Longform

Revelation 19.63

Page 7 of 10

And on October 9, DRE propaganda chief Salvat made a six-day trip to Dallas, though he remembers he didn't inform Joannides of the mission. The purpose, he recalls during an interview at his family's Calle Ocho bookstore, Libreria & Distribuidora Universal, was to bolster the DRE chapter there, raise funds among local exile supporters, and buy weapons. As first revealed in Oswald Talked, a 1996 book by Dallas journalists Ray and Mary La Fontaine, Salvat's trip later came to the attention of the FBI. According to FBI interviews with two of his friends in the DRE military section, Salvat arranged a series of meetings in Dallas with a gun dealer of fervent right-wing views named John Thomas Masen. That name would be of interest to the FBI after the assassination, when the bureau learned that Masen was one of only two people in the Dallas area who sold the type of Mannlicher-Carcano bullets that had killed Kennedy. Salvat says he has no recollection of Masen's name but reports that he relied on the CIA for the names of weapons suppliers. His own notes show he returned to Miami on October 15, 1963.

A little more than a week later, on October 24, the Directorate presented the CIA with a plan for an ambitious attack on Cuba. The group proposed to insert fourteen commando teams, totaling 200 men, inside the island. The fighting force would instigate an uprising against Castro's 25,000-man army while being resupplied by the CIA.

Joannides's reaction to the scheme is unknown, but JM/WAVE station chief Shackley's was scathing. In a cable to headquarters, Shackley scorned the DRE leaders for imagining themselves "the equals of generals and ambassadors." He recommended that all funds to the Directorate's military section be cut off. A week later Richard Helms agreed. Joannides, who had been paying maintenance expenses for the group's boats and guns, had to deliver the message. On November 19, 1963, while President Kennedy was in Miami speaking to Latin-American newspaper publishers under tight security, Luis Fernandez-Rocha was called in to receive the news that the agency was cutting off its support.

Three days later Kennedy traveled to Dallas. As the presidential motorcade passed by a friendly crowd in Dealey Plaza, Kennedy was struck by gunfire in the back and head and died instantly in his wife's arms. Ninety minutes later Dallas police arrested a suspect in the shooting: Lee Harvey Oswald.


What exactly did George Joannides do on November 22, 1963, when news of Oswald's arrest spread? Few records exist to provide an answer.

In 1978 José Antonio Lanuza told Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, how the DRE reacted to Kennedy's murder. On November 22, 1963, Lanuza was coordinator of the DRE's North American chapters. When he heard the news stories linking Oswald to the shooting, he remembered delegate Carlos Bringuier's reports from New Orleans and went to DRE headquarters to check his files. There he found Bringuier's letters about the confrontations with Oswald, along with tapes of the WDSU radio debate. The group's leaders gathered, he said, and one of them -- Salvat, Fernandez-Rocha, or Borja -- "made the first outside call about the discovered material." That call, he said, went to the DRE's case officer at the CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami.

The Directorate "was told by the CIA not to do anything or contact anyone else about the discovery for at least one hour, time enough for the agency to contact Washington and get back to them with instructions," Lanuza told Fonzi. Later that night the case officer called back to say the FBI would come by to collect their evidence.

By then, however, the DRE had already gone public. The group "was so anxious to get word out about Oswald's association with a pro-Castro group, that [we] waited only about 50 minutes," Lanuza related to Fonzi. Other members of the DRE then spread a variety of stories -- some true, some false -- about Oswald: He had attempted to infiltrate the Directorate in New Orleans (true), he had once lived in the home of the Soviet foreign minister (false), he had recently been in Mexico City (true).

The details of Oswald's pro-Castro activism, as they hit the American airwaves on the evening of November 22, 1963, had an added benefit for the Directorate: They advanced the long-standing goal of the DRE's military section. "We wanted to put pressure on Castro," Salvat explains today. The ploy worked. Castro responded by putting his Revolutionary Armed Forces on high alert along Cuba's northern coast.

Meanwhile Oswald was in jail in Dallas, denying he had shot Kennedy. "I'm a patsy," he told reporters.

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Jefferson Morley