Kennedy conspiracy Part II: The Cuban connection is still in Miami and Dallas

Campaign News | Saturday, 21 January 2006

By Gabriel Molina, Editor of Granma International

A SUDDEN silence increased the severity of the large, high-ceilinged room in Capitol Hill, Washington, when the wide doors opened to admit a slow-walking man of average height in his sixties, impeccably dressed in a gray cashmere three-piece suit, white shirt, diagonally-striped tie and narrow-brimmed hat.

Santos Trafficante Jr, the Cosa Nostra Godfather in southwest Florida had lost a lot of the assuredness and slenderness he boasted 20 years earlier in Havana.

I vividly remember that scene and am recreating it now, even though most of the international media has virtually rejected the recent German public television documentary given the evidence concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy obtained by a serious investigation like that of the U.S. Congress Select Committee. It is worthwhile return to the theme as they are still harping on it in Miami, which is logical enough as it is one link in a chain, in a conspiracy there that is close to 50 years old. And because a serious daily like the Mexican La Jornada - at least in its digital edition - edited by my friend Carmen Lira, has published an article by Eva Usi, taking up the Cuban connection along Wilfried Huismann’s lines.

In effect, there is a Cuban connection, which was minutely investigated by the Select Committee, and it comes from the arm of the infamous Cosa Nostra.

The Select Committee summonsed the notorious Mafiosi capo who never served a sentence to appear before one of its sessions in Washington. The semblance was of a severe Santos Trafficante, annoyed because his Cuban connections had once again put him on the spot in that fall of 1978. But this time it was dealing with something even more dangerous than when he was caught up in the Church Committee hearings of 1974 and 1975, and his recruitment by the CIA in order to assassinate the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, came to light.

This time it was an attempt to clarify, 15 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the indications that openly pointed to a conspiracy rather than a lone assassin. And the possible participation of members of the Italian-U.S. mafia.

Among the dozens of us journalists and investigators covering the hearings, his appearance prompted much anticipation.

The former “gambling and drug-trafficking czar” in Havana had become even more famous on his return to Florida, given that his empire, far from ending with the closing down of mafia activities in Cuba in 1959, was fortified in Miami and extended to Latin America and the Caribbean during the 60s and 70s.

In the earlier session, which Trafficante declined to attend, his old associate, millionaire José Alemán Jr, son of the Cuban ex-minister of education famous for his skilful appropriation of public funds, declared that, in a private conversation in September 1962, his friend Santos had confided to him that President Kennedy was going to be assassinated, and that he had recalled that confidence 12 months later, when the assassination occurred. Alemán confirmed his earlier statement, but changed the terms in which it had been expressed. In this new version, the Godfather had said that “Kennedy was going to hit” and possibly could have meant to say that “he was going to be hit by a large volume of Republican votes in the 1964 elections, not that he was going to be assassinated.”

At the insistence of the congress members, Alemán stated that he feared for his life and for that reason had asked for protection to declare before the Committee. Effectively, two federal police marshals, seated behind him and facing the audience, scrutinized the room with hawk-like eyes.

Somewhat harassed by the interrogation and agitated, Alemán raised his voice to say:

“I informed the authorities of this. I spoke to members of the FBI and told them that something irregular was going on with President Kennedy. I informed the FBI of everything that was going on at the time. Afterwards they told me not to worry, that Oswald was a lone assassin.”


The questioning of Santos Trafficante Jr. commenced on the issue of his participation in assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution. He admitted that he was recruited by the CIA for such a conspiracy.

At the beginning of the hearing the Florida don stated that he would have recourse to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution in order not to make a statement. Congressman Richard Preyer, who chaired the session so that Louis Stokes (president of the Committee) could take the weight of the questioning, said that he would be granted impunity for possible crimes committed in that context, thus obliging him to testify.

Trafficante affirmed that he had been dedicated to the gambling business, but was now retired. He stated that he lived in Havana up until 1959, during the time that casinos were legal in Cuba. He only admitted to owning three: the Sans Souci, Comodoro and Deauville. In response to a question from Stokes he replied that up until 1958 he handed over 50% of his income on the slot machines and other games to the dictator Batista.

The Godfather added that he was interned in the Tiscornia camp in Havana in 1959 along with friends of his like Guiseppe di Giorgi and Jack Lansky, Mayer Lansky’s brother. Trafficante did not want to divulge how much his investments in Cuba were worth. But Stokes stated that Ricardo Escartín, from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, had supplied the Committee with the information that the Havana Riviera alone produced $25 million per year. Trafficante replied that he did not own any interests in the Riviera. In law, he did not appear as the owner. But he ran the casino along with Meyer Lansky, who appeared on the payroll as a kitchen hand.

In relation to the attempts on the life of Fidel Castro, Trafficante added that the first person to make contact with him, on CIA orders, was John Roselli, an influential capo in the show business world, and later Sam Giancana, the don of Chicago.

At the time that he gave evidence to the Select Committee, Trafficante was the sole survivor of the three mafia capos recruited by the CIA to assassinate the president of Cuba. He died years later of natural causes.

Roselli continued getting into trouble with the justice system and alleging his collaboration with the CIA to avoid imprisonment.

For his part, Giancana was given a prison term in 1964. However, less than two years later, during his appeal, a message arrived from Washington from Justice Secretary Katzenbach himself, ordering his release without any explanation. On leaving prison, the Chicago don went to Mexico, possibly meeting the terms of the agreement for his release. He remained there until 1974.

In 1975 Giancana had given his first statement before the Church Committee and was preparing for further appearances, this time before the Congress Select Committee investigating the Kennedy assassination. But he was unable to. He was found in a pool of blood in his home in Oak Park, Illinois, with a shot to his mouth and five to the neck. Some months later Roselli’s corpse turned up inside a barrel in the river.

In synthesis, Trafficante denied having said that Kennedy was going to be “hit” and that he had been involved in the assassination of the president.

When the capo with the self-criticizing surname left the room accompanied by his young lawyer, we journalists went after him. But his lawyer took charge of getting him away. He said nothing more. The sessions continued.

In its investigations the Committee reached the conclusion that Jack Ruby - the author of the death of Oswald - effectively had links with organized crime and with Trafficante, despite his denials.

Among other evidence, their conclusion was derived from telephone calls made by Ruby in 1963, which increased from 25-35 in May to 96 in the first 24 days of November. The majority of them were made to members of the mafia and their associates.


Between June and September of 1963, Ruby made seven long-distance calls to Lewis J. McWillie, a close associate of Trafficante and Meyer Lansky, whom he had visited on various occasions in Havana in 1959. McWillie was working in the Tropicana cabaret casino. The Cuban revolutionary authorities had given Oswald’s killer the immigration cards for his entries and exits. Ruby also called Irwin S. Weiner, the link man between “the Chicago mafia and N. J. Pecora, Marcello’s second in New Orleans and various corrupt trade union leaders.” The Committee also possessed evidence that Ruby managed cabarets in Dallas and acted as a figurehead for the Chicago mafia.

Ruby was also in frequent contact with Lenny Patrick from the Chicago mafia and Giancana’s main lieutenant.

Ruby also had links with David Yaras, the mafia executor who admitted to having met him in 1964, and with David Ferrie, of Cuban origin, Marcello’s pilot who, in his turn used to see Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans. According to the Committee findings, Ferrie, who was a CIA agent, was also in contact with Oswald through the Aerial Civil Patrol Falcon Squadron and a famous New Orleans office on 544 Camp Street, where members of groups acting against the Cuban Revolution, like Guy Bannister, also operated. Oswald had his office for the deceptively titled Fair Play with Cuba organization in the same building at the same time.

Ferrie was in Dallas on the day that Kennedy was killed and was arrested for interrogation on the assassination.

In 1959, Ferrie and Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz, a deserter from the Cuban army, participated in the first U.S. bombing of Havana, both piloting a B25 in an operation planned by Eladio del Valle, Trafficante’s right-hand man, like Herminio Díaz. Yaras, Ferrie and del Valle were mysteriously killed shortly after the assassination.

In his testimony before the Committee, Captain Jack Revill of the Dallas police said that Ruby had contacts with the mafia, but was not compromised as a member.

After the Committee hearing established the carelessness of the Dallas police, who even publicly announced Oswald’s transfer after his arrest and allowed Jack Ruby, whose contacts with the mafia were well known, to approach him, Jack Revill was asked if some of the police involved in the scandalous deed had been punished or criticized. “No, not that I know of,” Revill replied to Congressman Edgar, which provoked a profound and eloquent silence.


In an article published recently in Granma journalists Lázaro Barredo and Reynaldo Taladrid recalled George Bush Sr.’s connections with Cuban gangster capos in Miami, beginning with Félix Rodríguez, who at the time was directing - along with Luis Posada Carriles - a recently escaped fugitive of Venezuelan justice - the exchange of drugs for arms for the Nicaraguan Contras. Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and brother of current President George W. Bush, was essential to securing the release from prison of Cubans convicted of terrorist crimes, according to the book Cuba Confidential: Love and Revenge in Havana and Miami, by journalist Louise Bardach, winner of an investigative journalism awards who stands out for her work on Cuba and Miami for The New York Times and Vanity Fair. Her interview of Luis Posada Carriles for the NYT had notable repercussions.

“The Bush family has made the demands of extremist Cuban exiles its own in exchange for financial and electoral support,” says a review of the book in the The Guardian newspaper.

In 1984, Jeb Bush, then chairman of the Dade County Republican Party in Florida, began a close association with Camilo Padreda, an ex-intelligence officer under the Batista dictatorship, and financial officer of the abovementioned party. Padreda was accused of misappropriating $500,000, along with Hernández Cartaya, another Cuban-born individual, but the charges were dropped after the CIA stated that Cartaya had worked for them. Subsequently, Padreda admitted to defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of millions of dollars.

During the 1980s, the current U.S. president’s youngest brother was also on the payroll of the prominently corrupt Cuban Miguel Recarey, who provided assistance to the CIA in its attempts to assassinate President Fidel Castro. Recarey, who administered the International Medical Centers, employed Jeb Bush as a real estate consultant, paying him $75,000. The future governor of Florida carried out vigorous and successful lobbying for Recarey and his business under the administrations of Reagan and Bush Sr.

Recarey was accused, in a notorious case, of massively defrauding Medicare, but he fled the United States before the trial.

Jeb Bush was also administrator of the political campaign of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, when she won her seat in Congress, assisted by the threats of her husband, U.S. Attorney Lehtinen, of bringing to trial her dangerous rival, Raúl Martínez. She participated in the chrematistics operation with former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso to obtain the release of Posada Carriles’ criminal gang, whose members are now living freely in Miami and helping out their boss. Journalist Jim DeFede criticized her for defending Posada several months ago, and that cost him his job with the Miami Herald.

It should not be forgotten that George Bush Sr. intervened to get Cuban-born terrorist Orlando Bosch out of prison. As president, he granted him U.S. residency against the will of the Justice Department of his own administration, which had characterized Bosch as a dangerous terrorist. His crimes include masterminding, together with Posada, the cruel sabotage of a Cubana Aviation passenger plane in mid-flight from Venezuela to Havana, killing the 73 civilians on board. Bosch now lives in Miami and has no regrets over his actions, according to Bardach.

Other Cuban-born terrorists such as José Dionisio Suárez and Virgilio Paz Romero, who carried out the assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976, were also freed by Bush.

In spite of all the financial and criminal scandals that are threatening the stability of his administration - or perhaps because of them - Bush has announced that in May, he is to initiate new actions to destroy the Cuban Revolution, as his allies in Miami are demanding.

The German television documentary, which coincidentally came out during Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington, is part of that conspiracy. In tactical terms, it is a measure aimed at distracting public opinion from plans to free Posada, in the same way that his lawyer’s threat to the government that if not released, Posada would talk about the dirty work he has carried out for the Cuba Connection, thus causing the government severe damage, has been covered up.

In strategic terms, this is part of the artillery preparations for the major objective, euphemistically called “transition in Cuba,” which in real terms is the island’s re-colonization.

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