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blowing stuff up. these are not all cia operations but any time the cia or anybody else tried to do anything to destabilize the castro regime it came under this broader heading of operation mongoose. mongoose is a multi phased operation. it starts out slow and builds up over time. as we continue to fail to kill castro we are going to get for and more elaborate in our operations. mongoose actually includes three famous name in the history of cia. edward landsdale was the covert action guru within cia. he was the guy who was thinking of all the more interesting ways to do a lot of these what we would consider now because of church and pike and other things unethical operation. i am not going to say he was a bad guy. he was given the parameters, which were essentially do whatever you need to do and took that to the full extent.
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bill harvey is another great example of this. william harvey was another great cia covert operator. more on the paramilitary side. harvey was also somebody who -- there is like 100 of these but harvey was one of the people who was brought up as a potential model that ian fleming used to create james bond. that's where did washington sleep? there is about 100 different people who can say, who did fleming base james bonds on? harvey is somebody that is part of this group. we have it from richard nixon himself. richard nixon said when he and ian fleming sat down and chatted about james bond fleming hold nixon that harvey was an inspiration for the james bond character. now, if you can't trust richard nixon, who can you trust? of course ted shackly. this might ring a bell because shackly it was chief of station in saigon during a lot of the vietnam war. he will become a central figure in the operation mongoose plan
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because before he went to vietnam he was the chief of station in another place, and somewhere that may actually surprise you. we will talk about that in a second. there are some very straightforward attempts at castro's life and i want to get those out of the way before we get to the more elaborate once. there are some let's just shoot the dude that would be in the keep it simple, stupid, theory. one of them, felix rodriguez. you might have heard about him. he is still alive. he lives in miami today. used to be the president the brigade 2506 foundation. he is one of the guys who went in before the bay of pigs invasion, on the gray team, the infiltration team. after the bay of pigs fiasco many of the men who were on that mission were invited to join the u.s. military as officers and also were recruited into cia.
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if he licks took the cia route after the short stipulate with the u.s. army and was recruited by kprai to infiltrate into cuba and shoot fidel castro with a high-powered rifle. castro was given the rifle. three times they tried to get him into the island, three times they failed to actually infiltrate him into cuba. one time he was on a raft, supposed to meet a bigger boat. the boat never showed up. another time a boat showed up, but it was a cuban coast guard boat. so that's a problem. and the third time they were unable to get him close. eventually they scrapped the plan. that those at first they were thinking let's just do it the old-fashioned way. a high powered rifle with bullet can solve our problem. when this failed they went onthe other things. but there is an interesting coda for felix. he had a long and dished career.
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he never got fidel, obviously, but he got an amazing tune as a cuban refugee in 1967 to hunt somebody else down. he was the leader of the cia team that went to bolivia to get this guy. that's che. the man on the left? felix ds ro. this is the last known picture of che guevara alive. taken right before he was executed. he felix got che, not castro. not bad. that's his story. once this doesn't work we start thinking in more elaborate ways. the elaborate planning is not done from langley here in washington, d.c. it is done from a different cia station. where are cia stations generally? are they in idaho? >> overseas.
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>> overseas, right. in moscow, havana, in beijing, except for the cia station in south florida. jm wave. we are going to talk about it as the miami station. this was a cia station in a domestic city, miami, florida. not supposed to be that way, but it was. the during the majority of the 1960s, the largest cia station in the world other than the one right here at headquarters was in miami, not moscow, not beijing, not berlin. in miami, florida. and it exists under the cover name of zenith technical enterprises incorporated. this was a building -- anyone know miami well? good. now i can make stuff up. it was actually over where currently the miami zoo -- kind in an area that used to be an air station in world war ii.
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it had blimps in world war ii in the middle of nowhere. no one with would drive by there. when this zenith company pops up nobody gave it thought. it used to be called other cover names. as benign and boring names as you could come up with to know one would ask. the largest cia station in the world. 300 or 400 officers at its height. that's pretty big. $50 million bucket in 1961 dollars. an annual budget. that's a massive amount of money. not only do you have 300 or 400 people working for cia, but under the auspices of the cia miami location you probably have cubans connected.
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this is a massive enterprise and actually ends up being one of the biggest employers in south florida. miami today, the glitz and glamor and lebron and all that stuff would not exist if it wasn't for fidel castro and the cia. i am not exaggerating. to give you an idea, they had four people at the cia station just working on real estate and managing the properties that the cia owned down in miami. i have the list here. marinas, hunting camps, things like publishing things to make paraphernalia, propaganda, safe houses, all of these things were bought and sold by the cia station. cars. think about this, you bring 300 officers down there and releaking thousands of cubanan expiles, they needed to shop at stores, buy foods.
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the economy of miami went from being sleepy town the a bustling met trop list because of the cia station and fidel castro in the nights 160s. the cia station ran the third largest navy in the caribbean after the u.s. and cuba. access to home state air force base. it was the worst kept secret in miami. i have a great story. my father -- the reason i grew up in miami, my father grew up in miami as well. he was not cia. he was actually a p.e. teacher when he graduated from college. he started out as the least top secret thing in the possible universe. and his college roommate, after they had allstate in miami after they had graduated his college roommate said my car broke down, i need a ride to work. my dad said sure. over here, zenith technical
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enterprises. my dad goes, i didn't know you worked for cia. everybody -- it was the worst kept secret in miami. the cover story didn't mean anything. it was to the point where everybody understood this was where the cia was operating out of to try to kill castro. eventually they had to change their name again because so many people knew what zenith was and they picked something more obscure sounding the mel moore corporation. it was a joke. it wasn't a small building. it is hard to see but this is a massive enterprise. i am going to walk over here. these are big buildings. it took this massive amount of space in miami. these big buildings, it was considered the university of miami south campus. they rented the space from the university of miami. um basically said you keep it,
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you basically transform it now completely into a government-run facility. it is all yours. this was not something you could keep secret. it is one thing if you have a safe house or two out in the middle of the woods. it is another thing when you have got 400 case officers and several thousand cubans going in and out of this compounds in south miami. there are stories of them going out and training in the ever blades. they are pulled over by florida state troopers, the trooper looking in the back of the station wagon and seeing 57 millimeter anti-coil weapons back in the back of the car and going nudge, nudge, wink, wink, go about your business. it is not that surprising because you are speaking in a heavy cuban accent and you are out near the cia station. operations started from the cia
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station in a way that again if you have seen godfather part two you might be anticipating. the face one of operation mongoose used the mob as their heavy hitters. this didn't really start off as an elaborate plan. this was an attempt by the cia to keep things simple. they wanted the mob to talk up behind castro one day with a 38 snub nose and shoot him in the back of the head. a gangland mob style killing. the mob doesn't have suicide bombers, they said no, this is a way to get ourselves killed. so they demanded a more cia whiz bang bond way of taking hmm out. the points of contact between the mob and the cia were ricely and trop can'te. ricely was a middle management
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mob guy that knew everybody. the joe pesci in good fellas. he knew all the mob people. wasn't made, wasn't at the highest levels but he could be a good middle monarchs goo between between all the mob bosses he was the point of contact to reach out to the head of the mob in chicago, jacante. this is old school, al capone's basic descendant, in charge of the mob in chicago. as big as it gets. if you know the history of the warrant commission and the jfk assassination, sam and jack kennedy shared a girlfriend. that's where the whole did the mob kill kennedy conspiracy came from. we are not going to get near that. but that tells you how made this guy was. trop can'te was the head of the mob in havana in the 1950s. he had a dog in the fight. he was kicked out by castro with the casinos and the mob people.
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these are guys you want to be working with. they are the ones that really really want to get rid of castro. so the cia basically said we have got $150,000 on the line, whoever kills castro, the money is theirs. this was ordered from the very, very top. we are talking about allen dulles before he gets fired by jfk. now dulles would later on say he was in a meeting where they discussed using the mob. no one said the word assassination, no one said bod words. we talked about an intelligence operation. we never said anything about killing the guy. it was dulles's way of saying he had plausible dnlt. but he blessed off on using the mob here. the cia wanted old school style. these guys planned to put botulism inside one of his
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cigars. they had a pin, the idea was to brush past fidel and stick him with a shell fish poison pen. they couldn't get anybody close you have. the idea that was finally put into production a little bit was to take a liquid poison and drop it inside his coffee or tea other thing like that in the version of a small pill. they felt they could get to somebody that served castro his drinks and they could drop a pill inside. this was a decent idea. the problem was, the first pill they created didn't dissolve. so they dropped it in water and it floated around and they are like this ain't going to work all that well. the cia's tech people went back and created a second pill that did dissolve and decided to check lethality on a guinea pig. the problem was that the
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specific type of poison they used guinea pigs were immune to this particular kind of poison. so the guinea pigs were poisoned and they are just like, what? thanks for the drink. they are like oh, man somehow we have to figure out something else. and somebody finally said, well, this poison doesn't work on guinea pigs so maybe we should try it on something else. finally, monkeys, let's try it on a monkey. the monkey croaked and died. they finally have something that can kill castro. the problem, they had an operation to get to somebody who served castro on a day to day basis. that person got cold feet. i am not going to actually do this, this is not something that's going to make my life go on very much longer if i get caught doing this. the idea was, well, castro likes to go to different restaurants. he would frequent a restaurant for a couple of days.
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we have a good pattern, he is going there for lunch a couple days in row. castro would not establish a pattern so the minute they set up an operation to pavin his tea at one restaurant he would start to go to a different restaurant. then another restaurant. they are essentially chasing him around havana trying to find a place to set up an operation to slip this poison into his tea or coffee. in the end it didn't work. so the first initial attempt at killing castro doesn't work. the next slide i am going bring up, i wasn't sure necessarily if i was going to include this or not because operation northwoods -- anyone heard of northwoods before? it is new to all of you. that's good and bad at the same time. northwoods was an operation that was proposed but never carried out. it went all the way up to john
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kennedy. it was created by the joint chiefs of staff and went all the way to the president's desk and the president said, we are not doing this. but the fact that it was proposed has been used by conspiracy theorists to say well if the government was willing to do this they are willing to do anything, fake 9/11 or fake the moon landing or kill kennedy. this is about as corrupt and shady a plan you can possibly think of. i can't believe our joint chiefs of staff came up with. to give you an idea. a list of different ways that we could justify an invasion of cuba to take out castro with the u.s. military. stage execution of cuban exiles. developing a fake terror campaign in miami in washington, d.c. and blame it on the cuban government, as somebody whose father was living in miami and i
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wasn't yet conceived, i am very happy they didn't put this plan into action. they literally were talking about blowing up buildings in miami and blaming it on the cubans. they were also talking about creating a remember the maine incident to blow up -- the maine explodes in 1898 in havana harbor. it probably was an accident but we blamed it on spain and it started the spanish-war. loo, we could blow up another ship and blame it on the cuban government. it would justify an invasion. they also proposed hijacking a civilian airliner and pretending it was the cuban government of doing it. dressing up officers and having them do an assault in guantanamo bay. all of this was listed in a document approved by joint
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chiefs of staff and handed to president kennedy. kennedy, to give him credit, said are you out of your minds? we are not this country. we don't do stuff like this. how did it get to that level? how did it not get stopped before it got to the desk of the president. operation northwoods is still used by the conspiracy nutters out there to say if we are willing to do this, what else are we willing to do? this was a plan that was a little over the top. but it doesn't mean we didn't try other ridiculous things to try to kill castro. one of my favorites is the story of james donovan. anyone know the name james donovan? you have seen bridge of spice? tom hanks plays jim donovan in bridge of spice. he is famous for a lot of things. he is actually the general counsel for the oss during world war ii. he was also a lawyer for an organization called the osrd which focused on high-tech
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military research and development during world war ii. he later worked for the newer emberg trials. and then of course he was the guy who negotiated the release of francis gary powers, the trade for rudolph abul. he was tasked again by the u.s. government to go negotiate the release of the bay of pigs survivors who had been captured by the cubans. we sent him over to negotiate with castro to get these hundreds of cuban exiles that fought in the bay of pigs released back to the united states. the cia said look you are going to be in the same room with castro, he loves to go scuba driving, we want you to give him this wet suit. donovan is why am i giving him this wet suit? he was told it has a fungus on it that will give him a massive skin rash and inside the snorkle is tuberculosis.
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donovan said i am not going to poison this man. donovan went out and wrote a brand-new wet suit and gave that one to koss trae. the cia was annoyed. that was the first attempt. the other one was tied to the fact that castro loved to go skin diving and scuba diving. essentially the idea would be if you have seen our lump of coal inside the museum, it is a plastic explosive that's in the shape of a lump of coal that you could put next to a railroad line. the idea was to create a fake sea shell made out of explosive and make it amazing in color so castro would pick it up and then when he did, it would blow him up. this is very much james wond. and this is nonsense. they couldn't figure out a way to put it in a place that he would be guaranteed to pick it up. they also couldn't create an
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effective sea shil shell that would be big enough to create his death. and if they created one that was so beautiful it would be so ridiculously fake that there was no way castro would pick it up. it was scrapped. there was also a plan of using a woman who was jilted by fidel. she was really pissed. she's mad enough that the cia reached out to her and said do you want to get back to the fidel? we want you to kill him for us. she agreed. we sent her back in. she walked -- this shows how bad our operational security was, when she walked in the room fidel said you are here to kill me, aren't you? he knew it was coming. she broke down crying said i am sorry, commandante and he gave her a certain look and then they jumped into bed together and
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then they were lovers again. that didn't out all that well either. then there was a program called a.m. lash. this is the idea of using a poison pen. we have one of these in the actual collection. it looks like a normal ballpoint pen but there is a hypodermic needle that you can fill with a disease or biotoxin and you can stab the person with it. the interesting part about this, this plan was being hashed probably the exact same moment as john kennedy was being shot in dallas. so as one president is being assassinated there was a plan being hatched in paris for another assassination taking place. and then everyone has heard the story of the exploding cigar. the witness i have this last is it's somewhat hypocaful. it is likely we tried to to this, when he lit it it would explode in his face. it is difficult to do. just like the cigar with
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botulism it would be hard to plan plant on his person, inside his cigars. wanted to point out that creating a an exploding cigar is an idea that was thought of before. it was not a brand-new idea the cia concocted. it was thought up by a very important person who decided this was a great way of taking care of his enemies. of course that's bugs bunny. daffy duck is lighting a cigar, and then actually jerry and tom. guys, literally, this plan is out of looney tunes. the cia is pulling stuff out of cartoons and trying it. i don't know if there is a chicken and egg argument here. but exploding cigars is not something that an agency that takes itself seriously is concocting. i want to make a side note here because there is something we have to understand, that this is out of pure desperation. this is not let's think of the
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most ridiculous thing we can possibly do. this is let's think of any possible way we can find to take out castro because we were desperate to do so. sometimes desperation leads to amazing innovations, leads to the sr-71, sometimes desperation leads to the internet. other times, desperation leads to exploding cigars. it depends on what direction you take it in. so that's really the end of the cia type operation. there is about 50 other groups that tried to kill castro over time and failed in their own especially ways. but i want highlight one because one guy got very, very close several times. luis pasada corillas. he was a member of 2506 and went to the u.s. army wafr yards. it is hard to read this. this was his picture when he was inducted into the u.s. army. it says he was part of brigade 2506, the intelligence officer. there was an original spook who
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had been working against castro since the beginning. he was somebody that was as hard core anti-castro as it got. he was able to get very close to taking out fidel castro. let me give you a little bit of his backgrounds before we talk about panama specific cleechlt he was known to work with a man named orlando bosch, another cuban exile. they worked closely together to try to disrupt the cuban economy, disrupt the cuban government, to kill fidel. they are both wanted still, to this day, although bosch is now dead, but they are still both considered the ring leaders behind the bombing and destruction of cuban airlines flight 455. it was a commercial aircraft that was carrying a chunk of the kouban fencing team from the pan american games. they won the gold medal and the plane he can proceeded in the
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area and bosch and his partner were the ones who got the bomb on the plane. the idea was to kill cuban officials. many of them are completely unapologetic about their targets. tees are people that are considered terrorists even by the u.s. government. in many respects they are heroes to the cuban exile cubans because they are the only ones taking it to the cuban government. he was the deputy to felix when felix was working as an independent contractor in el salvador helping to fund the anti-communist forces. iran contra comes around, depending on who you ask, felix kind of washed his hands of iran contra but pa sadda jumped in with both feet and was wrapped up in iran contra.
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there were tourist bombings in havana and other places in 1997 that are traced to pa sadda. the interesting thing for the spy museum is right after the 1997 tourist bombings, the fbi went into havana to help do the investigation of these tourist bombings and instead of really investigating them all that deeply, they were able to uncover the evidence that led to the arrest of the cuban five here in the united states. so even the fbi who dictated carillas and others as terrorists didn't take it all that seriously, they use the opportunity to go inside cuba troo try to capture the cuban spy who is were spying into the united states. the panama plot is where he almost got castro n. panama city, carillas was discovered
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right before he had the opportunity place 200 pounds of explosives in the lectern that castro was about to give a speech at. and right before. and this is -- i mean, can you imagine the kind of destruction that would have done. >> and he got close enough that they arrested him on the premises as he was trying to plant these bombs. he got close enough. he was captured jailed by panama and later pardoned. that's not really all that against the law. he is trying to kill castro. the fact that somebody with this rap sheet was par donned and is now living his retirement in miami as free man tells you about the person that and our ally's attitude towards people who tried to take out castro in our name. and then we look at some of the precautions that fidel took until the very end of his life. it became much much more difficult after mid 1960s, late
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1960s to even consider going after castro. he employed food tasters. this was smart. right? you want somebody to eat your food first so you don't drop dead of poison? >> this is what a lot of dictators do nowadays, hey, drink this water first, see if it tastes funny. he also had his gifts screened. this is pour modern. as he got sick a lot of people sent him gifts, every one of them were opened up and taken apart to make sure there weren't any exploing cigars. he loved to walk around havana. that made him a person of the people, he would take strolls and talk to the average citizen. well, after the couple first assassination attempts, he stopped doing that. he was really holed up inside several compounds inside cuba outside of havana -- before he died i was there in the springtime, i guess, and you would drive by these areas and
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there would just be back off the main street there would be a street that would have a big gate on it and there would be military vehicles outside of the gate. that's one of fidel's houses. no one actually ever knew where he was. i asked the question, where does fidel live? nobody knows. even the cuban people didn't note. they know where his houses were, he were easily identifiable. but no one except his top, top people knew which he was in at any time. he had body doubles, people who looked like him. in case you wanted to shoot somebody you would hit the body double. and as i said, he had body doubles. -- multiple residences. he had a healthy appetite for female companion ship, cigars, and he had so many people trying to kill him.
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the fact that he was constantly on the move, connecticut stantley under the stress he was going to be assassinated constantly worried about his country being invaded by the united states. i am not admiring the man but i am saying his longevity is extraordinary. the fact he lived as long as he did. i am going to end with my favorite story. it might be true. it comes from the telephone game of stories. the joke is one time castro was given a galapagos turtle as a gift, fidel, these turtles live up to 100 years. the story is, he gave the turtle back, that's the problem with pets, you get attached to them, and then they die on you. to me it sums everything up. that no matter what you tried to do he was going to keep on kicking. really it was old age that got
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him in the ends. i asked this question, fidel has retired, but has he really retired? raul was running things the last couple years. when something big came up he got on the phone and said let's do it this way, but the final thing that got him was just he lived a long and exciting life, and then operation wait for him to get really really old and eventually he will die came and finally got fidel for us. i will open up to any questions. i will be happy to answer anything for you. we have two mics that are going to go around. emphasis on how much high level emphasis there was, i seem to remember being told that when robert kennedy was lieutenant general on his way home to hillary clinton rehill every day almost every day he would stop at the headquarters to talk about this. i think that's something worth pointing out, that this was --
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obviously the attorney general but also the white house was extremely interested. >> i mean, it really became an unnatural obsession, this little country that had no national impact. they finished nationalizing everything. businesses were screwed one way or the another. granted once the soviets were there as a military unit, they became a little bit more of a national security threat but until there were missiles there, they weren't at all. we have been holding on -- this is me politicking, we have been holding on to this idea that cuba is a national security threat. and they are not. enter an intelligence threat. that's another ball game. their intelligence operations are amazing. the cuban five is a great story. they were arrested for spying. they didn't get life in prison because they had an interesting defense. they said we weren't spying on the united states, we were spying on the cuban he can i
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will community. you know, that's about as logical a response as you can get. castro was worried about the exile community coming in and inviting. sure he was worried a little bit about the united states military, after a certain point, after we pledged not to invade and it looked like we were not going to do it for a while it was really the exile community behind the cia that the worry was. but it is interesting to see how obsessed the kennedy administration got. i think it goes back to the bay of pigs. that embarrassment played to the psyche of kennedy. it made him distrust cia. until the cuban missile crisis when he got a little bit of faith back this the intelligence agencies it put a whack on his belief in competency coming from langley. someone over here? shauna? she's coming up with the microphone. >> hi, i have a little bit of a side question. by way of background, i worked
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on the internet for 40 years and on doing research on a book for the internet. i was wondering could you explain what you need when you said desperation led to the internet? seriously. that's something i have never heard and i worked on the internet since the very beginning. what is your source? >> when you are looking at arpa net the idea was can we create a fast and finish way to communicate, communicate securely. that's what darpa was trying to create. i am talking about desperation at highest levels. desperation at highest levels, cold war broader desperation, the idea that we need to create tech followings that will give us a leg up on what the soviets are doing. do you want to try to claim that the internet is the a civilian -- >> first up, internet and arpa net are two different things. they have to be. >> the worldwide web and the
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internet are different things. >> and the arpa net and the internet are different things. i will get off of it and talk to you about it later. but i believe what you said is factually incorrect based on interviews with people involved this darpa in the '70s. it is not the bowling green massacre but i think you are not right. >> all right. i am. but that's fine. >> it is always good to hear vince shamed publicly. >> you are assuming i have the ability to feel shame. >> you are right. we loved it. >> there were all these plans to kill castro. was there any plan what happened if they worked? no. >> a follow-up plan? >> there were contin jntsy plans, the idea of government in exile kind of thing, like who would be in charge. the problem you run is that by
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the time mid '60s comes around there were a lot of claims to the throne from the exile community. it would be a power vacuum like no other. well, we have seen some recently that were pretty nasty but there would be a significant power vacuum. even if castro gets killed, raul steps in, che steps in. the idea was to cull the cult of permit of castro. his charisma is what rallied the people behind them. if you cut off the head the people will rise up. that point it was unlikely especially after bay of pigs because what castro did was to consolidate and bring four not just under him, under the government, under the system that had been created. it is a counter-factual conversation that if castro was killed in 1965, would it have made a difference? some people say yes, but there is a lot of strong evidence that
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says where you are in a position where castro dies doesn't mean the government collapsed. it would go on, especially in that case with raul or che in charge. economy was never kinds of a political leader, more of an ideas guy, but raul could have stepped in, or somebody else. at the very beginning that made more sense, right, when castro was still consolidating his power. taking him out would have had a huge impact because he was the guy who everyone rallied behind. as government became more bureaucratic,er more like a government it wouldn't necessarily have been a game changer i don't think. there were contingency plans but i don't think they were realistic and it would have been chaos basically tens of thousands of miami cubans rushing back to try to take their property back, to try to -- who is in charge. there was a hierarchy within the
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miami exile community but there were splinter groups broken off that didn't believe in that hierarchy. it was difficult. it would have been interesting. i say it in a sardonic way. it would have been bonkers if i had happened. >> i know you tried to avoid the subject of kennedy's assassination. but i am curious, in your humble and speculative opinion, do you think either the cuban government and or cuban exisles had anything to do with the assassination? >> i don't think the exile community had anything to do with the assassination. they were mad. but i am a firm believer that lee harvey oswald pulled the trigger three times. and there is no evidence whatsoever that he had ties to the cuban exile community. there is evidence he had ties to the cuban government. but i think fidel would have let
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us know. he's that kind of guy. i think as he got older, he would have been like, do you know what i did? he had nothing to lose at that point. i think conspiracies, unless they can be -- i know this is kind of a trite comment. i am a firm believer in the accom's razor idea in a the simplest solution is usually the right solution. really he could have taken that shot, all three of those shots. the physics work, there is no reason to bring any conspiracy into this. oswald was a deranged young man who thought killing kennedy was a good idea to help the soviets and the cubans. maybe they had something to do with it but it is not in their best interest. if somehow we find out it was the cuba government we would turn cuba into a parking lot. same with the soviets. i look back at the zimmermann
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telegram. really what gets world war i started the german government said to mexico, attack the united states. mexico is like you are out your mind. i could see the cubans doing something similar even if he is warld went to them and said i want your help assassinating kennedy. he would be like no, no, no we are on decent terms. we just agreed to the invade. castro was annoyed that the russians pulled all of their missiles out. but his number one goal was to make sure the government and people stayed under his power. and he just accomplished that. killing kennedy opens it up for a reversal of that. because that would be the only invasion in american history with 100% approval rating. if the subban government was proven to be behind the kennedy assassination, everybody sign up, and go.
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there doesn't seem to be a reason for either of those governments to be involved. but i could be wrong. right? i mean, who knows? amanda is in charge. >> i am kinds of interested in the later history, when or if we sort of stopped worrying about assassinating fidel and decided to wait him out. >> well, so, the miami station was basically shut down or dropped down to very few people by 1968. we were more focused on vietnam at that point. shackly had been moved to the saigon station chief. vietnam became our number one priority. by 1975 with the church and pike hearings where a lot of these assassination plots were revealed to the public for the first time and then you get something like executive order 12333, peter alluded to this and he talked about these things seem to be kinds of commonplace
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today but we are not offing political leaders today. actually that was because of what comes out of the mid 1970s decisions where it is now illegal for us to assassinate political leaders. we get around that because al qaeda and other thing around political leaders. these are terrorists. but it became actually illegal in the united states for us to target castro. that doesn't mean he wasn't targeted but it wasn't a u.s. government policy. you have groups like alpha 66. i hope none of them are watching c-span right now. of a if a 66 is a group of now very old men who run around the everglades shooting leaves and alligators and stuff getting ready for the time when they can go and invade and take their country back. you know, there were attempts like what carillas did, alpha 66 tried to plan a real operation but none of them were backed by the u.s. government. because there is no reason at
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that point. i think people in the high levels of the intelligence and defense world realized that cuba was not an issue anymore. this is especially true once the soviet union begins fall. the soviet union was the reason cuba was considered a national security threat. certainly by the 1980s cuba is not something you are paying a lot of attention to. now, why do people keep paying attention to it? because from needed to be won in national elections and south florida needed to be won if florida was going to be won and you had a ton of cuban voters in south florida who are going to keep for keeping the embargo, anti-castro policies, if you wanted to win cuba as a ran you needed to be talking about how bad castro was. you see the reagan and bush administrations even clinton talking about how bad castro is. because if you want win the united states presidency, you need to win florida.
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until very recently, cuban americans now only make up 49% of hispanics in south florida. they are not the majority of hispanics in south florida anymore. and many of the younger cubans -- sons and grandsons and daughters and granddaughters of the exiles are actually not still pissed off at john kennedy and are willing to vote like young people, more democratic. that's why you are seeing a shift towards a lightening of sanctions, towards the thaw that started with the clinton administration and before because politics in america started to change. but you could argue that it stayed the way it did so long because of political reasons not because of national security reasons. most of the community realized that cuba was not a threat. by the mid 60s most people realized this. does that answer the question?
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yes. i thought we were going to go to this side. then we will come back over here. >> any speculation on your part as to what happens in cuba when raul eventually dies? >> well, they have a designated successor, a guy lined up in his 50s. with the trend, he has 40 years that he can be in charge. there is a designated talked to said that doesn't necessarily mean anything. because when raul dies there will be a little bit of a tussle to be in charge but there is a hand picked successor who has a leg up at this point. he's a younger guy but not a big reformer. the likelihood is that he'll be keep the policies the same way they are today. but they were smart enough to realize that they needed to kind of name somebody, his job, he's like the attorney general or a high level government official that has been named by raul as
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when i step down. that is probably what will happen. raul is not dying any time soon. he's pretty healthy. when i step down, this is the person that will take over. theoretically we're supposed to have elections for this stuff. they do technically have elections. fidel won with like 98.9% of the vote every single time. probably raul was the only person that voted against him. and you know, so it is a democracy but they're basically saying this guy is in charge next so there is not a whole lot of democracy involved there. but it should be a relatively peaceful transition. theoretically. it never is perfect. you went from one brother to the other and that went pretty well. but a lot of the cuban people are a little worried about that because they said that if raul does die, there is no one really around any more to put the power behind this guy. so there might be a little bit of a power struggle. but it is unlikely because most people basically said this is the next person in line. and you could actually google,
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it is michael something or other, miguel or something or other. i'll pay attention to him when it is time. i have enough things to worry about. but there are people at cia paying a lot of attention to him right now because the designated next guy. >> i understand that rafael trujillo was assassinated as a cia operation i think in may 1961 and my question is did any -- was there any overlap in those who plotted trujillo's assassination with those attempted to kill castro. >> it depends on what level. and when you're looking at plotting at the highest level of the cia, you have the same couple of people who were making these decisions. you have the deputy director of operations and the director of plans. when did that shift? plans to operations, peter, it was still plans at the time. ddp, plans like bill harvey and
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landsdale and others making the operations at the actual -- or the people overlap on the ground, no. the plan for castro was done with cuban exiles first and foremost. they only cared about cuba and that is -- they're great because they have a singular focus and they were really, really dedicated. they still are really, really dedicated to this day. castro dying, they had a celebration and said who is next. it is raul. it is cuba -- cuba is not free until cuba is free. for a long time it was a cult of fidel but i think they realized like everybody else is now becomes the government of fidel and until the government of fidel is brought down, then there is no freedom. and you got to think, these guys for 60 years now have been the same thing, as passionate as they've ever been. and that is pretty
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extraordinary. just as extraordinary as the longevity of fidel, the longevity of their passion. i could understand. look, i never have my homeland taken away from me. i would be pretty annoyed about it and want to do something about it that is the situation here with the excites communities down in florida. does that answer your question. to a degree. from the highest levels of the cia, we're talking about the same people. beyond that, they're farming it out to different groups. it is always good to use internal people if you can. the likelihood for a lot of reasons. basically it is legitimacy of governments gets somewhat dinged up if people come in from the outside. so you want to use dominicans and when you want to use gauta mallans and use cubans when you use cubans and it is not good to cross pollinate if you bring in people from the outside. especially in the latin american
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communities. latin american communities are most prideful in their own background and would you be surprised, maybe not, but i was surprised to hear and see how derogatory they could be toward other communities. you know, for people from idaho, hispanic is a hispanic. that certainly is not the case. central americans have different ideas for south americans and south americans have different and caribbeans think they're better or worse than others and they think they're european. there is this hierarchy that every country has that is different and that is dangerous to do a cross pollination. that is a long winded answer but hopefully what you were looking for. any other questions? right here. >> thank you. we're actually down there last year and we actually went
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snorkeling in the bay of pigs which is a beautiful -- >> it is gorgeous. >> it is a nature preserve now and everything. but when they told us when we were down there, not only has he named a successor in february of 2018 is designated the date that he is resigning. that is what they say. >> we'll see. >> and my question is, towards the end when obama and others, they have the -- was there a split at all between raul and fidel over that and after that what do you think the repercussions of the new administration are going to be with regard to cuba? >> well, so, there wasn't a big split. basically fidel with the perfect mouth piece at that point, if you remember when the rush mont took place, fidel came out and ripped the united states and said i understand that is happening but the u.s. is not the great satan, but the same
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idea. they're the bain of our existence. and this is his mantra from the very beginning. when castro was in power, you didn't have this -- and fidel was in power, you didn't have that handshake because the easiest thing for fidel to do was to blame the united states for all of the problems of cuba. the one thing that i always argued against the embargo was your feeding right into his hands. because the cuban people don't have the food they need, it is because the americans are embargoing you. they don't have the freedom they need because we have to protest against the americans and it is the american's fault. so we were the boogeyman that castro could point to and say your problems are because of them. now raul is in a position where he still could kind of tweak that but it is much por difficult for him to say it's because of the americans. an that is what obama did, was
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make it to where they couldn't use us as a boogeyman any more. they still can because you have the physical embargo still there. it has been lightened. we could travel down there, wet foot, dry foot was ended at the end of the obama administration. it was a interesting policy for immigration. that for cuban, only cubans, that if you're caught crossing from the cuba to the united states, and you're in a boat still and you're still in the water, we'll pick you up and send you back to cuba. but the minute you step foot on dry land, you could stay. so literally if this is the water line and i'm standing on miami beach, and this is the water line, the waves are coming in, if the u.s. coast guard catches me three feet into the water, they ship me back to cuba. but if i'm running and i lay out and i dive and make it on to the beach, i have asylum. that is wet foot, dry foot. it is the most ridiculous policy but it was done for cuba. one of the last things that the
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obama administration did was end wet foot dry foot and it puts cuban exiles or cuban, any trying to travel to the united states from cuba on the same footing as everybody else trying to get political asylum. so what the obama administration was trying to do, and i agree with that not because i'm a democrat, but because studying cuban policy for decades is try to take away that target, the takeaway of that excuse for the cuban government by saying your problems are because of the united states. and there is a lot of problems in cuba. they've got some issues. i don't know where you stayed when you were there. there is about a one mile -- one square mile area in havana that is gorgeous. it is like your in venice. it is cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes and gorgeous buildings, no trash anywhere, art sculptures, it is beautiful. you go outside of that area and
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you're back in the 1950s. and there is nothing done about anything people living in poverty. the craziest thing, everyone walks down the middle of the street. why are you walking down the middle of the street. they're afraid to walk on the sidewalks because balconies fall on people and kill them. it is eitherer to fodder through traffic than to dodge falling balconies on people. we also stayed we stayed with people in the not so nice area and down the street a house collapsed while they were in it and they don't fix it. they pull the bodies out and leave it because there is no money to fix anything. like i said, all of the doctors are doctors are amazing but they're all in venezuela because they were sent there. >> [ inaudible ]. >> now venezuela collapsed, they may get their doctors back. but when russia pulled out, they needed oil so they basicallyicly traded doctors for oil.
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so you hear about the great medical schools, they don't have any doctors there that know what they're doing. the fact is their doctors make less money per month than i do in a day. and so a lot of times they, doctors will come back from the hospital and have to clean somebody's house to make extra money to feed their families. that is cuba today. for decades, like i was saying, fidel was able to say it is their fault because of the embargo, because of the policies of the united states. by getting rid of that stuff, there is no one to blame but themselves and i think that is one of the great things of trying to change these cuban policies. >> yeah but, is the current administration -- >> if you asked me can i get inside of donald trump head, i would say i don't want to get inside. nightmarish for weeks. but i have no idea what he will say or do next or any of that.
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>> [ inaudible ]. >> what the obama administration did was made it difficult to kind of roll some of the stuff back. particularly when the -- some within the south florida cuban community were very happy about this and you have people visiting and you have people sending money who weren't able to send money before, and seeing family they weren't able to see before. rolling this stuff back at this point, the world didn't end. the world didn't end. we opened up cuba a little bit and the world didn't end. so the people are like there goes that boogeyman. i can't imagine it is high on the priority list but none of this -- i thought russian hacking was high on the priorities list. so you're asking me to predict what the trump administration does. i don't have my crystal ball here. i can't do that. i hope they continue. it sounds like from those i know at state, it sounds like rex tillerson, despite the fact that he was the exxon ceo and knows what he's doing. or at least is willing to learn,
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willing to take the job seriously and state department is the key behind all of this. at this point it is not military intelligence any more, it is state department. and if state goes to the president, you would think and said, look, we just need to keep doing what we're doing. it is working, it is benefiting it and american businesses may be able to move in there sooner rather than later and we'll get you a nice car or whatever you need to do. then i think we're in good shape. and it is not just about wanting to go down there on the vacation but this is an island with amazing culture, great baseball players. there is a lot there. and it is not just music, it is not just culture, they're 90 miles away. it is a wonderful place that before castro took power, it was fantastic. it was a -- the mob was there, that was bad. batista there, he was a tyrant. but it is a caribbean paradise 90 miles from key west.
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so it is something that i hope could continue there this direction but i can't predict that stuff. if anybody could, god bless you. you'll make a lot of money. but i can't be that person. time for one more question. all right. >> i want to cut to the chase on the desperate to do so, to what extent do historians now believe that john kennedy directly ordered the assassinations? as you know, apologists, they haven't acknowledged it and evan thomas of his biography of robert kennedy said there is no evidence. what is the current state of evidence whether john kennedy tacitly explicitly or directly said go get him? >> directly. the cia is not going to make those decisions on their own. even before church and pike, nowadays any kind of covert action has to be blessed off by the president with the presidential finding and that is not the case in the beginning of
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kennedy administration. but under dulles, they're not going to make these kind of decisions because dulles does have free run over eisenhower and not nur kennedy and specifically under cone. he filed dulles at the very beginning of his president. he becomes president in january of 1961 and bay of pigs is a couple of months later and dulles is later and mccone is the hand picked replacement. mccone will not do anything without the blessing of at least bobby. there might be times when we only get to bobby kennedy, the attorney general, but there is no evidence they didn't talk about everything together. so i would say we're almost guaranteeds there is explicit blessing and i would say it is more explicit. kennedy may have not said let's put a bullet in his head. but i think we could listen to the ex com communications from the cuban missile crisis where they talked about stuff like we
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tried to get rid of that guy. we need to get rid of that guy. they're not saying what caliber rifle to use but they're saying we need to kill the dude and i think that is pretty explicit in my book. and they're historians and i get that. i don't think it makes kennedy any worse. i think people are trying to rehabilitate some kind of camelot out of this. sea more hurst took that down, if you read dark side of camelot. this is what we did. if it wasn't kennedy, it would have been nixon. it was eisenhower before that and johnson after that. this was the american way of doing war. without actually doing war. and until church and pike made that explicitly illegal, there was nothing -- we're using hindsight to say that is a bad thing, right. it is the way we did things and we did it very successfully. iran was still going well in the 1960s, until '79 when we
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shouldn't have gotten moss deck out there. and when we went to -- we blessed off on that also if vietnam. that was a smart move. and so knocking off leaders was a legitimate foreign policy decision. and it was a choice that we could make at the time that made some sense at times. and, look, again, like i said in the very beginning, if we killed castro at beginning, it could have ended things before they even started. by '63, '64, not so much and certainly after that. but if you have taken castro out and build his government, it could have fallen. again, it is counter factual history, who the hell knows. but there is an argument to be made that the cult of personality at that time was so strong that it was all based on charisma and his ability to lead that chopping off the head in early stage would have made a huge difference. all right. that is all of the time i got. thank you all. >> thank you very much.
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terrific presentation. [ applause ] >> good job. >> thank you all for coming. have a great rest of your day. tens of thousands of anti-vietnam war protesters converged on washington, d.c. in may of 1971. more than 7,000 of them were arrested in a single day. tonight on american history tv, we look back 50 years at the forces that collided on the capitol streets that spring with journalist laurent roberts, the aumor of mayday 1971, a white house at war, a revolt in the streets and the untold history of america's biggest mass arrest. at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. on april 17th, 1961, a force of more than 1,400 cia trained cuban exiles launched an invasion at the bay of pigs on the southern coast of cuba.
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they're goal was the over throw of fidel castro who had taken power only two years earlier in the cuban revolution. coming up, we look back 60 years at the failed invasion and its consequences. our guest is former cia historian nicholas dujmovic who now heads the intelligence studies program. but first a universal news reel reporting on the early stages of the attack. >> the assault has begun on the dictatorship of fidel castro. cuban army planets opened the first phase with bombing raids on three military bases. two of the b-26 life bombers then seek asylum in florida. only heels of the air raids, landings were effected by rebels at several places on the cuban coast and the rebellion against the dictator was on. with the refugee pilot claiming a full scale army

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