Sylvia Duran's Interrogation
Sylvia Tirado de Duran, the Cuban Consulate employee who handled Oswald's request for a visa.
HSCA Public Hearings Exhibit 433.
Sylvia Duran, the Cuban Consulate employee who processed the Oswald visa request, was arrested by Mexican authorities on November 23, the day following the assassination. The exact reason for her arrest, undertaken upon the request of the CIA's local station chief Win Scott, remains unclear - it appears there were stories of a Cuban conspiracy circulating prior to the appearance of Gilberto Alvarado a few days later.
Sylvia was mistreated at the hands of Mexican authorities, and was bruised during her interrogation. The police asked if she had paid Oswald money, had a sexual relationship with him, and generally whether she had been involved in a conspiracy with Oswald to kill President Kennedy.
U.S. authorities cabled the CIA's Mexico City station expressing great concern over the arrest of Duran. The cable began: "ARREST OF SYLVIA DURAN IS EXTREMELY SERIOUS MATTER WHICH COULD PREJUDICE ODYOKE [U.S.] FREEDOM OF ACTION ON ENTIRE QUESTION OF PBRUMEN [CUBAN] RESPONSIBILITY."
Duran was let go, and CIA assets within the Cuban embassy subsequently informed on her statements and demeanor upon her return to work. After the appearance of Nicaraguan Gilberto Alvarado at the U.S. Embassy with his story of seeing Oswald take money inside the Cuban Consulate to kill Kennedy, Sylvia Duran was re-arrested on the pretext that she was about to leave the country. Ambassador Mann, who actively pushed the Cuban conspiracy angle until told to desist by superiors, cabled Washington on November 26 with the idea that Duran should be confronted with Alvarado and interrogated aggressively: "If she did break under interrogation -- and we suggest Mexicans should be asked to go all out in seeing that she does -- we and Mexicans would have needed corroboration of statement of the Nicaraguan."
This confrontation never occurred, and Sylvia Duran was never interviewed by the Warren Commission. But the HSCA did interview her and published the transcript in Volume III of the HSCA Report.
Some of the mysteries surrounding the Duran arrest and her handling of the Oswald visa request:
- Why was Duran arrested so quickly? Was it simply due to her contacts with Oswald? Or was there information, now obscured, which led to this? Possibilities include a "third tape" of a tapped call not now in the record, and the allegations of Elena Garro de Paz regarding a "twist party" which Duran hosted and which Oswald allegedly attended.
- Why did Cuban President Dorticos repeatedly ask Ambassador-to-Mexico Armas in a Nov 26 tapped phone call whether Sylvia had been questioned about money?
- Why was Duran questioned about a sexual relationship with Oswald - was Elena Garro de Paz' "twist party" story in circulation immediately after the assassination, despite its offical appearance in the record only after the publication of the Warren Report?
- Why is there a tape of Oswald and Duran calling the Soviet Embassy on 28 Sep 1963, when Sylvia Duran and Soviet Embassy officials have both said that their embassies were closed on Saturdays?
- Why did Duran refer to Oswald in her interrogations as "blonde and short," an identification subsequently omitted from accounts of the interrogation? Was she describing Oswald or an imposter? It should be noted here that Duran told the HSCA she believed that she dealt with the same man who was arrested in Dallas, though her colleague Eusebio Azcue told the HSCA he believed otherwise.
- What should be made of the 1967 informant report of a conversation with Ms. Duran in which she allegedly admitted having had sexual relations with Oswald, and confessed same to the Mexican police?
Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City, by Michael Swanson.
Overview: The CIA, the Drug Traffic, and Oswald in Mexico, by Peter Dale Scott.
More Mexico Mysteries, by Rex Bradford.
Oswald in Mexico, by Arturo Rodriguez.
The Three Oswald Deceptions: The Operation, the Cover-Up and the Conspiracy, by Peter Dale Scott.
Sylvia Duran on Spartacus Educational.
Sylvia Duran and William Seymour in Mexico - discussion on The Education Forum.
HSCA Interview with Sylvia Duran in HSCA Report, Volume III, p.6.
Transcript of Duran call to Soviet Embassy of 27 Sep 1963. This call is from the day Oswald arrived in Mexico City, a Friday.
Transcript of Duran-Oswald call to Soviet Embassy of 28 Sep 1963. This call contains the mysterious phrase "I went to the Cuban Embassy to ask them for my address, because they have it." Both Duran and Soviet Embassy officials deny this call could have taken place, since the Embassies were closed on Saturdays.
MEXI 7023. This cable of 23 Nov 1963 reported the Oswald calls.
MEXI 7037. This cable of 23 Nov 1963 reported the fact of Duran's arrest to CIA headquarters. See also MEXI 7046, and MEXI 7029 and 104-10414-10448 of the same day. The latter two make it clear the CIA in Mexico City prompted the arrests.
DIR 84916. CIA headquarters in this cable warned that "Arrest of Sylvia Duran is extremely serious matter which could prejudice ODYOKE [U.S.] freedom of action on entire question of PBRUMEN [Cuban] responsibility."
MEXI 7054. This cable of 24 Nov 1963 reports further on the Duran arrest.
DIR 84950. CIA headquarters reported to the FBI this background information on Duran, on 25 Nov 1963.
MEXI 7068. This cable of 26 Nov 1963 contains a transcript of a call between Cuban President Dorticos and Cuban Ambassador to Mexico Armas. Dorticos expressed concern in the call regarding whether Duran had been asked about whether she "had offered some money to the American." The origin of this idea is unclear, as is how Dorticos had become aware of it. See also MEXI 7072 and MEXI 7104, wherein Ambassador Mann remarked on the Dorticos-Armas call as well as other indications of a purported Cuban conspiracy.
MEXI 7115. This cable of 28 Nov 1963 conveys reported on Sylvia Duran's demeanor on return to work. The source of the information is two human informants who worked with Duran.
DIR 85758. This 29 Nov 1963 cable reporting the results of Sylvia Duran's interrogation included many details, among them her description of Oswald as "blond, short, poorly dressed."
DIR 90466. This cable of 20 Dec 1963 from CIA HQ to the Mexico City station noted the plan to "eliminate mention telephone taps, in order to protect your continuing ops," and instead rely on the statements of Sylvia Duran in describing Oswald's Mexico City visit.
104-10404-10127. This memo of 10 Jan 1964 from CIA to FBI is a detailed report of Duran's second interrogation.
Info Developed by CIA on the activity of Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City 28 Sep - 3 Oct 1963. This report from the CIA to the Warren Commission discussed the cables relating to Oswald's visit, Oswald's interactions with Sylvia Duran, Alvardo's story and its investigation, and ominous information about Valeriy Kostikov and Department 13. CIA sent translations of Duran interrogation reports to the Warren Commission on 21 Feb 1964.
Dispatch: The LIRING-3 Operation. This document from June 1967 discussed informant LIRING-3's conversation with Sylvia Duran, in which Ms. Duran reportedly "admitted that she had sexual relations with him (Oswald) but insisted she had no ideas of his plans. When the news of the assassination broke she stated that she was immediately taken in custody by the Mexican police and interrogated thoroughly and beaten until she admitted that she had had an affair with Oswald." CIA Station Chief Win Scott commented "The fact that Sylvia Duran had sexual intercourse with Lee Harvey Oswald on several occasions ... is probably new, but adds little to the Oswald case."