Exiled Cuban Crusaders

Major Pedro Diaz Lanz Chief of the Cuban Air Force in 1959 (he is on the far right)

Major Pedro Diaz Lanz Chief of the Cuban Air Force in 1959 (he is on the far right)

The United States government, its military, and intelligence agencies considered Fidel Castro's Cuban regime a preeminent threat. The Communist stronghold was located at the front lines of the Cold War and positioned far too close for the taste of American officials. Seeking to overthrow Castro led some American leaders to ignore potential blowback and engage unreliable and criminal groups to see their desires fulfilled. Hundreds of Cuban exiles of interest to the United States seemed committed to the goal of deposing Castro; among them were the Diaz Lanz brothers, Pedro and Marcos.
In nineteen twenty-six, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz was born in Havana and his academic education was complete by nineteen forty-four. He was trained and worked as a commercial pilot and began supplying weapons to anti-Batista rebels who supported deposed President Carlos Prio Socarras. According to Central Intelligence Agency files, he went into exile the first time in nineteen fifty-three when he arrived in Miami to work in local restaurants. In nineteen fifty-five, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista granted amnesty to all Cuban exiles and Diaz Lanz rushed back to Cuba. Once arriving within his native land Pedro wasted little time before joining Fidel Castro's 26 of July rebel group to "...ferry arms for Castro".i  Pedro was additionally "suspected of operating as a courier for Castro from a base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is believed to have made trips by plane...to Kingston (Jamaica) from Fort Lauderdale via Cuba and Haiti."ii Eventually in nineteen fifty-eight Diaz Lanz went to Castro and his forces in the Cuban mountains, and in August he was made Chief of the 26 of July Air Force.
In April of nineteen fifty-nine it was rumored that Pedro Diaz Lanz was among the noted Cuban officials "...whom Raul Castro planned to eliminate because he considered them rightists who were unsympathetic to him." He was among the leaders in danger of arrest for resisting the Communist influence that came to dominate Cuba's armed forces. "...Raul Castro ordered Subject (Pedro Diaz Lanz) to arrange aircraft for a secret flight of selected officers to the military prison on the Isle of Pines." Pedro retained his post until his defection in nineteen fifty-nine when he fled Cuba by plane. Thus began his second exile.iii Pedro after his arrival in the United States began to gain attention by testifying against the Communist led government in Cuba to the American Congress while also decrying its tactics within the media. Yet while Pedro sought publicity and renown, his younger brother Marcos was feasibly more concerned with financial enrichment. 

Marcos Jose Diaz Lanz was born in nineteen twenty-eight and seemingly shared his brother Pedro's revolutionary ideals but not his taste for politics. While Pedro was delivering arms to rebels, Marcos owned the Stanley Window Manufacturer Company in Havana and was a subordinate of his brother in Cuba's air force. Diaz Lanz held this business until January of nineteen fifty-nine when political situation in Cuba began to accelerate.iv Once his brother Pedro had defected to avoid his imminent arrest, Marcos reached out to secure his escape from Cuba as well. CIA Chief of Western Hemisphere Division J.C. King sent a memo to confirm a request for official assistance to evacuate Marcos from Cuba in July of nineteen fifty-nine.v When the CIA debriefed Marcos, he mentioned having potential operational assets among disaffected military in Cuba the Agency might use. He also stated being in contact with various exiles in different anti-Castro groups that included exile leaders Tony Varona and later revealed Castro collaborator Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo and his group the Second National Front of Escambray (SFNE).vi Despite the island wide fallout from Menoyo's actions, the brothers did not wish to accept that Menoyo was pro-Castro. Marcos would soon take up his brother's penchant for running arms but did not limit himself to merely revolutionary forces as clients. 

Pedro Diaz Lanz Testifying before the US Congress

Pedro Diaz Lanz Testifying before the US Congress

Following the Diaz Lanz brothers arrival in the United States they "...began making plans for maintaining their contacts in Cuba and for organizing a small group of exiles here for the purpose of the ultimate overthrow of the Castro regime." "They did not want to be identified with any of the existing anti-Castro groups and stated they resist any groups bearing the Batista taint...They claimed in existence a large following in Cuba in the military and political circles, in labor organization, in the government, and in the Catholic Church, who were only uniting for guidance and direction." Months following his defection Pedro Diaz Lanz and his brother Marcos conducted a leaflet drop by plane of anti-Castro material over Cuba. The Castro government condemned this act"...as a bombing of Havana." Yet the group operations were "short lived, and on 8 December 1959” Marcos Diaz Lanz reported the so called "group" no longer existed. The split occurred due to differences of vision regarding their plots against the Castro government. The brothers then began to work alongside "...elements which contemplated the ultimate formation of junta comprised of the following: Carlos Marquez Sterling...Antonio de Varona...Sanchez Arango..." and "Emilio Nunez Portuondo..."  The brothers with some of their allies further devised forming a nonprofit to aid their ventures against Cuba and fund their group's activities.vii  

"On February 13, 1960, Major Pedro Diaz Lanz declared that the Cuban people would be liberated in 1960 and that Fidel Castro would tried as a traitor for joining the International Communist conspiracy. Diaz Lanz and Dr. Rafael Garcia Navarro...reported the formation of the Cruzada Constitutional Cubana (CCC- Cuban Constitutional Crusade) of which Pedro Diaz Lanz was the recognized leader...the crusade was said to have an underground of 4,000 within Cuba...ample resources." Diaz Lanz promised "...the CCC will fight against Communist aggression...The Cuban people will be liberated in 1960." Yet Pedro Diaz Lanz disputed the press release with his message because Lanz believed Dr. Garcia had misrepresented and embellished the facts...because of Diaz Lanz' inadequacy in understanding and speaking the English language. Apparently, this was not an organization but a one-man crusade --- a name adopted by Pedro Diaz Lanz...to conduct his individual activities. Anyone striving for the overthrow of Castro was welcome to cooperate under this banner but it was not intended that is should be an organization with formal registered members."viii Pedro it seemed wished for less formal associations under his banner to garner the press and public attention for his personal crusade. 

Pedro Diaz Lanz also had associations with some CIA sponsored paramilitary groups that include Operation 40. Yet Cuba remained firmly in Castro's grip decades beyond nineteen sixty despite the ambitious declarations of Diaz Lanz. Most exiles disregarded the CCC because the Diaz Lanz brothers used various individuals formerly associated with Batista the deposed Cuban dictator.ix Eventually Pedro and his followers joined the Frente Revolucionario Democratico (FRD) a large conglomerate of multiple exile groups supported by the CIA.
While Pedro was garnering press and financial support Marcos on the advice of a lawyer went to the American Embassy in Mexico City to request a US resident visa. This action violated his prior agreed parole into official custody and two months later he was still awaiting their response in Mexico. The Embassy's Consul sent a telegram for immediate action and stated that "Diaz Lanz feels he was 'milked for information' by U.S. Intelligence organizations and then tossed aside." Agency Officer J.D. Esterline noted that Diaz Lanz appeared to the Consul "...to be 'souring' on the U.S."x Marcos finally was able to reenter the United States with extensive official aid.
However, by nineteen sixty-two, the Diaz Lanz brothers' grand declarations had fallen short and they began to resent and blame the Kennedy administration for not giving them further support. Pedro became "...disgruntled with the policies of American officials regarding Cuba...anti-Kennedy propaganda was edited and distributed by him. The ideas expounded were in tone with his conversations to the effect that Kennedy and most of his administration were Communists and were betraying Cuba and the Cubans as well as the citizens of the United States."xi Due to the reversal against American officials, the CIA advised the Department of the Army to cease any interest in the Diaz Lanz brothers for official use. Several failed deals, aborted raids, and lackluster public support had dampened Pedro's expectation for success in the coming year.

When multiple planned raids were disrupted in July of 1963, it subsequently created misplaced personal dissension among the brothers. Pedro and Marcos had enlisted the aid of mercenary Frank Sturgis aka Frank Fiorini to undertake further aerial raids. Despite the precautions taken, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to stop them from making any progress. Pedro stated the FBI told "...him he was under 24-hour surveillance and that whatever he had in mind he might as well forget. They advised him to go home to bed, which he did. When Marcos heard the story he accused Pedro's wife, Tania, and/or Pedro's Father-in-law of informing the FBI as they had done in the past. Marcos was very angry over the abortive operation and went so far as to wonder aloud whether Pedro himself had notified the FBI. Marcos said that Pedro had done everything else to scotch all their plans, including incurring the wrath of the U.S. Government with the publication of the anti-administration propaganda leaflet." Yet it was more likely the information reports Frank Sturgis was giving the CIA that allowed the FBI to prevent their planned raid.xii xiii Officials noted the Diaz Lanz brothers we both keeping out of official sight by August of 1963.

November 3, 1963 Pedro Diaz Lanz made several incendiary comments at a public meeting. Among the most inflammatory were accusations of President Kennedy being a Communist, supporting Communist governments, and supported individual Communists but would not recognize the anti-Castro junta that was anti-Communist. Pedro also declared American state visits by Communist governments further proved his allegations. He also blamed the Kennedy administration for the overthrow of the South Vietnamese President Diem.xiv
Marcos continued his arms dealer business under the alias "Pedro Garcia" in nineteen sixty-four and was a prior member of the "Ultra-Rightist group called 'Minutemen' in Yalaha, Florida."xv Marcos using his Garcia alias "...stated if Lyndon Johnson were reelected President, this group planned to revolt in an armed insurrection against the United States government. Garcia bragged that he had provided the arms for the above revolt."xvi A final CIA document regarding Marcos and his claims states "Diaz talked freely about the election results which by that time indicated President Johnson had been elected...As the margin of votes for Johnson increased, Diaz became more and more excited. Diaz criticized Johnson very severely and referred to him as a SOB. He said that it was becoming obvious "they" would have to go and fight in the streets because "they" were unable to accept the Johnson Government. Diaz did not clarify who the "they" were, but it was understood to mean the Minutemen, received a definite impression that Diaz himself was deeply involved in action contemplated...Diaz made some reference fact that the U.S. would be far better off if Johnson were dead..."xvii
After multiple exiles, broken promises, unrealistic expectations, and failed operations Pedro and Marcos Diaz Lanz were embittered toward the United States and its leadership. By nineteen sixty-three dozens of other Cuban exiles brought to the United States would similarly turn upon their former sponsors when the Communist government of Cuba failed to be overthrown. How far would some exiles go to seek revenge for a homeland that was never reclaimed? 
C.A.A. Savastano
TPAAK Facebook

i. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Segregated Central Intelligence Agency file, Microfilm Reel 6: DeTorres-Diosdado, Folder M- Diaz-Lanz, Pedro, Julio, Biography of Pedro Diaz Lanz, (n.d.), 1994.04.21.11:42:57:720005
ii. Ibid, Memo for Mr. G. Harvey Summ, Subject: (A) Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz; (B) Marcos Diaz Lanz, December 24, 1963
iii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm Reel 6, Bio Info of Diaz Lanz, (n.d.)

iv. Ibid
v. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm Reel 6, Folder J- Lanz Marcos Diaz, Confirmation of Verbal Request for TSS Assistance in the Evacuation from Cuba of Marcos Diaz Lans (sic), July 31, 1959, 1994.04.21.11:42:57:720005
vi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm Reel 6, Folder J , Lanz Marcos Diaz, August 5, 1959, 1994.04.21.11:44:10:400005

vii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm Reel 6, Folder I, Lanz Marcos Diaz, Memo for H. G. Summ, p. 3, 1994.04.21.11:42:57:720005
viii. Ibid, pp. 3-4
ix. HSCA, Seg CIA file, Microfilm Reel 6, Folder M, Diaz-Lanz, Pedro, Julio, Biography, 1994.04.21.11:48:13:180005
x. Ibid, Folder I, Lanz Marcos Diaz, Memo for Rudolph Gomez fromJ. D. Esterline, March 7, 1960
xi. Ibid, Memo for H.G. Summ, p. 4
xii. Ibid, Subject Abortive Air Strike and Leaflet Raid on Habana, July 20, 1963
xiii. Ibid, Memo for H.G. Summ, p. 5
xiv. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm Reel 6, Folder M, Diaz-Lanz, Pedro, Julio, Accusations made by Pedro Diaz Lanz, December 14, 1963, 104-10260-10180
xv. Ibid, Folder I, Lanz Marcos Diaz, Memo to FBI on Marcos Diaz Lanz, (n.d.)
xvi. Ibid, Folder I, Lanz Marcos Diaz, Redacted Transcript of Comments made by Marcos Diaz Lanz, (n.d.)

xvii. Ibid, Subject: Marcos Diaz Lanz, Planned Insurrection of Minutemen in Florida area, 1964

Edited: December 2017

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