Kennedy talked of possibility of killing Castro
President Kennedy discussed the possibility of assassinating Fidel Castro during the 1960 presidential campaign, according to former Californian senator George Smathers
WASHINGTON, AUGUST 17
President Kennedy discussed the possibility of assassinating Fidel Castro during the 1960 presidential campaign, according to former Californian Senator George Smathers, a close friend who frequently accompanied the President on trips to the South.
Senator Smathers, a political maverick, with Right-wing views on Latin America, made the statement in documents just released by the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, published in the New York Times today: “I don’t know whether he brought it up or I brought it up. We had further conversations on the assassination of Fidel Castro, what would be the reaction, how would the people react, would the people be gratified.”
“As I recollect,” added Mr Smathers, who has since retired, “he was just throwing out a great barrage of questions – he was certain it could be accomplished – I remember that – it would be no great problem. But the question was whether it would accomplish that which he wanted it to, whether or not the reaction throughout South America would be good or bad and I talked with him about it; and frankly, at this particular time I felt and later on I learnt that he did, that I wasn’t so much for the idea of assassination, particularly where it could be pinned to the US.”
When the assassination idea was discarded Mr Smathers suggested provoking an incident at the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay on the eastern tip of Cuba as a pretext for a US invasion.
“I did talk to him about a plan of having a false attack made on Guantanamo Bay which would give us the excuse of actually fomenting a fight which would then give us the excuse to go in and do the job,” he said. “He asked me to write him something about it. And I think I did.”
Mr Smathers’ recollections of the President’s views on Cuba need to be taken with a certain grain of salt as the following passage indicates. Early in 1962, he recalled the President told him: “George, I’d love to have you over … but I want you to do me a favour. I’d like to visit with you, I want to discuss things with you but I don’t want you to talk to me any more about Cuba.” Mr Smathers said he followed that order until the President invited him to an informal dinner.
“I remember the President was actually fixing our own dinner and I raised the question of Cuba and what could be done and so on,” he related. “And I remember that he took his fork and just hit his plate and it cracked and he said, ‘Now, dammit, I wish you wouldn’t do that. Let’s quit talking about this subject.’
“I said: ‘Alright, it’s just fine with me, I appreciate the opportunity to come over and visit with you and this subject I won’t bring up again,’ and I never did.”