A new documentary is garnering major press coverage for its suggestion that the Cuban government had a role in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.
The film, “Rendezvous with Death,” debuted in Berlin Jan. 4 and is the product of filmmaker Wilifried Huismann, who reportedly spent three years researching it. Huismann appears to rely heavily on the statements of one Oscar Marino, described by Reuters as a “former Cuban agent.” Marino has been described elsewhere as a disgruntled “former associate” of Cuban President Fidel Castro who broke with his countrymen because he disagreed with the strong ties that developed between Cuba and the Soviet Union.
From press reports (the film has yet to be shown in the U.S.), the film highlights Marino’s claim that Lee Harvey Oswald was paid $6,500 by the Cubans during his visit to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City several weeks before the assassination. Marino claims that the idea to assassinate Kennedy originated with Oswald, not with the Cuban government, but that the Cubans saw this as an opportunity and “used” Oswald.
The film contends that Cuban involvement in Kennedy’s assassination was a response to the now infamous “Operation Mongoose,” a covert operation mounted by the U.S. government and intelligence community during the Kennedy administration to assassinate Castro following the Bay of Pigs debacle.
There have been two official investigations into the Kennedy assassination: the Warren Commission (1964) and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (1978). (The House Select Committee also investigated the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of its charter.) These commissions both concluded that Oswald was involved in the assassination, but the Warren Commission concluded he acted alone while the House Select Committee was persuaded by acoustical evidence that there was more than one gunman involved.
Two earlier films, “Executive Action” (1973) and Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991), explored conspiracy in Kennedy’s assassination. Unlike these films, however, Huismann doesn’t name a group of businessmen or other U.S. personalities long dead: He seeks to indict the sitting government of Cuba.
The premise of the film as described by press reports does invite some investigation, leaving aside the veracity of the “disgruntled” Oscar Marino. Here is some information gleaned from documents on file at the National Archive.
Lee Harvey Oswald identified himself as a supporter of Fidel Castro, but he also sought to work with the anti-Castro movement. He was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), but it is clear from documentation that he was ignored by the organization after one or two letters from its director. He never recruited any individual to FPCC, according to available records.
Oswald claimed to be a Marxist, but analysis of his writings and statements reveals otherwise. His request after his arrest to be represented by John Abt, then general counsel for the Communist Party USA, and previous letters Oswald had sent to the party, to which he received form replies, planted the idea in the media of possible connections to the CPUSA. Oswald was never a communist. Both Abt and party leader Arnold Johnson, who handled routine information requests like Oswald’s, appeared voluntarily before the Warren Commission and made this clear. The declassified transcripts of their testimony are at the National Archives.
The Cuban government provided U.S. investigative authorities with Oswald’s visa application for a visit to Cuba, which he had completed at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City. Marino alleges it was during this embassy visit that Oswald disclosed his intention to kill Kennedy and the Cubans decided to use him. Oswald’s visa application was rejected, and a similar visa request to Soviet authorities at the same time was likewise rejected.
If Oswald was paid $6,500 as Marino is said to state in the film, what happened to the money? In 1963, this was a substantial sum that would have been three times Oswald’s annual wages. He had almost no money on him at the time of his arrest and none was found at his rooming house.
Finally, the question needs to be asked what incentive the Cuban government would have to involve itself in an assassination plot in 1963 and is it even remotely plausible that it would use as unstable a character as Oswald?
We now know, courtesy of declassified documents, that the Kennedy administration had agreed to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey and pledge not to invade Cuba “now or in the future” in exchange for the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. We also know that the U.S. had halted Operation Mongoose (a catalyst for the assassination plot in Oliver Stone’s movie). And we know from Kennedy’s speech at American University shortly before his murder that he was beginning to reassess Cold War policies, including U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
The premise of “Rendezvous with Death” centers around statements by an avowed enemy of socialism in Cuba as well as the idea that Cuba’s leaders were either highly naïve or bent on war with the United States. Those points of view, and this film, merit both contempt and rejection.
Lawrence Albright is a People’s Weekly World reader.