CIA officials warned Cuban exile leader Manuel Artime about his ties to loose women, his spending and his tendency to mimic earlier dictators.
The documents were released by the National Archives as required under the 1992 law meant to open all documents related to the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Artime had no involvement in Kennedy’s death, the records show, but the association of anti-Castro Cubans in multiple conspiracy theories tied to the assassination led to the inclusion of Artime’s file in the JFK collection.
Artime, a physician, fought with Castro in the 1950s guerrilla war against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, who fled Cuba on Jan. 1, 1959, and was replaced by Castro. Artime fell out with Castro as the new Cuban government turned toward communism, and Artime soon moved to the United States and organized a band of exiles to return to the island and overthrow Castro.
Known by the code name AMBIDDY-1, Artime angered CIA officials with his over-the-top lifestyle following the failed invasion of Cuba in April 1961 at the Bay of Pigs, where an amphibious landing by an exile brigade led by Artime was defeated and thousands of exiles were captured and imprisoned.
After a June 24, 1964, meeting with Artime in New Orleans, CIA official Henry Hecksher wrote that Artime’s “preoccupation with his political image shone through, when he inquired whether we suspected him of dictatorial leanings. We replied, in effect, that we entertained such suspicions and inclined toward taking his protestations of liberalism with a grain of salt.”
Artime’s relationships with women were destabilizing the exile community that was trying to mount another attack on Cuba, the CIA records show.
One memo said Artime had bought his mistress, Ofelia Padron, an $85,000 house in North Miami. Later memos show how Artime said he got the money to buy the home with the royalties he received from writing a book about the Bay of Pigs.
Padron, a May 19, 1964, memo said, had been the mistress of Batista and also of the former president of Venezuela, Marcos Perez Jimenez. Her ties with various “other prominent Cubans” meant Artime “could conceivably be blackmailed.”
Fidel Castro in 1962 (Photo: -, AFP/Getty Images)
At some point in 1964, Artime became involved with a woman whose name has been redacted in the CIA documents. Agency officials warned Artime about the relationship, and Artime “commented that she had been a ‘bad woman.’ We observed that the ‘had been’ was open to question,” the June 29, 1964, memo said.
Artime told the CIA that the unnamed woman’s ex-husband “tried to entice his wife to participate in orgies, but that [redacted] had refused to do so.”
CIA officials told Artime he should “move the center of his illicit affair” to Managua, Nicaragua, “where it would be easier to contain unpleasant repercussions.”
A memo from a June 28, 1964, meeting with Artime in Miami mentioned that
“we had received some obscene photographs which have caused us to do some fast talking with ‘some people in Washington’ that are beginning to have some misgivings about AMBIDDY-1,” CIA official Raul Hernandez wrote.
Artime’s CIA handlers had connections with many of the political scandals of the second half of the 20th century.
CIA agent Carl Jenkins coordinated aid to Artime and his Movement for Revolutionary Recovery. He later became involved in the illegal aid network for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s.
Bernard Barker, Artime’s first CIA handler, was one of the five men arrested trying to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington’s Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972.
E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA operative and member of the White House Plumbers investigative unit for President Richard Nixon. He worked with Manuel Artime. (Photo: File photo)
E. Howard Hunt, another CIA contact for Artime, was part of the Watergate break-in team.
The Artime file, which was part of collection of 13,213 files released on Nov. 9, had never been released before. While it and many other documents had nothing to do with the actual assassination, it was included in the files because of the connection between Kennedy’s desire to remove Castro from power, his support of Cuban exiles to help him and the affinity of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald for the Castro government.
Artime appeared onstage with Kennedy during a massive rally in Miami’s Orange Bowl stadium on Dec. 29, 1962, to honor the returned prisoners from Cuba. He promised to restore a democratic government to Cuba.
Artime died of cancer in November 1977 in Miami at the age of 45. The Castro government remains in power. Fidel Castro died on Nov. 25, 2016 at age 90.
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