On September 20, 1963, someone had some advice for Henry Hecksher. The name on the memo in the CIA’s files is blanked out, but from the tone, it seems to be another agency officer.
“I regret that I wasn’t able to spend more time on this case, interesting as it was,” the person wrote in the memo marked “secret”.
The “case” centers on Manuel Ray, the former Minister of Public Works under Fidel Castro who stepped down in August 1959, fled into the mountains to fight the regime, and then by the time of the memo had already been an exile in the United States for a few months.
The writer used the memo to recommend to Hecksher, the globetrotting CIA agent who is the protagonist of this project, that the agency probe Ray to see if he could be a seen as a leader of a post-Castro Cuba.
He admitted had some reservations about expressing an opinion on the exile leader, and he noted that the CIA had already been hesitant to support him.
For example, as Ray took part of the resistance in Cuba’s Escambray Mountains, the writer said, he had used intermediaries to ask CIA’s Havana station for military aid. These entreaties were mostly rejected, though the memo’s author acknowledged that he did not know whether the station dropped some supplies for Ray’s rebels.
In general, when any US support was offered to Ray, it came with conditions.
One of those conditions was that he join the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FRD), a movement of anti-Castro exiles that was backed by Washington and that had a role in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion two years earlier.
But Ray did not want to join the group even, it seems, if it meant that he did not have US support, even though he was ultimately in favour of unifying the anti-Castro exile organizations.
The former Cuban official had some qualities that would have seemed like positives to Washington. While his politics wavered, he appeared to be in favor of democracy, civil liberties and closer ties to the US, and he was reportedly against communism, according to the memo.
Ray might be hesitant to accept US support as a leader of Cuba, but the memo’s writer believed he would ultimately relent.
“A new government in Cuba, especially one whose aim is to rid Cuba of Communism, will, without question, ask the United States, for economic assistance. I tend to doubt if we will provide this assistance without some caveat, and the question remains whether Ray would be willing to accept conditions to United States aid.”
“I think he will, for he will soon realize that without it, he will have no alternative but to turn to the Soviet Union.”
Continuing Cuba’s present course toward the Soviet orbit is not something Ray would be willing to do, the anonymous agent wrote.
How could the US figure out if Ray was the right man for the job?
The anonymous writer suggested that the CIA should ask the exile for a list of people that could make up his government should Castro be overthrown, and that would give some indication of what a Ray administration would look like.
And he said it was important that the US check out those names listed by Ray.
“I would support him, if for no other reason than to test his determination, strength, and to gain further knowledge of his political ambitions,” the writer concluded.
The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, CIA,