By Kate Connolly in Berlin
The Cuban secret service was behind the assassination of President John F Kennedy, according to evidence presented in a new television documentary.
Rendezvous with Death, to be shown on German television on Friday, offers the most convincing evidence that Fidel Castro’s regime was behind the most talked-about murder of the 20th century.
A former agent of the Cuban secret service G2 talks for the first time about how Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin, was, he claims, pointed out to the Cubans by the KGB.
Oscar Marino, who fell out with the Castro regime, said the Cubans were desperate to eliminate Kennedy, an opponent of the revolution who wanted to kill Castro.
“You ask why we took Oswald?” he said to the German film maker Wilfried Huismann. “Oswald was a dissident: he hated his country. He possessed certain characteristics.
“There wasn’t anyone else. You take what you can get. . . Oswald volunteered to kill Kennedy.”
Oswald was a Communist who spent three years in the Soviet Union and shot Kennedy in Dallas. He was killed by Jack Ruby after his arrest, leaving his motives shrouded in mystery.
Huismann spent three years persuading people to break their silence about Oswald’s alleged Cuba connections. His film is based on testimony by former US, Cuban and Russian agents, KGB files and Mexican archives.
One of the main witnesses is a retired FBI agent, Lawrence Keenan, now in his eighties. Keenan was sent after the assassination to trace Oswald’s footsteps in Mexico.
The evidence he found - linking the Cubans with the murder - prompted the FBI head, J Edgar Hoover, on the orders of President Lyndon Johnson, to withdraw Keenan after three days.
“This was perhaps the worst investigation the FBI was ever involved in,” said Keenan.
“I realised that I was used. I felt ashamed. We missed a moment in history.”
Mexico City was considered a “Pandora’s Box” by the Johnson administration, which feared a war with Cuba were the truth to be revealed to the American people.
“They were afraid of what will happen. They didn’t want to. . . know the truth for fear it would mean we go to war. Johnson sincerely feared for his own life.” It was convenient therefore for the administration to paint Oswald as a loner.
Alexander Haig, a military adviser to Kennedy and Johnson who became secretary of state in 1981, said in the film that Johnson was terrified his people would learn the truth.
“He [Johnson] said ‘we simply must not allow the American people to believe that Fidel Castro could have killed our president’.
“And the reason was that there would be a Right-wing uprising in America, which would keep the Democratic party out of power for two generations.”
Mr Haig added: “He [Johnson] was convinced Castro killed Kennedy, and he took it to his grave.”
Huismann’s interviews and documents he found show the extent of the secret war, involving murder and sabotage plots, between Castro and the Kennedy brothers.
Without the knowledge of Congress or the American public, John and Robert Kennedy allegedly planned eight assassination attempts on Castro, all of which failed.
Huismann’s explanation for the failures is a Cuban who fought alongside Castro but who later fell out with him.
The film-maker claims that this man was “contracted” by Robert Kennedy to murder the “Maximo Lider”, and was provided by the CIA with pistols disguised as fountain pens and powerful poison to carry out the task.
But Castro always found out about the plots in advance, leading to suspicions of a double agent.
The film claims that in November 1963 the Cuban took his last order from Robert Kennedy to murder Castro. The act, involving poison and the fountain pen, was to be carried out on Nov 22, the very day Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
“Unfortunately, Castro was better than us,” said a CIA agent in the film who is not identified.
Marino said Oswald was recruited to the secret service organisation by the same agent who had been recruited to kill Castro, a year before the Kennedy assassination.
“In other words the very man Robert Kennedy recruited to kill Fidel Castro hired his brother’s murderer,” Huismann said.
KGB files released in Moscow document a meeting between Oswald and the Cuban, who is now a retired surgeon living in Madrid.
Interviewed for the film, however, he denied any connection to Oswald, calling it an “outrageous lie”.
Marino did not want to answer the question as to whether Castro had direct knowledge of the Oswald assassination plan.
Huismann wrote his film with Gus Russo, author of the 1998 book on the Castro-JFK rivalry, Live by the Sword.