Armando Lopez Estrada

Armando Lopez Estrada

Armando Lopez Estrada was born in Cuba in 1939. He was a member of the Havana Police for three years prior to the fall of Fulgencio Batista. An opponent of Fidel Castro he fled to the United States and took part in the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961.

A report dated 11th January, 1962, reveals that Armando Lopez Estrada was involved in a plot with Rafael Anselmo Rodriguez Molins to assassinate John F. Kennedy in Florida. It later emerged that at the time Grayston Lynch was Lopez Estrada's CIA case officer. Lynch admitted that the CIA provided Lopez Estrada with weapons that were not registered so they could not be traced. He added that some operations planned by the exiles received approval, some did not: "There were some that we neither approved nor disapproved... If they didn't bother anything they just ignored them."

Donald Freed argues in Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier that on 29th June, 1976, Lopez Estrada had a meeting with Bernardo De Torres, Michael V. Townley, Hector Duran and General Juan Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, the head of DINA, the Chilean secret police.

In July 1976, Armando Lopez Estrada joined Frank Castro, Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch and Guillermo Novo to establish Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU). CORU was partly financed by Guillermo Hernández Cartaya, another Bay of Pigs veteran closely linked to the CIA. He was later charged with money laundering, drugs & arms trafficking and embezzlement. The federal prosecutor told Pete Brewton that he had been approached by a CIA officer who explained that "Cartaya had done a bunch of things that the government was indebted to him for, and he asked me to drop the charges against him."

One Miami police veteran told the authors of Assassination on Embassy Row (1980): "The Cubans held the CORU meeting at the request of the CIA. The Cuban groups... were running amok in the mid-1970s, and the United States had lost control of them. So the United States backed the meeting to get them all going in the same direction again, under United States control." It has been pointed out that George H. W. Bush was director of the CIA when this meeting took place.

Frank Castro told the Miami Herald why he had helped establish CORU: "I believe that the United States has betrayed freedom fighters around the world. They trained us to fight, brainwashed us how to fight and now they put Cuban exiles in jail for what they had been taught to do in the early years."

In October, 1976, Cubana Flight 455 exploded in midair, killing all 73 people aboard. This included all 24 young athletes on Cuba's gold-medal fencing team. Police in Trinidad arrested two Venezuelans, Herman Ricardo and Freddy Lugo. Ricardo worked for Posada's security agency in Venezuela and admitted that he and Lugo had planted two bombs on the plane. Ricardo claimed the bombing had been organized by Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch. When Posada was arrested he was found with a map of Washington showing the daily route of to work of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean Foreign Minister, who had been assassinated on 21st September, 1976. Michael V. Townley was later convicted of this crime.

CORU took credit for fifty bombings in Miami, New York, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico and Argentina in the first ten months after it was established. In a CBS interview on 10th June, 1977, Armando Lopez Estrada claimed: "We use the tactics that we learned from the CIA... We were trained to set off a bomb, we were trained to kill."

One of the first decisions taken by President Oscar Arias, elected in February 1986, was to expel Lopez Estrada from Costa Rica. The Wall Street Journal reported on 16th January 1987 that Lopez Estrada claimed that "on the instructions of a U.S. official in Costa Rica he recruited Bay of Pigs veterans to advise the contras on the Costa Rican southern front." In an another interview in the New York Times he confessed that the "U.S. government sent me to Costa Rica to do intelligence work and serve as liaison to... the Nicaraguan Contras with the purpose of providing them with advisors and military equipment."

Primary Sources

(1) CIA, Secret Intelligence Report, Activities of Cuban Exile Leader Orlando Bosch During his Stay in Venezuela (14th October, 1976)

TO: Lt. M. BROMLEY, Supervisor


DATE: January 11, 1962

SUBJECT: Assist other Agency - Alleged plot to assassinate the President of the United States

At approximately 6:30 P.M., January 10, 1962, Detective A. L. TARABOCHIA was contacted at his residence by Secret Service Agent ERNEST ARAGON in reference to alleged plot to assassinate the President of the United States.

Agent ARAGON revealed that, according to the information received by his agency, RAFAEL ANSELMO RODRIGUEZ MOLINS, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Dominican ancestry, was en route to Miami from Chicago to attempt to assassinate President KENNEDY next time he arrives in West Palm Beach. The subject also known as RAFAEL MOLINA is a W/M, RODRIGUEZ is known to disguise himself as a priest and carries a weapon concealed in a camera case. Since the subject has a badly infected foot, there is a possibility that he walks with a limp. Agent ARAGON added that the subject was to contact a Cuban male living in the Miami area before proceeding to West Palm Beach. The Cuban, ARMANDO PABLO LOPEZ ESTRADA QUINTANA, was a member of the forces that attempted the invasion of Cuba on April 17, 1961. LOPEZ is a W/M, DOB 3/15/39, 6ft, 200 lbs., last known address New York City, NY. LOPEZ is married and his wife's name is MERCEDES LOPEZ.

On January 11, 1962, the writer contacted a number of Cubans in position to furnish information concerning the suspects. As soon as this information is obtained it will be forwarded in a report to follow.

The investigation is continuing.

(2) Donald Freed, Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier (1980)

Most crucial to the defense was Townley's admission of his CIA status to a man named Armando Lopez Estrada. The refusal of the court to turn over their Lopez grand jury testimony to the defense was fatal to their case. Who was Armando Lopez Estrada?

In 1978 Lopez stood trial in Miami charged with a number of firearm violations. At trial, Lopez was identified as a long-time CIA contract agent. Another Bay of Pigs - David Phillips Old Boy. During testimony the agency was constrained to admit that Lopez was, as of 1976, still an employee of the agency. The man testifying was Grayston Lynch. Lynch had been a CIA case officer for the Bay of Pigs invasion and Brigade 2506. Lynch testified about Lopez Estrada's training, particularly with respect to weapons, pointing out that the weapons provided to the Brigade by the CIA in the early 1960s were not registered so they could not be traced. He also testified that although some operations planned by the exiles received express approval, some did not. "There were some that we neither approved nor disapproved... If they didn't bother anything they just ignored them"

On June 29, 1976, there was a meeting at the New England Oyster House in Coral Gables, Florida, involving two Chileans, two Cuban exiles, and an American. It now appears that the participants included Hector Duran, Bernardo de Torres and Armando Lopez Estrada, from the Brigade 2506; General Juan Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, the notorious then-head of DINA, the Chilean secret police, and Michael V. Townley.

This meeting, which was apparently conducted under police and FBI surveillance, and which included an informant (Lopez), centered on the murder of Letelier and several sabotage actions. No police action followed this meeting.

What is more, it is public knowledge that Lopez Estrada was also present at the secret meeting in July 1976 in the Dominican Republic. That fateful meeting organized the Co-ordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU), the heinous bombing of a Cubana airliner in October 1976, and the Letelier murder.

(3) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)

Gerry Hemming recently told me that Alex Rorke and Geoffrey Sullivan's flight was part of a Castro assassination plan. The third person on the plane, said Hemming, was a anti-Castro veteran named Molina, who was to be infiltrated into Cuba to monitor Castro's movements for the hit teams that were to come in later. (A report dated January 11th, 1962, reveals that Miami Police's intelligence unit was notified by the Secret Service that a Rafael Anselmo Rodriquez Molins, known as "Rafael Molina," was a suspect in a plan to assassinate John F. Kennedy when he visited the family home in Palm Beach. Molina, said the report, was to contact Armando Lopez Estrada, a Miami Cuban later charged with smuggling guns and drugs while working for the CIA in the illegal Contra-supply network.) According to Hemming, meetings to plan the Castro assassination were held aboard a Guatemalan warship in dry dock at Miami Shipbuilding. The ship was to be used in recovering the hit teams after the assassination. Involvement of the Guatemalan government, claims Hemming, meant the CIA had to have coordinated, or even instigated, the mission.

(4) Dominican Online (20th January, 2007)

The Dominican National Police have rescued a former U.S. Army officer in a raid that left two of his kidnappers dead, according to police chief General Bernardo Santana Páez. Two others were arrested in the operation that took place on Friday.

Cuban-born Armando López Estrada, a 68-year-old former second lieutenant in the United States armed forces, was kidnapped by four men on January 11 while visiting a friend in the Santo Domingo neighborhood of Villa Duarte, Santana Paez said in a statement.

Police tracked the kidnappers to the beach resort of Boca Chica, to the east of the capital, where Lopez Estrada was being held for $650,000 ransom.

Police opened fire and stormed the house. Two men in the house - Florian Medina, 32, and Julio César Morillo Ruíz, 41 - were killed. Ricardo Antonio Ramírez and Wilkin Miguel Minyetty Pujols were arrested on charges of complicity in the kidnapping, Santana Paez said.

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo confirmed the news of Lopez Estrada's rescue.