As Raúl Castro prepares to say goodbye to six decades of political activity this weekend in Havana, on the 60th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, declassified CIA reports published this Friday by el portal informativo National Security Archive shed new light on the first attempt to assassinate Commander Fidel’s brother and two other leaders of the Cuban revolution.
The reports, from 1960 – just one year after the triumph of the Sierra Maestra revolution – relate how an American agent offered $ 10,000 of that time to José Raúl Martínez, the pilot of the plane that was to take Raúl Castro from Prague to La Havana, to cause “a fatal accident.” The sum would be received after “the successful commission” of the attack.
The pilot, who had been captured by the CIA, requested guarantees for the maintenance and education of his two children in case he died in the attempt. “These guarantees were given to him,” said William J. Murray, a CIA antenna in Havana, as well as the offer of “rescue means” to help him once the incident had caused. The relative improvisation of the secret mission – Martinez was given short notice that he had to fly to the Czechoslovak capital to repatriate Raúl Castro and two other Cuban leaders – did not allow it to be carried out.
Murray discussed the proposal with Martínez in a car on the way to the Havana airport, where the pilot was to immediately board for Prague. The American spy suggested to Martínez two possibilities of perpetrating the action –forcing the fire of one of the engines when taking off, or a fall in the sea three hours from Havana–, but finally doubts were imposed “about the possibility of provoking a real accident without endangering the lives of everyone on board ”, as it was a commercial airliner. While Martinez was flying to Europe, Murray received a second cable from Langley, the headquarters of the CIA, ordering him to abort the plan. But the American could not contact the Cuban pilot, who only on his return to Havana admitted to Murray that he had not had the opportunity to carry it out.
The CIA fiasco was reported tangentially in 1976 by a report by a special committee of the Senate – the Church Committee, after the last name of the senator who led it – on alleged attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, following an investigation into the agency’s covert operations. The investigation revealed only that the attempt was “the first action against the life of a Cuban leader sponsored by the CIA of which the Committee is aware.” The alleged perpetrator’s status as a pilot was not made public, nor was the fact that it was intended to implicate a civil aviation aircraft in the plot.
The frustrated attempt to kill Raúl Castro was the first of a larger plot on the occasion of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the first shock of the young Cuban revolution (a year later, in the middle of the Cold War, the missile crisis put the world on the brink of nuclear war). In August 1960, shortly after the failed attempt to assassinate his brother Raúl, the CIA considered ending the life of Fidel Castro after authorizing the agency’s director of covert operations, Richard Bissell, “a very delicate mission that requires a gangster-type action ”. The mission was to assassinate Fidel as Bissell, the highest authority of the CIA in situHe aspired to kill two birds with one stone: to deliver the coup de grace to the regime to facilitate the triumph of the counterrevolutionary mission.
From the budget for the military operation, in which Cuban exile troops were the advance party, $ 150,000 had to be withdrawn – a fortune for the time – for “unspecified purposes.” It was the sum to pay the gangsters who supposedly perpetrated the attack, through poison pills created ex profeso by the agency’s technology division. After knowing the real purpose of the requested item, the person in charge of the fund to finance the Bay of Pigs operation, Jacob Esterline, refused (“I considered it was absolutely immoral for us to get involved in something of that kind”) and the landing in Playa Girón it did not happen to adults.