Kennedy and Cuba

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has ruled Cuba since 1959 and outlasted all of his enemies.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has ruled Cuba since 1959 and outlasted all of his enemies.

On January 1, 1959, guerrilla leader Fidel Castro succeeded in overthrowing the dictator Fulgencia Batista. While initially the U.S. had offered support and encouragement to Castro, that quickly soured as Castro began expropriating lands owned by such companies as United Fruit. Castro struck a deal in February 1960 to purchase oil from the USSR, and when U.S. refineries in Cuba refused to process that oil, he expropriated their facilities. This led the US to break off diplomatic relations.

Soon, U.S. leaders were contemplating the overthrow of Castro by force. Kennedy inherited the plan begun under Eisenhower for a CIA-run invasion using Cuban exiles. In April 1961, the Bay of Pigs operation was launched, and it quickly ended in disaster. U.S. hostilities to Cuba didn’t end, however. Operation Mongoose, run out of the White House by the Special Group, managed sabotage and other covert operations. In 1962, the Soviet Union secretly installed nuclear missiles in Cuba; when these were discovered the two superpowers went "eyeball to eyeball," and all-out nuclear war was narrowly averted.

During all this time, various plots to assassinate Castro were undertaken by CIA-led operatives. And even while these plots were still in the works, the Kennedy administration initiated secret contacts with Castro to try to reach an accommodation. These contacts ended with Kennedy’s death.

Is there a connection between Kennedy's death and the covert war against Cuba? Some experts point to Fidel Castro and his reasons for wanting to do away with Kennedy. But the war on Cuba, and perceived laxity on JFK's part in fighting it, also inflamed those in the Cuban exile community, the CIA, and in organized crime who were vehement opponents of Castro. And these groups had already been brought together in plots to eliminate Castro. So did these men, exasperated with Kennedy's failure at the Bay of Pigs, and his perceived weakness in the later Cuban Missile Crisis, turn their guns on JFK?

Bay of Pigs – Discusses the failed Bay of Pigs operation, an invasion plan inherited from the Eisenhower era but implemented by Kennedy, with disastrous results.

Operation Mongoose – Discusses the sabotage and subversion campaign directed against Cuba out of the White House following the failure at the Bay of Pigs.

Operation Northwoods - Presents the plans developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to conduct faked and real terrorist incidents, to be blamed on Castro as a pretext for a military invasion of Cuba.

Cuban Missile Crisis - Presents new information about the time the U.S. and the Soviet Union went "eyeball to eyeball" over Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Two Tracks on Cuba - Contrasts the ongoing anti-Castro operations with the late 1963 Kennedy backdoor channel of negotiation.

Cuba Timeline – Displays a chronological listing of major events in Kennedy-era U.S.-Cuba relations.

Cuba and the Kennedy Assassination - Is there a connection between Cuba and the assassination of President Kennedy?



JFK & The Cuban Connection: Havana's Spies Spill the Beans at Top-Level Conference, by Dick Russell.

The Kennedy-CIA Divergence Over Cuba, by Peter Dale Scott.

From Rio to Nassau, by Gordon Winslow.



Inspector General's Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro. The "I.G. Report" was CIA's own reporting on the Castro plots, created in response to a request from President Lyndon Johnson.

HSCA Appendix Volume X. This volume is the HSCA's writeup on Cuban exile groups and the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Other Links

Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. The site has detailed materials on the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and other aspects of US-Cuba relations.

Cold War - Cuba (1959-1962), Alain Documentaries.

Fidel Castro on wikipedia.

Related Starting Points


Peter Dale Scott, author of Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, discusses the tensions in both the Kennedy and Khrushchev administrations about Cuba.
play video (running time: 2:11)
Peter Dale Scott addresses recent books and accounts which portray Robert Kennedy as the major administation hawk on Cuba.
play video (running time: 1:44)

Books of Interest

    "One Hell of a Gamble": Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964
Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali
W.W. Norton and Company, 1997
    The Fish Is Red
Warren Hinkle and William W. Turner
Harper and Row, 1981
    The Cuba Project: CIA Covert Operations 1959-62
Fabian Escalante
Ocean Press, 2004
    Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana
William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh
The University of North Carolina Press, 2014
    JFK and the Unspeakable
James W. Douglass
Orbis, 2008
    Oswald. Mexico, and Deep Politics: Revelations from CIA Records on the Assassination of JFK
Peter Dale Scott
Skyhorse Publishing, 2013
    Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK
Gus Russo
Bancroft Press, 1998

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