A faithful reader offers a correction to a comment by former Warren Commission staffer Howard Willens in his recent interview with JFK Facts. Willens mentioned the oft-heard story that Lee Oswald threatened to kill President Kennedy while visiting the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City in Septembert 1963 two months before the assassination of President Kennedy.
Willens’ mistake, this reader writes, “is worth correcting for the record.”
The reader starts by quoting from the interview with Willens.
[QUOTE ON; emphasis added:]
HW: I do not know whether Cubela or any other Cuban official was a double agent, although I think the evidence does indicate that Castro was aware generally of the CIA’s interest in ending his regime and, indeed, his life. I do not think there is any credible evidence that Oswald, after being turned down at the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City, threatened that he would kill President Kennedy. Neither the consulate officer in charge at the time nor Sylvia Duran so stated to the Mexican officials who interviewed them or in later investigations of Oswald’s visit to Mexico City.
Castro made this allegation in a speech shortly after the assassination, during which among other things he offered his theory that Oswald could not have fired the three shots and that US officials should be looking for his associates who were involved in the assassination.
[QUOTE OFF; from "Interview with Howard Willens, Warren Commission defender"
The reader writes: "I think the second emphasized sentence is in error, and that it would be correct to say that “Castro referred to that visit, but made no mention of a threat, in a speech shortly after the assassination.”
What did Castro say?
Here is a verbatim transcript of Castro in that speech, on Oswald's visit to the Cuban Consulate
[QUOTE ON; emphasis added]
Castro: “Because since our last appearance we have obtained new data here. A report in the newspaper EXCELSIOR in Mexico states that this man had visited the Cuban Embassy (corrects himself–ed.) the Cuban Consulate and the Soviet Union Consulate to obtain a transit visa through Cuba to the Soviet Union. We immediately checked with our consular officials.
“The newspaper version is very objective and explains how this man had walked away displeased, slamming the door, because he was not given a visa. We asked for information and it was established that it was true that on 27 November (as heard) he appeared at our consulate in Mexico. (corrects himself) in September. Then, he had requested a visa. He was told that such a visa could not be granted by a consul without authority from the Foreign Ministry. In turn, the Foreign Ministry did not issue such transit visas unless the nation of final destination did not [sic] in turn issue a visa.”
“That quotation is from is Warren Commission document 984a. (You can read it starting here.)
“That is, Castro mentioned Oswald visiting the Consulate and leaving angrily, but he did not allege (or, for that matter, deny) that there had been a threat against Kennedy.”
“I am confident that if, elsewhere in that speech or another public appearance, Castro had mentioned a threat by Oswald against Kennedy, we would know about it.”
“The only first-person reports of Castro referring to a threat are from Comer Clarke (actually from Nina Gadd) in 1967, and from [FBI Informant] SOLO ( who was actually communist party leader Jack Childs) in 1964.
“Hoover reported the Childs account to the Warren Commission, in CD 1359. He referred first to the Castro speech as set out in a previous submission to the Commission (CD 984a), and only then quoted his confidential source.
[QUOTE ON; emphasis added:]
Through a confidential source which has furnished reliable information in the past, we have been advised of some statements made by Fidel Castro, Cuban Prime Minister, concerning the assassination of President Kennedy.
In connection with these statements of Castro, your attention is called to the speech made by Castro on November 27, 1963, in Havana, Cuba, during which Castro made similar statements concerning this matter. The pertinent portions of this speech are set out in the report of Special Agent James J. O’Connor dated May 8, 1964, at Miami, Florida, beginning on page 30.
According to our source, Castro recently is reported to have said, “Our people in Mexico gave us the details in a full report of how he (Oswald) acted when he came to Mexico to their embassy (uncertain whether he means Cuban or Russian Embassy).” Castro further related, “First of all, nobody ever goes that way for a visa. Second, it costs money to go that distance. He (Oswald) stormed into the embassy, demanded the visa, and when it was refused to him, headed out saying, ‘I’m going to kill Kennedy for this.’” Castro is alleged to have continued and asked, “What is your government doing to catch the other assassins?” and speculated, “It took about three people.”
The source then advised that Castro’s speculation was based on tests which Castro and his men allegedly made under similar conditions with a similar rifle and telescopic sight. Castro is said to have expressed the conclusion that Oswald could not have fired three times in succession and hit the target with the telescopic sight in the available time, that he would have needed two other men in order for the three shots to have been fired in the time interval….
It will be noted that the information furnished by our source at this time as having come from Castro is consistent with and substantially the same as that which appears in Castro’s speech of November 27, 1963, and which is referred to above.
The effect, if not the intent, of the last sentence is to de-emphasize what appears to be the most important part of the SOLO account, a specific threat against Kennedy.
I hope some of this information is of interest.