Luis Echeverría, the Mexican Minister of Gobernaciòn (which directed the DFS), told Winston Scott on November 23 that Silvia Durán had given a "written statement attesting to two visits by Oswald."38 According to the sequence of documents in Oswald's 201 file, no written statement from Durán's DFS interview reached CIA Headquarters until November 28, after Langley had asked for it on November 27.39
There is however evidence that the CIA HQ received a written Durán statement, not in the Oswald 201 file, from a back channel.40 Already on November 24 we find a cable from John Scelso at Headquarters, who has already read it: "After analyzing all the [cable] traffic and reading the statement of Silvia Duran, one important question still puzzles us."41 Even earlier, on November 23, the CIA opined in a Headquarters memo to the FBI that Oswald probably wanted a Soviet visa first, then a Cuban transit visa while waiting for it. The memo added that "This is also the conclusion reached by Silvia Duran, the Mexican national employee of the Cuban Embassy who dealt with OSWALD."42 Durán could indeed easily have voiced this opinion, but there is nothing in the Oswald 201 file that indicates how CIA HQ could have known this.
It seems likely that the 10-page written Durán statement sent on November 27 was designed to replace an earlier, suppressed statement referred to in the CIA cable of November 23. Summarizing the contents of this statement, the cable repeated the Phase-One allegation that Oswald said he was a "Communist and admirer of Castro."43 But what the CIA found worthy of reporting on November 23 (that Oswald said he was a Communist) has disappeared from the November 26 10-page written statement, as later from two subsequent differing versions of Durán's November 23 interview, all of them Phase Two.44
None of the Phase-One or Phase-Two versions mention what Silvia told the Cuban Ambassador after her release: that the DFS asked her "if she had personal relations and even if she had intimate [i.e. sexual] relations with him." (In his phone call reporting this to the Cuban President, overheard by the CIA, the Ambassador also commented on the bruises inflicted on Durán during the interview.)45
From whatever source, rumors of a Duran-Oswald sexual relationship were soon floating through the US Embassy in Mexico City in the first week after the assassination, when they were heard by an FBI agent, Larry Keenan, who had been sent down by Washington.46 A Cuban exile who was also a CIA agent, Salvador Diaz Verson, claimed to have heard in the offices of the Mexico City newspaper Excelsior, on November 25, that the DFS had learned from Durán that Oswald "had contacted DURAN, and had stayed in her home in Mexico City."47 (Silvia Durán herself testified that the DFS had given the results of her first interrogation to Excelsior, where a version of them was published.)48
As late as 1967 Durán reportedly told a CIA agent, LIRING-3, that in her November 23 interrogation she had been "interviewed thoroughly and beaten until she admitted that she had an affair with Oswald."49 CIA Station Chief Win Scott later reported on this Phase-One allegation as a fact, "the fact that Silvia Durán had sexual intercourse with Lee Harvey Oswald on several occasions when the latter was in Mexico City."50
A decade later Durán confirmed to the House Assassinations Committee staff that she had been questioned about sexual relations with Oswald, which she linked to the claim that "we were Communists and that we were planning the Revolution."51
all the time they tell me that I was a Communist...and they insisted that I was a very important person for...the Cuban Government and that I was the link for the International Communists -- the Cuban Communists, the Mexican Communists and the American Communists, and that we were going to kill Kennedy, and I was the link. For them I was very important.52
We shall see that the theory of an international Communist assassination conspiracy, with the Oswald-Durán relationship at its center, was one propounded by Durán's cousin-in-law, Elena Garro de Paz, who was already in DFS custody. Durán blamed her "cousin" [i.e. Garro] for her arrest by the DFS.53
Whatever the details, there is a conspicuous contrast between the Phase-One accounts of this November 23 interview, beginning with the missing "written statement" of November 24, and the extant Phase-Two accounts.54 None of the extant versions mention either a conspiracy or a sexual relationship. Yet a State Department officer later told Secretary of State William Rogers that he had heard from the Deputy Chief of the CIA Station (Alan White) that the DFS had indeed interrogated Silvia Durán about the substance of the Garro allegations.55
The credibility of the Durán allegations is still further complicated by the hints and rumors, explored in the Lopez report, that Silvia Durán "may have been a source of information for either the CIA or the Mexicans."56
2. Gilberto Alvarado's managed story:
Another version of the Garro sexual assassination conspiracy theory was put forward on November 25 by an agent of Nicaraguan dictator Somoza. In brief, Oswald was supposed to have volunteered in the Cuban Embassy to kill President Kennedy; and to have received $6,500 in cash for the job (in front of Alvarado, a stranger). Alvarado's claim also overlapped in vivid particulars with the Garro story, even to such details as Oswald's companions (a tall thin Negro with reddish hair, a blonde-haired hippie with a Canadian passport), and the intimate embrace he received from a girl inside the Embassy.57
There was an inherent problem with Alvarado's story, so grave that it raises questions why Alvarado was ever treated with such seriousness by the US Embassy in Mexico. This is that Alvarado claimed to have seen Oswald in the Cuban Embassy on September 18, a date when (as the FBI quickly established) Oswald was still in New Orleans. This problem vanished when Alvarado amended the date to September 28.58 This happened to be exactly the date which the CIA (falsely, I shall argue below) placed Oswald in the Cuban Embassy. Given the extent of bad faith misreporting by the CIA about Oswald in the Cuban Embassy, we have to ask if this "correction" of Alvarado's story had not been inspired by his CIA or DFS interrogators.
The Phase-One Alvarado story was also soon retracted, and replaced by a Phase-Two denial. On November 30 the DFS told the CIA "that Alvarado has signed a statement saying that his story of seeing Oswald inside the Cuban Embassy is completely false." This information was immediately forwarded to CIA headquarters, who in turn forwarded it to the White House.59 This tied up the "lead being pursued in Mexico," which, as Hoover told LBJ on November 29, delayed the FBI's hope "to have the investigation wrapped up" by that time.60
There is more to the Alvarado story. As we have seen, he had retracted his retraction by December 3, claiming it was obtained under threat of DFS torture. Alvarado subsequently underwent a lie detector test by a technician from Washington, and failed it.61
The essential point is that there was both a Phase-One and a Phase-Two version of the managed Alvarado story, which alternated in close synchrony with the political needs of the moment. As the Washington Post has noted, a Phase-One version of the Alvarado story reached Lyndon Johnson soon before he coerced Warren into accepting the Chairmanship of the Warren Commission:
Later that afternoon [at 4:30 PM] November 29, Johnson asked Warren to come to the White House. It was around this time that Johnson received a call [at 1:40 PM] from Hoover updating the investigation. The "angle in Mexico is giving us a great deal of trouble," Hoover said. Oswald had not been in Mexico on Sept. 18, as Alvarado had [originally] said, but Alvarado had now changed the date to Sept. 28, a day Oswald was known to have been there.62
It is not known if Johnson brought up the Alvarado story when pressuring Warren. Certainly other cables had reached the White House on the same day, which weakened rather than increased the likelihood of Cuban involvement. A CIA cable to the White House at 1:30 PM had notified the White House that the Mexicans interviewing Silvia Durán now believed she had been involved only with visas.63 A cable at 4:15 told the White House that Alvarado did not recognize a photo of Durán, and the Mexicans now doubted his story.64 From the CIA's record, it would appear that it was Johnson, rather than the CIA, who selectively screened the data to secure Earl Warren's compliance.
The Alvarado story in its brief and varied career was quintessentially managed, and manageable. Deeply flawed from the outset by an impossible alleged date, it was turned up, and then turned off, to meet the changing needs of his managers. There are indications that the Mexico City Station knew from the outset that the Alvarado story was false, and may indeed have planted it. According to a later report from CIA HQ to the Warren Commission,
Alvarado was known to CIA as a former informant of a Central American security service and to have been used to penetrate communist guerrilla groups. He said that he was in Mexico City still working for his service, trying to get himself accepted by the Cubans as a communist so they would take him to Cuba for guerrilla training.65
But in the initial cable to HQ about Alvarado, he was identified only as a Nicaraguan who "claims he awaiting false Mexican documentation prior receiving sabotage training Cuba."66 The author of this cable, "M.C. Choaden," has been identified by ARRB staff as David Phillips, a specialist in disinformation who, as the Lopez Report noted, later lied significantly about his role in the CIA's investigation of the JFK assassination.67
In a second cable, using a different pseudonym ("L.F. Barker"), David Phillips reported that Alvarado had admitted he was a member of the Nicaraguan Secret Service, but saw that as no reason to question his story. On the contrary, Phillips described Alvarado as a "young, quiet, very serious person, who speaks with conviction."68 As late as November 27, Ambassador Mann reported that the CIA ("CAS") officer interviewing Alvarado (presumably David Phillips) "was impressed by Alvarado."69 Still later, as noted above, Alvarado modified his story to bring the date of his Oswald observance exactly into line with the date, September 28, when the CIA (wrongly) believed Oswald to have been there.
It should be understood that the Nicaraguan Secret Service, like other intelligence networks in Mexico and Central America, worked closely with the CIA. It later emerged that the CIA in Managua had already prepared several reports of which Alvarado, while in the Nicaraguan Secret Service, was the ultimate source.70 Thus the FBI seems to have got it right when in its own reports it described Alvarado as a "source of CIA's" or "CIA source."71
The most important part of this CIA connection is that, in Nicaragua exactly as in Mexico, the CIA's intelligence sources were grounded in the kryptonomy. It has been known for some time that the CIA's chief asset in Nicaragua was the leadership of the corrupt National Guard, which has been called "one of the most corrupt military establishments in the world.72
We now learn that Alvarado, the "CIA source," reported "directly to General Gustavo Montiel, Chief of the Intelligence Service of the Nicaraguan Army."73 As we shall see, Montiel was later denounced as a principal in a "massive car theft ring" run by Norwin Meneses, described in other CIA cables as "the kingpin of narcotics traffickers in Nicaragua."74 We shall return to this striking similarity between these CIA assets -- Montiel in Nicaragua, Nazar Haro in Mexico -- that both were said to be involved in networks dealing simultaneously in massive car smuggling and in narcotics.
Given the known ambiguities about Alvarado's double identity as an intelligence agent, one can easily fault the leaders of the US Embassy in Mexico (Ambassador Mann, Station Chief Scott, and FBI Legat Anderson), for claiming that "there appears to be a strong possibility that a down payment was made to Oswald in the Cuban Embassy here."75 But it is not clear that the management of the Alvarado story was integral to the Kennedy assassination plot. It is clear that the CIA was and is hiding something about Oswald and the Cuban Embassy. The Alvarado story might have been no more than a convenient diversion: a chance to focus attention on a different (and false) narrative.