Following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, formerly loyal anti-Batista forces were soon opposing Fidel Castro the new dictator of Cuba. With Raul Castro's prominent endorsement of Communist alliances and the failure of Eisenhower administration officials to capitalize on diplomatic solutions for dealing with the regime, the eventual leaders of later dissident groups would then seek Fidel Castro's government to be overthrown. Thousands of disenfranchised people throughout countries in the Western hemisphere would seek individually and using exile groups to wrest control of Cuba from its Communist government. Foreign officials, political groups, mercenaries, private donors, criminals, and agencies of the United States government supported them. Based on internal communications multiple groups were not just loosely organized passionate advocacy organizations but highly trained paramilitary groups who became legitimate domestic security concerns. The leader of one such group was Manuel Artime.
In 1932, Manuel Francisco Artime Buesa was born in the Camaguey Province of Cuba. He attended Havana University and received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1949. It was during his studies he gained an interest in political advocacy and opposing the Batista regime. Artime is noted to have founded and joined "...several small groups at different periods..."i Artime was "President of the First Regional "Pax Romana" (Roman Peace) Congress, El Salvador, 1953", authored anti-Batista literature at university for various groups, and was a member of medical and Catholic organizations. He also was a President of the University Student Section of the Movimiento de Recuperacion Revolucionario (Movement for the Revolutionary Recovery, MRR) until 1958.ii That same year he joined Fidel Castro's 26 July Movement and in November Artime enlisted to serve as the Cuban Judge Advocate General's aide. Artime was subsequently promoted to First Lieutenant of the Jose Marti Column. He noted serving with Fidel Castro in the Cuban mountains during the Cuban revolution but other exiles later commented about his rapid gain of rank despite rarely actually fighting.
Following Castro's ascension to power, Manuel Artime was appointed to be among the Cubans to administrate the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA). Months later, he resigns and publicly declares in a letter that Castro had privately admitted deceiving the Cuban people about promised Communist land sharing programs. Artime states Castro admitted in an INRA meeting that "...only State Cooperatives are planned; land will not be given to individuals, but the farmers must not be told this."iii In 1959, Central Intelligence Agency employee Martha Thorpe opened a 201 file on Manuel "Francis" Artime Buesa. Official files state, "In November 1959, Artime was hiding in Havana after disaffection with Castro gov...and desired to defect." After meeting with an official contact dressed as a Catholic priest he eventually was exfiltrated from Cuba to Tampa, Florida.iv Artime is put in touch with his first case officer David Morales who used pseudonym "Dr. Gonzales" at the Agency's JMWAVE Station.
By 1960, Artime was the leading recruiter for the Movimiento de Recuperacion Revolucionaria (MRR) and Brigade 2506. The Brigade was a group of exiles aided by the Central Intelligence Agency under the orders of President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960. Officials chose Artime to head the initial group that grew into the larger Brigade. He was not the chief military leader of either group, yet officials called upon him to resolve a major internal conflict.v Those speaking on Artime's behalf to immigration officials demonstrate his importance. Shieffield Edwards, the Central Intelligence Agency's Director of Security contacted the office of Lt. General Joseph M. Swing, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization for the Department of Justice. Edwards requests legal arrangements for Artime to remain in the US to serve "...the national intelligence mission under the Special Agreement between the Attorney General and the Director of Central Intelligence."vi
Artime served as the MRR's leading delegate in the Frente Revolucionario Democratico (Democratic Revolutionary Front, FRD) a large association of exile groups supported by the Central Intelligence Agency. However, some MRR members had deep resentments for what they considered mistreatment by older leaders and politicians. This prevented their full incorporation into the greater association of exiles. This was a common problem as many groups sought to dominate the others. Several groups desired to be among those would replace the Castro regime but that required elusive unity.
September 20, 1960 an unnamed Alien Affairs Officer based on the request of CIA Western Hemisphere Division employee Jack Kennedy contacted Immigration and Naturalization Service on behalf of extending Artime's stay in the United States.vii Eventually the increasing membership and discord between exiled groups led to the FRD's dissolution. Cuban Exile leaders created a new multiple group association the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC) with Artime serving as one of the directors. April of 1961 Artime and hundreds of other were taken prisoner after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. The Cuban regime holds Artime and other Brigade members for nearly two years in detention. Eventually after repeated failed offers, United States officials paid a ransom of fifty three million dollars in medical and humanitarian supplies for the exiles release. Artime subsequently was back in contact with the Agency at the end of 1962 and reaffirmed his commitment to the overthrow of the Castro government.
One of Artime's former case officers E. Howard Hunt contacted him in early 1963; yet Hunt was no longer the primary Agency contact for Artime. Agency officials decide further contact would only be "detrimental" to their current operations. The matter was causing JM Wave Station leaders "some embarrassment".viii Artime during an encounter with Hunt claims that he was "...under the wing of Mr. Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, who had counseled him not to accept money from the CRC (Cuban Revolutionary Council) expenses would reach him by another channel." William K. Harvey, a notable CIA officer who supervised a significant portion of the plots targeting multiple enemy world leaders requests the Agency restore Artime's "...provisional operational approval" for six months on January 23, 1963. "It is planned to use Artime in the WAVE area and throughout Latin America as a PA-PROP asset."ix Operational approval was granted days later and in February Artime was engaged under an indefinite oral contract.x
During April of the same year, he reportedly had additional meetings with Robert Kennedy, E. Howard Hunt, and daytime television appearances to generate attention for his cause. Artime submitted the prior requested plan of action for clandestine operations against Cuba. Substantial funding and arms placed within Artime's reach but officials reminded him "...the hand of the U.S. Government cannot and will not be revealed, but at the same time we would be willing to unofficially and informally assist however possible..." June 22, 1963 mercenary Frank "Fiorini" (Sturgis) was in contact with Artime for the procurement of aircraft in Dallas, Texas.
US officials construct Project AMWORLD a far spanning plan to set up Artime and MRR forces abroad to undertake clandestine projects against foreign targets.xi In July, officials planned to cease all contact between Artime and JM Wave Station and the Agency had arrangements made to retain 25,000 dollars in a Swiss bank account for him to make operational purchases. The CIA attempted to sever any links to conceal operational ties and grant Artime some autonomy for undertaking AMWORLD operations. Removing operations from American soil could place distance between these illegal paramilitary actions and the United States government while offering plausible deniability.xii
The Agency's Director of Security received a memo describing Project AMWORLD as being "...a so-called 'autonomous' operation..." It explains "...the Agency would furnish funds and materials, but the actual handling, direction, or control of the Project would be by the Project head, Manuel Artime..."xiii This allowed for Artime and his followers to determine without official supervision how to undertake operations funded by the Central Intelligence Agency. Artime's final planned meeting with JMWAVE officers before launching AMWORLD occurs July 19, 1963.
In September, Agency Special Affairs Staff Chief Desmond Fitzgerald requests to make contact with Artime for training with sabotage devices and techniques. This would demonstrate Artime and his followers were not yet ready or properly trained to undertake AMWORLD. A document from September reveals despite giving Artime enormous power and autonomy Agency officials knew he could be unreliable. "We were aware that AMBIDDY-1's (Artime's) judgment would on occasion be found wanting and that he may, e.g., make mistakes in the choice of subordinates."xiv Between 1963 and 1964, the Agency provided the Artime operation nearly five million dollars.xv
"Under the concept of autonomy there is admittedly room for a certain amount of improper kickbacks. Our best protection is to estimate appropriate costs for known activities and accomplishments and budget accordingly. We can never, therefore, guarantee either total probity or efficiency, but we feel quite confident that substantial sums either stolen or wasted would become evident."xvi Yet despite the overconfidence of American leaders, their actions could allow someone to utilize untraced weapons, mercenaries, fanatic exiles, and funds to undertake autonomous operations without official knowledge. Such miscalculations provide criminal opportunities.
Another problem was Artime's seeming penchant for exaggeration by declaring that he often dealt directly with the Attorney General and that Robert Kennedy had personally seen or approved his plans. November 14, 1963 the United States Defense Department provided over one hundred tons of arms support to the Artime group.xvii Artime contacted Agency staffer Raul Hernandez in late November and called to state he just learned about President Kennedy's assassination. He asked if the Agency had any further information on the matter. He also stated he would "...cable Robert Kennedy and the Secretary of State to express his deep sorrow concerning this ghastly matter."xviii
The Artime autonomous group continued operations beyond the death of President Kennedy. Until April of 1964, officials never had a critical realization. A meeting of Johnson Administration's officials internally states, "The problem of those groups and their potential for continuing operation on their own and the momentum of these groups after support was cut was also discussed. It was clear that the groups headed by Artime and Ray constituted a potential threat."xix Officials reveal Artime was just the leader of one among multiple autonomous groups. Each group constitutes a possibility for criminal abuse and using the United States governments own funding and weapons against their interests active since 1963. Simultaneously officials were conducting the President's Commission investigation of President Kennedy's death, but higher officials concealed some evidence required to make a proper assessment of all the reasonable potential threats.
i. United States Department of Defense, US Army - Califano Papers, Artime Busca, Manuel Francisco, (n.d.), p. 2
ii. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Segregated CIA file, Microfilm Reel 2, Artime-Barker, Folder B, Memo from Artime re MIRR to Pope (Holy Catholic See), Memo re Nicarag, December 11, 1964, National Archives and Records Adminstration: 1994.03.07.11:20:04:400007
iii. United States Department of Defense, US Army - Califano Papers, Artime Busca, Manuel Francisco, (n.d.), p. 2, NARA ID: 198-10004-10060
iv. HSCA, CIA Seg. file, Request for assistance in the case of Manuel Francis Artime Buesa and Manuel Antonio Varona, Box 40, January 19, 1960, NARA ID: 104-10110-10259
v. Report of the HSCA, Volume X, Section VI, p. 66
vi. HSCA, CIA Seg. file, Office of Security File on Artime (Buesa) Manuel, Box 40, July 7, 1960, NARA ID: 1993.08.02.09:49:33:710060
vii. HSCA, CIA Seg. file, Office of Security File..., Subject: Manuel F. Artime, September 20, 1960
viii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Staff Notes, 180-10142-10307, August 1, 1978, p. 5
x. Ibid, p. 7
xi. CIA file, Los Angeles Division Work File, Book Dispatch: AMWORLD-Background of Program, Operational Support, Requirements and Procedural Rules, June 28, 1963, NARA ID: 104-10315-10004
xii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Staff Notes, Aug 1, 1978, p. 8, 9
xiii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Project Report, Box 40, October 16, 1964, p. 1, NARA ID: 104-10109-10170
xiv. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, AMWORLD/Briefing of AMJAVA-4, September 6, 1963, NARA ID: 104-10241-10049
xv. HSCA, Seg CIA file, Microfilm Reel 16, Ricciardelli-Ruby, Manual Ray, Chronology of Autonomous Operations, (n.d.), NARA ID: 1994.04.11.11:21:29:000005
xvi. Ibid, Financial Support for Manuel Artime Buesa, p. 5
xvii. Ibid, Chronology of Autonomous Operations, p. 12
xviii. HSCA, Staff Notes, Aug 1978, p. 11
xix. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Chronology of Autonomous Operations, p. 13
Edited: December 2017