Two Tracks on Cuba

Cuban government official Rolando Cubela, code-named AMLASH (center), recruited by the CIA in the fall of 1963 to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Cuban government official Rolando Cubela, code-named AMLASH (center), recruited by the CIA in the fall of 1963 to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1963, after the Missile Crisis, the Kennedy administration continued to grapple with the problem of Cuba. CIA's project AMTRUNK continued to look for leaders inside Cuba to overthrow the Castro regime. Contingency plans for a military invasion of Cuba were formulated in support of a possible coup; a new theory put forth in the book Ultimate Sacrifice declares that these were more than contingency plans, and that an actual coup was planned for December 1, 1963.

At the same time as the continued planning, President Kennedy, perhaps shaken by the events of October 1962, looked for ways to defuse the situation and reach accomodation with Castro. On March 30, 1963, the State Dept. and Justice Dept. jointly announced their intent to ensure that Cuban exile groups conducting sabotage raids would no longer do so from U.S. soil. Faced with raids on training camps and loss of support, some of these groups relocated to other countries such as Nicaragua.

In September, following an interview of Castro by journalist Lisa Howard, Kennedy approved secret contacts between U.N. delegate William Atwood and Cuban Ambassador to the U.N. Carlos Lechuga. A preliminary meeting took place, and plans for more substantive talks in a neutral setting such as Mexico were proposed. Concern that such talks not leak out even to the rest of Kennedy's own government contributed to delays in organizing the secret talks.

In the midst of these events, the CIA reactivated contacts with Rolando Cubela, code-named AMLASH, an apparently disgruntled Cuban government official interesting in overthrowing Castro. High-level CIA officer Desmond Fitzgerald, at this time head of the Special Affairs Staff, took the extroardinary step of meeting with Cubela directly, and representing himself as an emissary of Robert Kennedy (there is no indication RFK was informed of this). On November 22, Cubela was being handed a poison pen by a CIA representative when news of Kennedy's death broke up the meeting.

Controversy lingers over whether the "two tracks" on Cuba were both under control of President Kennedy, or whether the CIA actively undermined Kennedy's peace initiatives by contacting Cubela.



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

The Inspector General's Report: an Introduction, by Peter Dale Scott.

Other Links

Kennedy Sought Dialogue With Cuba. The National Security Archive site includes documents, discussion, and a Kennedy-Bundy meeting audiotape on the subject of the secret talks on accomodation with Cuba.

JFK & Castro: The Secret Quest for Accomodation. Peter Kornbluh discusses the "peace track" Kennedy pursued in the fall of 1963.

Transcript of Proceedings of Cuban Officials and JFK Historians. has a transcript of a 1995 conference on a variety of topics of interest.

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume XI: Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath.

Spartacus Educational has pages about Rolando Cubela and Desmond Fitzgerald.



104-10400-10090. CIA affidavit given to the HSCA, contesting Joseph Langosch's sworn contention that Desmond Fitzgerald had characterized AMLASH as an "assassination operation."

104-10422-10011. Discussion of Castro's public warning and its press treatment following initial AMLASH meeting.

104-10422-10335. Lengthy CIA internal response to Book V of the Church Committee, focusing on AMLASH.

202-10002-10034. Memo from DoD's Krulak to JCS Chief Taylor reporting on CIA Director McCone's views on Vietnam and Cuba, 6 Jun 1963.

202-10002-10018. May 1963 Defense Dept. plans for supporting revolt in Cuba.

198-10004-10007. Scathing DoD review of 1963 plans to assist revolt in Cuba, noting "Paper is not a contingency plan - it is a 'sexy scenario' written in a conversational vein.

206-10001-10016. President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board memo on CIA's presentation of covert operations, 10 Sep 1963.

Related Starting Points


Peter Dale Scott discusses the "two track" policy on Cuba, particularly the peace overtures to Castro made via William Atwood and others.
play video (running time: 1:51)
Peter Dale Scott addresses the weakness in Kennedy's dual approach to Cuba and the paranoia it created among those around him.
play video (running time: 2:16)

Books of Interest

    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
    Oswald. Mexico, and Deep Politics: Revelations from CIA Records on the Assassination of JFK
Peter Dale Scott
Skyhorse Publishing, 2013
    The Reds and the Blacks
William Attwood
Harper and Row, 1967
    Robert Kennedy and His Times
Arthur M. Jr. Schlesinger
Houghton Mifflin, 1978
    The War That Never Was
Bradley Earl Ayers
Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1976
    Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK
Gus Russo
Bancroft Press, 1998
    The Kennedy Brothers
Richard D. Mahoney
Arcade Publishing, 1999

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