Fidel Castro – The Last Man Standing

Courage is knowing what not to fear. – Plato

Back when the century was young, before the horror of September 11, 2001, I had the privilege of interviewing former Ambassador Raúl Castro several times at his office in

Swearing in ceremony installing Raul Castro as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia; Secretary of State Dean Rusk Observes (UAir Raul H. Castro Collection)

Swearing in ceremony installing Raul Castro as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia; Secretary of State Dean Rusk Observes (UAir Raul H. Castro Collection)

Nogales, Arizona.  Raúl Castro was in the thick of the Cold War (1947-1991) in the Western Hemisphere.  Born in 1916 in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico , Raúl Castro moved to Southern Arizona when he was ten years old.  Driven to succeed, he became an American citizen and a lawyer determined to rid society of the discrimination against Hispanics that he witnessed and felt.  President Lyndon Johnson appointed him the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador (1964-68), and President Jimmy Carter used his skills as the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia (1968-69).  Raúl Castro returned from Bolivia and made a successful entrance into politics when he was elected the first Mexican-American governor of Arizona (1975-77).   His country needed him again.  Richard Nixon asked Castro to take the U.S. ambassador post in Argentina, where he served from 1977-80.  During those interviews, Raúl Castro related many humorous stories, and some not so humorous, related to the confusion of his name with the other ‘Raúl Castro’, Fidel Castro’s brother.

A born teacher, Raúl Castro, who had met Fidel Castro in Mexico, talked at length about the

The other Raúl Castro. Fidel Castro's brother. (Courtesy of bio.true story)

The other Raúl Castro. Fidel Castro’s brother. (Courtesy of bio.true story)

Castro brothers.  The stories he told were incongruous with what I thought I knew.  The Ambassador argued that Fidel Castro was a political atheist when he finally gained control of Cuba in January 1959 and that the U.S. had made a terrible mistake by shunning him.   If Ambassador Castro is correct, and there is some indication he may be, thee pieces of the Cuba/America puzzle fall smartly into place; one corner piece, one boundary piece and one interior piece.  The corner puzzle piece that fits neatly is Fidel Castro’s sudden rush into Nikita Khrushchev’s arms in 1960.  The boundary puzzle piece that falls into place is the interval of time after the revolution it took to form a ‘Communist Party’ in Cuba.   The interior puzzle piece is the CIA’s apparently excessive energy expenditure attempting to embarrass and assassinate Fidel Castro.  But wait, there’s more!

Kennedy’s Central Intelligence Agency

This is the third in a series of articles that explores the iconic CIA and its use as a tactical weapon by the presidents of the Cold War (1947-1991). The Central Intelligence Agency – In the Beginning and The Central Intelligence Agency – Eisenhower and Asia’s Back Door are the preceding posts.

Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961 *Source: *Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111

Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961 *Source: *Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111

A very tired John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was sworn into office on a clear, windy, brutally cold January 20, 1961.[1]  It wasn’t an easy day. Eight inches of snow had fallen the night before causing a monumental traffic jam and the streets were littered with abandoned vehicles.  Former President Herbert Hoover missed the entire inauguration event because Washington National Airport was closed due to the weather.  An inauguration is an important national symbol that characterizes the Republic and the all-night effort to clear Pennsylvania Avenue greeted the sun with space to accommodate the large crowd that would gather to witness the duly elected president assume the helm of the ship-of-state.

The snowfall of the previous night and the windy, frigid temperatures of inauguration day are also apt codes for the sea change that had already gathered momentum around the relationship between the new president and his intelligence agency, the CIA.  The CIA, as authorized by The National Security Act of 1947, was still fairly young, but Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) was an old hand and seemingly enjoyed the game.  By 1961, the CIA, in its short life, had tripped the light fantastic around the globe; Col. Lansdale was merrily fighting rebels in the Philippines following which he ported his obsession with asymmetric guerilla warfare to Vietnam where he spent two-years as a houseguest and confidant of President Diem, other CIA operatives overthrew governments in Iran and Guatemala, and raised general hell with Cuba and Chile.

During the latter Truman and Eisenhower administration there was a trend to combine the

Cover an an Iranian newspaper showing anti-Mossadegh demonstrators riding atop a tank on August 19, 1953

Cover an an Iranian newspaper showing anti-Mossadegh demonstrators riding atop a tank on August 19, 1953

Cold War (1947-1991) objective of fighting the creep of communism with business interests. Iran, for example, nationalized the British oil interests and Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh refused to budge in spite of punishing sanctions. According to the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, “Eisenhower worried about Mossadegh’s willingness to cooperate with Iranian Communists; he also feared that Mossadegh would eventually undermine the power of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a staunch anti-Communist partner. In August 1953, the CIA helped overthrow Mossadegh’s government and restore the shah’s power. In the aftermath of this covert action, new arrangements gave U.S. corporations an equal share with the British in the Iranian oil industry.”[2]

In Guatemala, the Jacobo Arbenz Guzman initiated land

Arevalo passes presidency to Arbenz in 1951

Arevalo passes presidency to Arbenz in 1951

reforms that seriously impacted the holdings of the anti-communist, New Orleans-based United Fruit Company who controlled over forty percent of Guatemala’s arable land.  The Truman administration came to the support of the American business interests by arming the anti-Arbenz rebels.  Under Eisenhower, the CIA finished the job by overthrowing Arbenz regime and installing Carlos Castillo Armas.  Codenamed PBSUCCESS, the coup d’état was the first-ever clandestine military action in Latin America but it was certainly not the last.[3]

After fifty years the controversy surrounding Kennedy and the CIA obscures the landscape like the white-out conditions in a blizzard.   At one end of the opinion spectrum, Marquette University’s John McAdams’ The Kennedy Assassination site concludes that Kennedy and the CIA had some rough spots but got through them.[4]  At the other end of the spectrum is Dr. Jerome R. Corsi, who maintains that Kennedy and the CIA locked horns and never retreated.[5]  Excellent research and the documented citations for both perspectives leave the reader with many questions.  One corner of this argument does not appear to be disputed; Kennedy consistently refused to use the U.S. military to support private sector interests.  In this matter, President Kennedy was a traditionalist. The military, in his opinion, was to be used only in defense of national security interests.  If we can escape the white-out conditions of the never-ending controversy, the political landscape, once again, becomes hard and navigable.   Continue reading


Author: John Malch

The forty-six year era of ‘The Cold War’ from 1945 through 1991 was not just limited to the Eastern Hemisphere and countries behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains.  The Western Hemisphere shares a lengthy cold war period with its opposite.  Countries in Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador & Nicaragua and Panama; the island countries in the Caribbean: Cuba and Grenada.  In South America: Brazil and Chile.  All of these countries were involved with interventions or coups d’état in toppling governments during the Cold War.

Cold War in Latin America: Guatemala ~ 1954

a. A socialist government, elected in Guatemala, began land reforms which threatened the dominant role of U.S. based corporations.

b. In 1954, the CIA carried out a coup d’etat and turned the government over to a Guatemalan Army officer.

c. A military dictatorship, which received military aid and training from the U.S., terrorized the Indian population for forty years, killing more than 100,000 people.

For more information:

1954 Coup d’etat and Civil War in Guatemala

1954 Coup d’etat and Civil War in Guatemala

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