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Student Question: JFK and Castro

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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: Was JFK aware of the plots to kill Castro? If so, did he do anything to try and stop them?

Background details of the people answering this question can be found at:


Edited by Dale Banham
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Dale, that remains a hotly debated question even today, as much so as at the conclusion of the work of the House Intelligence/Church Committee hearings a couple of decades ago.

Bottom line is that you will not find any memoranda or documents showing that JFK gave specific instructions or was made aware of specific plans to murder Castro. On the other hand you will find numerous discussions of the need to eliminate Castro or remove Castro from power - one of the problems is that with Presidential deniability as a guideline, the CIA is then allowed to interpretate for themselves what that means and preserve the reputation of the President. One interesting memo shows that even in high level staff meetings the subject of assassination was taboo and memos were written over the stupidity of even discussing such a thing conceptually.

When RFK was briefed on a mob connected project to murder Castro he commented on the stupidity of using organized crime and how that would make it impossible to prosecute certain people. He ordered that he be briefed if that were ever considered again (he was not told that the project had been reactivated) however there is no sign that he was outraged by the concept of assassination per an se.

I think the bottom line is that we have extensively documented proof that JFK was pursuing two tracks at the time of his death. One tracked involved reaching an agreement with Castro to get the Russians out, put Castro back in a neutral position and reopen relations. The other track involved sponsoring a coup against Castro, backing an exile force to support that coup and a contingency plan to involve US forces subsequent to that - obviously this track would have involved the overthrow and death of Castro one way or the other.

Beyond that I think you will find the question purposefully blurred due to the practice of deniability which which basically leaves the CIA with the onus of doing things the President may want done - without his being tied directly to the deed..... the ethics of that are perhaps even more important than the question of whether JFK himself personally ordered someone to go out and murder Fidel and Raul. There is also no doubt such orders were given inside the CIA, multiple times.

-- Larry

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