What does the Cuban intelligence service say about JFK’s assassination?

Since the premiere of the Cuban-Brazilian TV documentary, ZR Rifle, on November 27, 1993, the former head and current historian of Cuban State Security General Fabian Escalante has said that Cuban exiles Herminio Diaz and Eladio del Valle, along with three American mobsters: Richard Gaines [Cain], Lenny Patrick, and Dave Yara were the shooters at Dealey Plaza.

What’s the basis for Escalante’s story?

Herminio Diaz, Tony Cuesta

From left to right, Tony Cuesta, Herminio Diaz and other commandos before the raid on Monte Barreto, Cuba in March 1966.


General Escalante gave a detailed account in his book JFK: The Cuban Files.

 In 2007 the Cuban exile Reinaldo Martínez, who worked as inmate at a prison infirmary and treated the anti-Castro fighter Antonio “Tony” Cuesta, told a congruent story to George Robert Blakey and Anthony Summers: Cuesta confided to Martinez that Herminio Diaz had confessed on the way to Monte Barreto of having taken part in the JFK assassination.

[Watch the Reinaldo Martinez interview]

Origins of the Story

On May 29, 1966, six Cuban exiles got on board in Marathon Key, Florida,  and headed toward Monte Barreto, a bare rocky spot near the former Comodoro Yacht Club in the fancy Havana residential suburb of Miramar. They went ashore shortly before dawn. The sharpshooters Herminio Diaz and Armando Romero ran to nearby Fifth Avenue in order to take position for killing Castro on his usual route.

However, the former club was housing a deep-sea fishing school full of militiamen. They killed Diaz and Romero. The mission commander, Tony Cuesta, fled with the rest of his men. Their 23-foot boat was intercepted 10 miles off the coast by a Cuban Navy patrol. Guillermo Alvarez and Roberto Cintas were killed; Cuesta and Eugenio Zaldivar were captured badly wounded.

The skirmish cost Cuesta a hand and his eyesight. During his long recovery, he was debriefed several times by Escalante, who became head of the State Security Department [known as G-2] in 1976.

Tony Cuesta

Tony Cuesta, later in life

Thanks to Jimmy Carter’s arrangement, Cuesta was released on October 21, 1978. After he died in Miami on December 2, 1992, General Escalante disclosed Cuesta had told him that Diaz and Del Valle were in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Cuesta had refused to elaborate.

Cuba’s analysis

For General Escalante, the raid on Monte Barreto was the way to send Herminio to death, since the Cuban army and militias were in combat readiness after the killing of a border guard by U.S. marines at Guantánamo on May 21, 1966. Otherwise, Cuesta, Herminio, and the other four would have been mad as hell.

Nine months later, on February 22, 1967, Eladio del Valle was found in his 1966 Fleetwood Cadillac on a parking lot at 37th Avenue and N.W. 7th Street, Miami, with multiple blunt impacts of head and gunshot wound of chest.

Since 1962, Escalante had a report by a G-2 mole about Del Valle saying, “on many occasions, that Kennedy must be killed to solve the Cuban problem.”


  1. Mayra Solloa says:

    We only have Escalante’s book on the Cuban files, but not the files themselves, that could be a very good primary source for the JFK community. Escalante’s version seems to be flawed with two teams of shooters, one of them led by Jack Ruby.

  2. Arnaldo M Fernandez says:

    Just a warning for those who will watch the video of Reinaldo Martinez interview by Tony Summers: the camera zoom in at Cuesta as if he were Herminio. The latter is actually the mulatto next to Cuesta, who appears on the far left.

  3. Bill Kelly says:

    COPA helped coordinate two meetings in Rio and Bahamas between Cubans including Escalante and JFK researchers including Anthony Summers, John Judge, Dick Russell and Wayne Smith, the primary organizer. A transcript was posted at the Cuban Archives.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Spies lie. JFK researchers need to tattoo this on their wrists so as not to forget it.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      Lie or deny, and dis-inform to plausibly deny.

      They also use rely on secrecy oaths but I believe congressional or senatorial hearings can override those, if not by the courts of justice.

    • LRG says:

      Jonathan: who is it in this story you think to be lying?

      • Jonathan says:

        My comment is about predisposition. When confronting the words of a spy (or former spy like Helms, D.A. Phillips, or Escalante), one should be predisposed to be skeptical of their veracity.

        Spies routinely lie about their employment, their names, their purposes — anything connected to a cover story.

        Spies lie to protect themselves and their employers. And their agents and methods.

        • Alex S says:

          I agree.

          I don’t think Escalante’s story is implausible, but it is worth approaching with the same caution as with any spooky source.

          Unfortunately, the most successful part of the conspiracies which resulted in Kennedy’s death was the removal of evidence pointing to the actual shooters. Of course, big tip of the hat to the Dallas PD, who, whether through incompetence or collusion, utterly failed to maintain the integrity of the crime scenes (including the presidential limo and body). Not to mention the utter failures by the FBI, Secret Service, and Warren Commission to track down the full array of possible photo evidence.

          This is why attempting to discern the ground crew is still just a matter of pissing in the wind.

          The fact that multiple sources have put Diaz Garcia and Felipe Vidal Santiago in Dealey Plaza does make them good suspects, but their role will remain, with the current evidentiary base, entirely unconfirmed.

          Of course, that’s not to say that solid evidence does not exist, and even further circumstantial evidence like the raw documents on Cuesta’s interrogations would be tremendously valuable. But I don’t see how one can study this case and retain their sanity without acknowledging the limits of the evidence and the knowable.

          Question: Did Tony Cuesta make any statements or writings on the subject after his return to the US?

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      No shit. Dulles and Angleton…Phillips and Morales, Joannides, they were all spies. Who did Dulles in particular work for otherwise?

  5. Gerry Simone says:

    With eye witness reports of ‘complected’ men in Dealey Plaza or at the TSBD, perhaps it is possible that those anti-Castro Cubans mentioned were involved.

    This also meshes better with the likes of E. Howard Hunt & others involved with the BOP (including GHWB’s deflection of suspicion on Cuban exiles in Miami alluded to in Hoover’s memo).

    It is probably harder to believe that Mafiosi hitmen or higher ups like Johnny Roselli (wow, he was born in the same Italian province as my dad – no other connections though) would be “in the trenches” shooting at JFK, when they can delegate and avoid the risk of capture, etc. Even Carlos Marcello in Lamar’s Hidden History says they would use foreigners to do a job like this (although he says they were Italian hitmen but I’d sooner believe in anti-Castro Cubans).

    It is more plausible to have anti-Castro Cuban assassins shooting at JFK when they have absolutely no remorse in killing a foreign leader, and are willing to take extreme risks to make Castro look culpable (they took extreme risks to assassinate Castro in Miramar* and died or were captured).

    *[As a Canadian, I freely travel to Cuba and try to vacation in Miramar once a year. Last year, I crossed the island and snorkeled at the Bay of Pigs].

  6. Bill Simpich says:

    It would be good if we could figure out a way to meet with Cuban and/or Mexican government officials to get them to tell their stories and to release documents. I want to believe Escalante (who gets very detailed with some of his findings about what happened during this era), but have to agree that the documents are the best evidence.

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