Manuel Ray was born in Cuba in 1924. Ray was a outstanding student and in 1947 the Cuban Ministry of Public Works granted him a scholarship to study civil engineering at the University of Utah. Ray returned to Cuba in 1949 and became project manager for the construction of the Hilton Hotel in Havana.
Ray was opposed to the military rule of Fulgencio Batista and in 1957 he established the Civic Resistance Movement. Over the next two years Ray organized a series of sabotage and acts of terrorism against the Batista government.Fidel Castro recognised the important role Ray played in the overthrow of Batista and appointed him as his Minister of Public Works (February, 1959).
Ray clashed with Castro over certain issues. This included Castro's decision to execute Hubert Matos. In November, 1959, Ray left Castro's government. In May 1960 Ray formed the Revolutionary Movement of the People (MRP) and joined the underground resistance to Castro. The MRP was a left of centre political organization that's policies included regulation of private investment and the nationalization of all utilities.
The Central Intelligence Agency considered Ray an important political asset and in November, 1960, arranged for him to escape to the United States. However, the CIA was not in complete agreement about Ray. For example, E. Howard Hunt saw Ray as too left-wing and described him as a supporter of "Fidelism without Fidel".
Despite these fears, John F. Kennedy insisted that Ray should become part of the Frente Revolucionario Democratico (FRD). This upset its leader, Jose Miro Cardona, who considered Ray to be a dangerous radical. William Pawley, who believed that Ray was a communist, also objected to him becoming a member of FRD.
Kennedy also wanted Ray to join the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC). Ray agreed to do this three weeks before the Bay of Pigs operation. Ray became Chief of Sabotage and Internal Affairs. Other members of this government in exile included Tony Varona (Secretary of War), Manuel Artime (Head of the Army), Antonio Maceo (Secretary of Health) and Justo Carrillo (Economic Administrator).
Ray withdrew the MRP from the CRC soon after the failed invasion of Cuba. He gave a news conference on 28th May, 1961, where he criticised the Bay of Pigs operation. He claimed that CRC had broken a pledge to ensure that anyone closely associated with Fulgencio Batista would not be used in the invasion. Ray also argued that Castro should be overthrown by the Cuban people and was totally opposed to CIA backed invasions.
John F. Kennedy now cut off funds for the MRP. As a result, party members persuaded Ray to resign as leader of the MRP. Ray now moved to Puerto Rico. In October 1961 he became a member of the Puerto Rican Planning Board.
In April 1962, Ray formed a new anti-Castro organization called the Junta Revolucionario Cubana (JURE). This organization became part of the CRC. Ray also began providing information to the CIA about the possible defection of Castro's officials. Ray made a tour of Latin American countries in an attempt to raise funds in order that JURE could mount resistance operations inside Cuba.
Silvia Odio was one of Ray's supporters. On 25th September, 1963, Odio had a visit from three men who claimed they were from New Orleans. Two of the men, Leopoldo and Angelo, said they were members of the JURE. The third man, Leon, was introduced as an American sympathizer who was willing to take part in the assassination of Fidel Castro. After she told them that she was unwilling to get involved in any criminal activity, the three men left.
Odio became convinced that after the assassination of John F. Kennedy that Leon was Lee Harvey Oswald. Odio gave evidence to the Warren Commission and one of its lawyers commented: "Silvia Odio was checked out thoroughly... The evidence is unanimously favorable... Odio is the most significant witness linking Oswald to the anti-Castro Cubans."
On 20th May, 1964, Ray and a crew of seven, including a reporter-photographer team from Life Magazine, landed at the Angguilla Cays, 40 miles off the Cuban coast. However, the British authorities discovered Ray and his group and their cache of weapons and explosives, arrested them for illegal entry into the Bahamas and took them to Nassau. After being fined Ray was deported to the United States.
The FBI now carried out an investigation into Ray's activities and discovered that he had illegally purchased $50,000 worth of arms for JURE from a California arms manufacturer. As a result Ray was told to move all his operations outside of United States territory. Attempts were also made to stop people in the United States from financing Ray's activities.
Ray continued to get involved in anti-Castro activities and in 1972 he formed the People's Revolutionary Party, but it failed to make an impact.
In 1978 Ray moved to Puerto Rico when he headed his own engineering consulting firm in San Juan.
(1) Jake Esterline was interviewed by Jack Pfeiffer on 10th November, 1975.
Jack Pfeiffer: What about Manuel Ray in terms of leaders?
Jake Esterline: Well, he was so anti-CIA, starting back in the early 50's... he was anti-US government. So the CIA was lumped in with that - probably because of the Ambassadorial image we had in Cuba in those early 50's with Ambassador Gardner, who distinguished himself when he was the American Ambassador there by buying a thousand pounds of ice from the ice plant every time they gave a cocktail party so he could have the pool cooled properly. You know, that kind of thing, Ray has never really been in sympathy with the U.S. His reasons were probably not all that bad, and in those earlier years, gave him an affinity with Castro. He wanted an independent Cuba, and he didn't want the United States to be a continuous satellite to the United States. So he would have ended up in the category of a political unreliable. He did have a pretty good friendship with Jim Noel, whom I mentioned earlier. Jim used to say, "Gee, can't we bring him in more - and everybody threw up their hands. Jerry Droller would throw up his hands and say "you can't do this." He would have been absolutely unacceptable to any Cuban politician we had to deal with.
(2) Warren Hinckle & William Turner, Deadly Secrets: The CIA-Mafia War Against Castro and the Assassination of JFK (1992)
Three men appeared unannounced at the Dallas doorstep of Sylvia Odio, a well-known Cuban exile and a backer of Manuel Ray's JURE, the social-democrat group that most exiles considered flamingly pink. The trio's Latin-looking spokesman called himself Leopoldo. He said it was a "war name". He introduced a dark companion with a stocky build as "Angelo". The third man, an Angelo who stood shyly in the background, he introduced "Leon Oswal".