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General News    H2'ed 6/10/15

The Hidden Castro Assassination Plots

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The Hidden Castro Plots: Not A Surprise, But Revealing

The most famous attempts to kill Castro in the early 1960s were the plots revealed by the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s. Exposed were a few of the schemes dreamed up by renowned CIA spymasters Bill Harvey, David Morales and other CIA officers. What was learned by the public was only the outer surface of a much bigger story.

The author has conducted new research on two other operations designed to kill Castro. Operation Patty and Operation Liborio were based in military intelligence and in specialized "nets" within Cuba. At least one of the officers running these other operations met up with David Morales in 1962, where they had an opportunity to "talk shop".

Operations Patty and Liborio, both staged during 1961, were not revealed during the "limited hangout" conducted by the Agency during the 1970s. After Cuban intelligence chief Fabian Escalante wrote about these programs, the author took a look at how much supporting documentation existed in US intelligence files. The result of that research is that Patty and Liborio are important windows into the history of US covert operations in Cuba and the milieu that conceived the JFK assassination.

The Cuban government holds additional information about these operations. As diplomatic relations normalize between our two countries, the Cubans should be encouraged to consider releasing documents that will shed further light about this troubled history.

How extensive were these operations? Statistics do exist. The Kennedy brothers conducted one hundred and sixty-three major covert operations in less than three years, with RFK as the unofficial chief of covert ops. By comparison, Eisenhower conducted one hundred and seventy major covert operations in eight years. [i]

The Kennedys denied any knowledge of any of the Castro plots, except to order them stopped when they got wind of them. It is well-documented that Eisenhower approved efforts to kill Congo leader Patrice Lumumba, and perhaps others as well.

Operation Patty

In 1961, the plans of anti-Castro leaders to assassinate Fidel and Raul Castro coalesced with Navy intelligence during "Operation Patty".

Initially, the spotlight is properly focused on Luis Balbuena, who was with Cuban army intelligence until 1960. He defected after Castro seized his family's dairy farm. After Cuba division officer Joe Piccolo decided that the CIA had no operational interest in Luis Balbuena in late 1960, the Navy scooped up Balbuena a few days later. [ii]

Balbuena was a member of the first anti-Castro group inside Cuba, known as the MRR (Movimento de Recuperacion Revolucionaria). MRR was headed by Manuel Artime. Artime had defected to the US in 1959, only to be captured by the Cubans during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Balbuena was also part of an anti-Castro organization secretly active inside Guantanamo Naval Base. Balbuena was in direct contact with base commander Hal Feeney.

A document describes Balbuena as active in what is described as "Operation Betty". [iii] Operation Patty was its real name -- it was also known as "Patty-Candela", because the planners were hoping that the operation would catch on fire. [iv]

Operation Patty was set for the new Cuban holiday of July 26, 1961, when Fidel Castro's failed assault on the Moncada barracks signaled the beginning of armed resistance against the Batista regime. On that day, Raul Castro would be shot with a machine gun at a stadium in Santiago. Simultaneously, Fidel Castro would be attacked with a mortar in Havana. Immediately after these attacks, there would be an attack on the Guantanamo Base itself, designed to look like a retaliatory strike by the Cuban military. After Operation Patty was broken up, Che Guevara charged that this provocation was designed to serve as an excuse for a US invasion of Cuba. [v]


A brief digression is important here, as the notion of a staged attack on Guantanamo had been around for some time.

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Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney and an antiwar activist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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