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Policarpo Lopez


Lamar Waldron
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Here is the text of the HSCA on Gilberto Policarpo Lopez[/i]:

Gilberto Policarpo Lopez allegation

More troubling to the committee was another specific allegation discussed by the Senate committee. It concerned a Cuban-American named Gilberto Policarpo Lopez.(119) According to the account, Lopez obtained a tourist card in Tampa, Fla., on November 20, 1963, entered Mexico at Nuevo Laredo on November 23, and flew from Mexico City to Havana on November 27. (12O) Further, Lopez was alleged to have attended a meeting of the Tampa chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee on November 17, 1963, and at a December meeting of the chapter, Lopez was reported to be in Cuba. (12l)

The committee first examined the CIA files on Policarpo Lopez.(122) They reflect that in early December 1963, CIA headquarters received a classified message stating that a source had requested "urgent traces on U.S. citizen Gilberto P. Lopez." (123) According to the source, Lopez had arrived in Mexico on November 23 enroute to Havana and had disappeared with no record of his trip to Havana. The message added that Lopez had obtained tourist card No. 24553 in Tampa on November 20, that he had left Mexico for Havana November 27 on Cubana Airlines, and that his U.S. passport number was 310162.(124)

In another classified message of the same date, it was reported that the FBI had been advised that Lopez entered Mexico on November 27 at Nuevo Laredo. (125)

Two days later these details were added: Lopez had crossed the border at Laredo, Tex., on November 23; registered at the Roosevelt Hotel in Mexico City on November 25; and departed Mexico on November 27 on a Cubana flight for Havana. (126) Another dispatch noted that Lopez was the only passenger on Cubans flight 465 on November 27 to Havana. (127) It said he used a U.S. passport and Cuban courtesy visa. It noted, too: "Source states the timing and circumstances surrounding subject's travel through Mexico and departure for Havana are suspicious." It was this dispatch that alerted headquarters to the source's "urgent" request for all available data on Lopez. (128)

The same day as the dispatch, headquarters sent a cable identifying the Cuban-American as Gilberto Policarpo Lopez, born January 26, 1940. It added that Lopez was not identical with a Gilberto Lopez who had been active in pro-Castro groups in Los Angeles. (129)

Headquarters was also told that there existed a "good" photograph of Lopez, showing him wearing dark .glasses. A copy of the photograph with "27 November 1963" stamped on the back was found in his CIA file by committee investigators in 1978. (130)

In March 1964, CIA headquarters received a classified message: a source had reported in late February that an American citizen named

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Gilberto Lopes 11 had been involved in the Kennedy assassination; that Lopes had entered Mexico on foot from Laredo, Tex., on November 13 carrying U.S. passport 319962, which had been issued July 13, 1960; that he had been issued Mexican travel form B24553 in Nuevo Laredo; that Lopes had proceeded by bus to Mexico City "where he entered the Cuban Embassy"; and that he left the Cuban Embassy on November 27 and was the only passenger on flight 465 for Cuba. (132)

The following day, a classified message was sent to headquarters stating that the information "jibes fully with that provided station by [source] in early December 1963." (133)

A file had been opened on Lopez at headquarters on December 16, 1963. (134) It contained a "Review of [material omitted] file on U.S. Citizen" by an operations officer of the responsible component of the agency. In the review, the file was classified as a "counterintelligence case, (that is, involving a foreign intelligence or security service)." The date of entry of that category in the agency's records is indicated as January 22, 1975. (135)

The committee also reviewed an FBI investigation of Gilberto Policarpo Lopez in Key West, Fla., contained in a report dated August 1964.(136)

In an interview, Lopez' cousin, Guillermo Serpa Rodriguez, had said that Lopez had come to the United States soon after Castro came to power, stayed about a year and returned to Cuba because he was homesick. He returned to the United States in 1960 or 1961 fearing he would be drafted into the Cuban militia. (137)

The FBI also interviewed an American woman Lopez had married in Key West. She listed companies where he had been employed, including a construction firm in Tampa. She also said he began suffering from epileptic attacks, was confined for a time at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami in early 1963, and was treated by doctors in Coral Gables and Key West. She said she believed the epilepsy was brought on by concern for his family in Cuba. (138)

Lopez' wife said she received a letter from him in about November 1963, saying he had returned to Cuba once more. She said she had been surprised, although he had mentioned returning, to Cuba before he left for Tampa in November 1963. In a later letter, Lopez told his wife he had received financial assistance for his trip to Cuba from an organization in Tampa. His wife explained that he would not have been able to pay for the trip without help. She said, however, he had not had earlier contacts with Cuban refugee organizations. (139)

11The committee noted the discrepancies in this message, as follows: the spelling of Lopes, for Lopez; the November 13 date and passport number 319962, issued July 13, 1960; and Lopez entering Mexico on foot. In its 1977 Task Force Report, the CIA cited the several "inaccuracies," as they had been repeated in the report of the Senate Select Committee, as reason to refute the report itself. The TFR pointed out that Lopez' name had been misspelled "Lopes," that it had Lopez entering Mexico on foot, when the CIA had information that he had traveled by automobile; that it listed incorrect digits for Lopez' passport number; that it stated that Lopez' Mexican tourist visa had been issued in Nuevo Laredo, not Tampa; and it reported that he had stayed at the Cuban Embassy. Based on these inaccuracies, the TFR concluded, "the source was patently and extensively misinformed." The TFR therefore discounted the March cable that held that the information "jibed" with what the CIA's source had earlier reported. (131)

The discrepancies pointed out in the TFR were apparently intended to explain why the CIA had not taken more aggressive investigative steps to determine whether there had been a connection between Lopez and the assassination.

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Rodriguez said Lopez left Key West in late 1963 for Tampa with the hope of being able to return to Cuba, explaining he was afraid he would be drafted into the U.S. military. Rodriguez said Lopez had not been involved in pro-Castro activity in Key West, but that he was definitely pro-Castro, and he had once gotten into a fistfight over his Castro sympathies. (140)

The FBI had previously documented that Lopez had actually been in contact with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and had attended a meeting in Tampa on November 20, 1963. In a March 1964 report, it recounted that at a November 17 meeting of the Tampa FPCC, Lopez had said he had not been granted permission to return to Cuba but that he was awaiting a phone call about his return to his homeland.

In that March report, a Tampa FPCC member was quoted as saying she called a friend in Cuba on December 8, 1963, and was told that Lopez had arrived safely. She also said that the Tampa chapter of the FPCC had given Lopez about $190 for the trip to Cuba and that he had gone to Cuba by way of Mexico because he did not have a passport. (141)

The March 1964 FBI report stated that Lopez did have a U.S. passport-- it had been issued in January 1960 and was numbered 310162. His Mexican tourist card was numbered M8-24553 and was issued November 20, 1963 in Tampa. The report also confirmed that Lopez entered Mexico via Laredo, Tex., by automobile on November 23, and he departed for Havana on November 27, the only passenger on a Cubana flight. He was carrying a Cuban courtesy visa.(142)

Lopez' FBI file contained a memorandum from the Tampa office. Dated October 26, 1964, it read:

It is felt that information developed regarding the subject is not sufficient to merit consideration for the Security Index. (143)

The only information transmitted by the FBI to the Warren Commission, the committee determined, concerned a passport check on Lopez. Information sent to the Commission by the FBI on the Tampa chapter of the FPCC did not contain information on Lopez' activities. The CIA apparently did not provide any information to the Warren Commission on Lopez. (144) The committee concurred with the Senate Select Committee that this omission was egregious, since sources had reported within a few days of the assassination that the circumstances surrounding Lopez' travel to Cuba seemed "suspicious." Moreover, in March 1964, when the Warren Commission's investigation was in its most active stage, there were reports circulating that Lopez had been involved in the assassination.

In its 1977 Task Force Report, the CIA responded to the charges of the Senate committee. It claimed that the agency had carried its investigation of Lopez as far as it could, having questioned a Cuban defector about him. (145) The committee found that the absence of access to additional sources of information was not an adequate explanation for the agency's failure to consider more seriously the suspicions of its sources or to report what information it did have to the Warren Commission. Attempts in the Task Force Report to denigrate the information that was provided on Lopez were not an adequate substitute for enabling the Warren Commission itself to pursue the leads more aggressively.

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From the information gathered by the FBI, there appeared to be plausible reasons both for Lopez' desire to return to Cuba and for his solicitation of financial aid from the Tampa FPCC chapter. Lopez' contacts in Florida appeared to have been innocent and not connected with the assassination, and while there was a suggestion in the Senate committee's report that Lee Harvey Oswald also was in contact with the Tampa FPCC chapter, the committee could find no evidence of it. Nor could the committee find any evidence that Oswald was in contact with Lopez.

Lopez' association with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, however, coupled with the facts that the dates of his travel to Mexico via Texas coincide with the assassination, plus the reports in Mexico that Lopez' activities were "suspicious," all amount to a troublesome circumstance that the committee was unable to resolve with confidence.

John, I guess my question would be why the authors believe Policarpo Lopez was a patsy and what they think of his trip to Texas later in the week. as the HSCA report indicates, he obtained a fourteen day visa to enter Mexico on Wednesday, November 20th. My question is since he traveled from Tampa to Dallas is it possible (even probable) he was a conspirator rather than a patsy?

Obviously we are intrigued by the Policarpo Lopez story in part because of his Key West connections.

We believe it is most likely Lopez was an unknowing patsy based on reading all the declassified documents

about him and his associates (including the Tampa FBI files, with wire tap transcripts of people who knew Lopez), and talking to both his ex-wife and a high Florida law enforcement official who was aware of Lopez - and knew other officials and informants who were aware of Lopez. Also, Lopez was extensively investigated by the FBI and CIA after the assassination, but the more they investigated, the more information turned up that made him seem like an easily-manipulated patsy.

Remember that the Tampa attempt was kept completely out of the press at the time, so Lopez (as a patsy)

may have been completely unaware of what had almost gone down. And, would have attached no special significance in being asked to accompany someone to Texas, in preparation for going to Mexico City and then on to Cuba, where he wanted to return (for a variety of reasons). If Lopez had knowingly been part of the Tampa conspiracy, he would have known going to Texas (or Dallas) would draw suspicion to him, and - since he didn’t drive or own a car - he would have been in a difficult position, with few options if problems developed.

Lopez appears to be someone who - like Oswald - on the surface looks suspicious. But the more you dig into their background, they don’t seem like someone who would either kill JFK for unknown reasons or whom the Mafia would use for anything but a patsy (since the Mafia would want to use a trusted professional to fire the actual shots, someone with a proven track record who was not only a good shot, but who wouldn’t hesitate to fire). And the many parallels between Oswald and Lopez outlined in the book (moving to a new city, leaving their wives, contact with FPCC, etc.) indicates they were being manipulated by the same person or persons, for the same reason.

As for whether Lopez would have had some asset or informant role for some US agency, that’s a possibility that’s explored in the book.

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Great to hear from you, Mr. Waldron, and I will ponder your thoughts.

To what extent are your resource materials on Lopez available?

I believe Oswald was a patsy, but I would far less sure if Oswald had successfully escaped to Cuba and was living off of Castro's largesse.

You wrote:

Also, Lopez was extensively investigated by the FBI and CIA after the assassination, but the more they investigated, the more information turned up that made him seem like an easily-manipulated patsy.

As I recall there was a CIA report that after Policarpo Lopez returned to Cuba he did not appear to be gainfully employed and spent his time playing dominoes. Did you have the opportunity to review that report? And what CIA/FBI reports made Policarpo Lopez seem like an "easily-manipulated patsy"?

You wrote:

If Lopez had knowingly been part of the Tampa conspiracy, he would have known going to Texas (or Dallas) would draw suspicion to him, and - since he didn’t drive or own a car - he would have been in a difficult position, with few options if problems developed.

Do you know how Policarpo Lopez got to Texas and who drove him from Texas to Mexico City? I believe he entered Mexico by private vehicle, so his absence of a car does not seem to be a major problem if in fact he had a "get-away driver". I am sure you know that it os often efficient for criminals to use "get-away drivers". If Policarpo Lopez did enter Mexico by private car, he clearly had driver assistance (unless he just hitch-hiked).

Also in comment on your above paragraph, it is indeed precisely the fact that Policarpo Lopez was both in Tampa and in Dallas that does seem suspicious. Obviously, law enforcement officials were not "tailing" him in Tampa, and I think it also reasonable to assume he did not know that he was any sort of surveillance prior to the president's visit to Tampa. That being the case, how would "going to Dallas" draw suspicion on him unless he was somehow caught in connection with the assassination, in which case his presence in Tampa would probably be the least of his worries.

Also, it may be reading too much into it, but even without knowledge of the Tampa plot, we thought Policarpo Lopez's move from Key West to the home town of Santo Trafficante, Jr., around the time the assassination plots may have been starting, was also suspicious.

I agree with you that Policarpo Lopez does not seem to fit the profile of a Mafia killer but if, as some suspect, Trafficante was working with Castro perhaps Castro wanted the satisfaction of having at least one Cuban involved in the assassination. Or look at it another way. Policarpo Lopez may have been a patsy but a patsy who was actually manipulated into a role in the asssassination. In that scenario, Trafficante had the ability to prove that Castro really had done it had he decided that suited his interests.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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