Manuel Artime

Manuel Artime

Manuel Artime Buesa was born in Cuba on 29th January, 1932. He became involved in politics and was a founder member of the Radical Liberal Party. He went into the Sierra Maestra to join Fidel Castro just 72 hours before the triumph of the revolution.

In 1959 Artime emerged as a leading anti-Communist. He worked closely with the Catholic University Association (CUA). Later that year he moved to the Manzanillo region where he joined up with Carlos Prio and Tony Varona. Along with Huber Matos they planned a counter-revolution. According to Fabian Escalante (The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62) this rebellion was organized by Frank Sturgis and the Central Intelligence Agency.

On 21st October, 1959, Artime arranged for Sturgis, flying a CIA plane, to drop thousands of leaflets over Havana, calling for the population to rise up against the revolution. When this did not happen, Artime fled from the country with a "hundred thousand pesos of funds under his control".

Artime moved to the United States and with Tony Varona, Rafael Quintero, Aureliano Arango and Jose Cardona established the Movement for the Recovery of the Revolution (MRR Party). In 1960 Artime met John F. Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention. Later he became a close friend of Robert Kennedy.

Artime took part in the Bay of Pigs as one of the leaders of Brigade 2506. He was captured and held prisoner until his ransom was paid by personal friends. Over the next few months he worked with E. Howard Hunt on several plots to kill Fidel Castro. However, Gaeton Fonzi has argued that Artime might have been working as a double agent for Castro.

In 1963 Artime obtained funds from the CIA via Ted Shackley head of the JM/WAVE station in Florida. Artime, Rafael Quintero and Felix Rodriguez moved to Nicaragua where they formed a 300 man army. They also covertly acquired arms, supplies and boats for an invasion of Cuba. According to David Corn (Blond Ghost): "The CIA trained Artime's men as Artime pulled together a small navy, obtained several planes, and collected over 200 tons of American-made arms. The CIA budget for Artime's war would come to total $7 million."

The invasion of Cuba never took place. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson cancelled what had become known as the Second Naval Guerrilla operation.

Artime also delivered hush money payments to the Watergate burglars.

Manuel Artime, Jose Miro Cardona, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy (29th December, 1962)
Manuel Artime, Jose Miro Cardona, John F. Kennedy
and Jackie Kennedy (29th December, 1962)

Manuel Artime Buesa died of cancer in Miami on 18th November, 1977. Artime was due to appear before the House Select Committee on Assassinations and Gaeton Fonzi claims: "There are some what I call mysterious deaths. Artime fits into that category - he got cancer awfully fast."

Primary Sources

(1) 112th Intelligence Corp Group Memo concerning the Cuban Officer Training Program, San Antonio, Texas (1st November, 1963)

During the month of June 1963, Manuel Artime, a leading political figure among the Cuban refugees in Miami, Florida, came to Fort Benning, Georgia, for the purpose of recruiting people to go to a revolutionary camp in Nicaragua. Artime informed this group that the U.S. Government was not going to do anything for Cuba and that he had obtained aid and instructors from Europe." "Help should start to be received by Artime after November 1963." "Muina is working for, or with, Artime. Muina has indicated that Cuba will not gain its liberty with the assistance of the United States, but needs to look for help from another country. Muina believes that the United States has decided to apply the principle of co-existence towards Cuba." "There is a group of officers with the Cuban Officers Training Program at Lackland Air Force Base who contemplate submitting their resignations if the United States has not done anything for the freedom of Cuba by December 1963. Many officers have indicated their desire to resign in order to join Manuel Artime who is supposedly organizing a training camp in Nicaragua. Artime has some contacts that have been undermining the present training program by spreading dissention among their fellow officers.

These men have developed a recruiting campaign to supply Artime with qualified leaders for the Nicaraguan camp... It is rumored that a Latin American country is going to buy planes from England and make them available to Artime... The Samoza regime in Nicaragua has also promised assistance to Artime in the forthcoming operations against Communist Cuba." "In early August, Femandez-Martinez offered Source $500 if Source would accept a position in Nicaragua with Artime." "During the inquiry, the USARMA, Managua, called attention to intelligence reports he had furnished reporting Nicaraguan press comment on the visit of exiled Cuban refugee leaders Dr. Manual Artime Buessa, Dr. Carlos Prio Soccares, Dr. Manual de Varona... during July and August 1963." "At 1030 hours 19 November, Major Bryce, G-2 Section, Ft. Holabird telephoned... a call from Washington, D.C. on the night of the 18- requesting Jose Raul Varona Gonzalez to come to Washington DC the following day. The call was from Lt. Emeido Oliva who was second in command at the Bay of Pigs, and according to Varona, now commander of Brigade 2506. Oliva wanted Varona to come to Washington to meet with Mr. Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General." "Varona was reportedly the G2 for Brigade 2506." "Varona made no mention of seeing Mr. Kennedy." "Mr. Kennedy did confer on 17 November with Manuel Artime Buessa, Roberto San Roman, aka Roberto Peres San Roman, Jose San Roman and Enrique Jose Ruiz William Alfret. They were also scheduled to meet with Mr. Robert Kennedy on either the 21st or 22nd of November, 1963. There is no indication that Ft. Holabird student Varona was present." "This office has no information whether Mr. Kennedy is aware of Artime's alleged recruiting activity."

(2) Hayes Johnson and Manuel Artime, The Bay of Pigs (1964)

Then it was Frank Bender's turn to speak. They were to hold the beach for seventy-two hours, he said. And what were they supposed to do after that? "We will be there with you for the next step," Frank said. "But you will be so strong, you will be getting so many people to your side, that you won't want to wait for us. You will go straight ahead. You will put your hands out, turn left, and go straight into Havana."

Frank made a sweeping gesture with his arm that no man present that day will ever forget. There was a great shout from the Cubans. Some had tears in their eyes.

When it came to support, Frank was equally emphatic: there was no question they would have air superiority. Nothing was said about United States air support, or about jets. It was said that the enemy would not be able to get to the Brigade; that it would be destroyed from the air; that no trucks or troops would be able to get through the roads because all the roads would be bombed; that "every five minutes there will be a plane over all the major roads of Cuba." The Brigade cargo ships were loaded with thirty to forty thousand gallons of gasoline so its air force could begin immediate missions once the field at Giron was seized. The air missions were already planned for that moment: the operations order called for them to destroy the main rail¬road and highway bridges in "the zones of Havana, Matanzas, Jovellanos, Colon, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos in order to iso¬late said areas from enemy operations."

Operation Pluto also included plans for a diversionary landing in Oriente Province by a commando group of 168 men, led by Nino Diaz, and a simulated attack, or "feint," in the vicinity of Pinar del Rio. The "feint" would be accomplished with special sound equipment that would make it sound as if a great battle were being waged.

When Frank had finished, there was a brief moment of silence and then a stir as the Cubans realized it was over. The plan sounded so good, the Cubans were so confident, that no one asked any questions. As Pepe said, "We didn't want to ask these men we knew any embarrassing questions."

Frank had said earlier, in response to a question, that if anything went wrong the Cubans should communicate with the rear base and he would give them instructions. Nothing was said about an alternative plan and as this is written, only one of the four leading Cubans knows that such a plan existed; he learned of it two years after the invasion. Later, in a secret toplevel administration investigation that followed in the wake of the invasion, it was learned that the CIA decided, on its own, not to give the Brigade the alternative plan. The explanation was given that it might weaken the Brigade's resolve to keep fighting, that they might choose the alternative plan when the going became rough, even though the invasion still had a chance of success. The most charitable explanation that can be placed on this reckless action is that the CIA assumed such terrible responsibility with the best of intentions: it was convinced the Cubans would win and therefore in the classic sense the end would justify the means.

It was five o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, April 14 when the officers left the briefing area for the pier. At the last moment Frank took Pepe aside. He told him that if he were ordered to halt the invasion while the ships were at sea he would send Pepe a radio message saying: COME BACK, DON 'T GO AHEAD.

That meant the opposite: it was really clear; they were to go ahead.

"But if I send you a message in code that says the bird-the Guatemalan bird, the quetzal-'The quetzal is on the branches of the tree'-that means Fidel is waiting for you so you will have to come back."

One of Frank's assistants named Phillips handed Pepe a big briefcase, locked and without a key, and told him to sign a receipt for it. Inside, he said, was $35,000-$10,000 in American money and $25,000 in Cuban. It was for use as the need arose. Pepe rejoined his staff and they prepared to board the ships.

(3) Hayes Johnson and Manuel Artime, The Bay of Pigs (1964)

Sometimes a more sinister explanation for the failure is given: "someone" wanted the Cubans to fail and deliberately scuttled a good plan with a good chance of success. This assumption is equally spurious for, if anything, the Bay of Pigs was a classic tragedy of good intentions. No one wanted the invasion to fail -from the Eisenhower administration to the Kennedy administration, from the Cubans to the Americans who trained them and ardently believed in them. Yet fail it did. The fault was shared by all who had a hand in it.

In the assignment of responsibility for the failure the military, and specifically, the joint Chiefs of Staff carries a heavy burden. They selected the Bay of Pigs - Zapata Swamp area for the invasion, and they did so taking into account the alternative plan for guerilla action. If that area was unsuited to a guerilla operation, and it most certainly was - they must take the blame for the blunder. They blundered, too, in failing to recognize how devastating the T-33 jet trainers could be in battle when armed with rockets. The result of that failure led to the virtual destruction of the Brigade airforce and the loss of the supply ships. But in the larger sense the military bore less responsibility in the overall Bay of Pigs operation than the CIA. And, finally, the responsibility must rest with the CIA.

The CIA, by its nature, remains in the shadows: it lends itself to the role of the villain, however frayed the cloak and however bent the dagger. Even this is not a fair generalization: the CIA has brilliant, dedicated men and women who perform thankless and dangerous jobs throughout the world that help to safeguard the United States and the free world. It is a cliche of the agency that its successes never get reported and its U-2 flights and Bay of Pigs invasions become causes celebres. The CIA is necessary to the survival of the United States and it shall remain necessary for as long a time as can be anticipated. Acknowledging these as truths, however, does not make the CIA sacrosanct, nor does it relieve the agency of its responsibilities or hide the dangers that are inherent in such an organization.

The gathering of intelligence, with all that is implied in that general term, is the lifeblood of the agency. However, in the Cuban invasion the CIA went far beyond this function. The CIA's men in the field tended to take matters into their own hands, to cross over the line from intelligence to the formation of policy. They did this in Miami when they picked and groomed men and then dictated to the Frente. They acted for the United States - or implied that they did - when dealing with the Cubans and led them to believe much that was not true. Later there was no way for the Cubans to prove they had been promised anything. In American terminology, they were left holding the bag.

"You begin to understand what it is like when they run the show," a Cuban said. "They say, 'Meet me at the corner of Thirty-second and Flagler in a car.' They say, 'My name is Bill, my number is P1-6-9945. Call me.' When they want you, you come, you call. When you want them, they are gone; you never see them again. So what happens? Who has the responsibility? So someone says, `What are you doing here?' You say, 'Bill sent me: 'Bill. What Bill? What is his last name? Where does he live?' And you say, `Bill, P1-6-9945.' There is no Bill at that number. To hell with them, I say. That is no way to run anything."

(4) Jake Esterline was interviewed by Jack Pfeiffer about the Bay of Pigs operation (10th November, 1975)

Tony Varona is a scoundrel, hopeless. He is a scoundrel, a cheat, and a thief - only to be surpassed by Artime, who was all of those, who probably made, in addition to stealing money from us, probably made a lot of money in the drug traffic in the last few years, among other things. He is a good friend of Howard Hunt, but I see him as a rogue.

(5) Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked (2003)

Manual Artime was one of the Cuban exile leaders playing a major role in the U.S. assembled exile leadership formed before the Bay of Pigs. Artime and other leaders including Tony Varona, Aureliano Arango and Jose Cardona met with Senator John Kennedy as early as the Democratic National Convention in 1960.

Artime became the exile favorite of the most fervently anti-Communist elements within the CIA. He provided an establishment contrast to more progressive and liberal exile politicians such as Manolo Rey (and the JURE party). Artime went into the Bay of Pigs with Brigade 2506, was captured and held prisoner in Cuba until his ransom was paid by personal friends of the Kennedy administration.

In 1963, he was recruited by the Administration and the CIA to launch the only sanctioned Kennedy Administration military effort against Castro - code named Second Naval Guerrilla. During 1963, Artime officially and covertly received substantial cash, arms, supplies and boats for this effort; SNG however had to be based totally outside the U.S. and to have total "deniability" in order to honor an Administration pledge not to support an invasion of Cuba.

Artime's major offshore assembly point and base became Nicaragua and preparations were well in progress for sea borne strikes and possibly a second Cuban invasion by 1964. Artime himself established close personal ties to the Samoza regime in Nicaragua, so personal that recently released CIA documents make it clear that the CIA was extremely concerned that Artime and Luis Samoza might well be taking the operation outside of U.S. control.

(6) Christopher Barger, memorandum to Jeremy Gunn (18th May, 1995)

I interviewed former US Army captain and CIA employee Bradley Ayers on May 12, 1995, at Ayers' home in Woodbury, Minnesota. The interview lasted from 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. The following is a summary and report of the interview...

Q. Did Morales ever try and pass himself off as Cuban?

A. Not to Ayers' knowledge, but "he could easily pass for Cuban." Morales was allegedly a very good actor, and "could pull off lots of roles." Here the conversation drifted into a discussion of David Morales and his emotional makeup. Ayers charged that Morales was a "mean" man who "paraded around the station like a tyrant." Everyone was apparently afraid of him. Morales hung with what Ayers called the "circle" - Morales, Roselli, Tony Sforza, Manuel Artime and Rip Robertson. The four were drinking buddies and of like mind on politics. Ayers said they were vicious, too. "If anyone put together a sniper team to hit the President, Morales, Rip, Rosselli and Sforza would have done it." Ayers noted that Artime, Robertson, Rosselli and Sforza all died just as the HSCA began investigating. He suggests checking for Morales' whereabouts during the late seventies, especially on the times these men were killed.