Herminio Diaz Garcia is another of the persons of interest I mention at several points in Someone Would Have Talked who won’t be showing up in Tipping Point. However, Diaz Garcia continues to be someone mentioned as either a shooter in the Dallas attack, as the driver of a Rambler on Elm Street – or both.
Actually his name did not emerge in regard to the Kennedy assassination until 1995, decades after Diaz Garcia had been killed during a small exile group mission into Cuba, and a mission intended to kill Fidel Castro. Diaz Garcia and another man landed via rubber raft and were to set up rockets to be fired against Castro. In 1995 Diaz Garcia’s (along with that of Anthony “Tony” Cuesta and several other anti-Castro Cubans) name was introduced into the JFK assassination by Cuban General Fabio Escalante.
Tony Cuesta himself was a moderately well-known name in anti-Castro activities. In 1961 he had been granted CIA approval to work as a crew member on the Tejuana, a ship used to smuggle weapons and people into Cuba before the landings at the Bay of Pigs. Following that disaster he had broken away and become involved in independent anti-Castro activities with Alpha 66 and later Commandos L.
The Tejanua’s missions ceased prior to actual landings at the Bay of Pigs, and Cuesta had no further operational use by the CIA. In 1966 he was part of a small group affiliated with Commandos L which carried out the abortive mission in which Diaz Garcia was killed; during the engagement Cuesta had been blinded, lost one hand and was taken prisoner. In 1978, following talks with President Jimmy Carter, Castro allowed a group of Cuban prisoners to return to the United States and Cuesta was among that group. After his return to the United States, Cuesta lived for almost three decades, passing away only in 1994.
In 1995 General Fabio Escalate published a book dealing with American / CIA efforts to kill Fidel Castro. That same year he and other former Castro regime figures agreed to an off shore meeting with a group of Kennedy assassination researchers. Among other remarks, Escalante
related that at the time of his release, Tony Cuesta had privately told Escalante that he had been involved in the killing of President Kennedy – as had another member of the mission to kill Castro, Diaz Garcia. Escalante offered no corroboration for the Cuesta/Diaz Garcia story, nor did he offer an explanation for Cuesta’s “confession” other than that in some fashion he and Cuesta had become friendly to General Escalante while in prison.
Escalante’s 1995 book, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations against Cuba, 1959-62 provided an extensive list of purported CIA attempts to kill Fidel Castro. Escalante also wrote the introduction and commentary for CIA Targets Fidel: The Secret Assassination Report. In those works he blamed the assassination of President Kennedy on a conspiracy of Cuban exiles
including Tony Cuesta and Diaz Garcia – working with the CIA.
Over a decade after Escalante’s revelation, in 2007, Reinaldo Martinez, who had also been in prison in Cuba, offered the story that while working in the prison infirmary he had treated Cuesta and Cuesta had told him that Diaz Garcia having told him that he had been involved in killing PresidentKennedy. Cuesta had offered nothing more than saying that he had heard that from Diaz Garcia himself.
Martinez contacted former House Select Committee chief counsel Robert Blakey and ultimately Blakey and author Anthony Summers interviewed Martinez and wrote about the claims – a sensational version of which appeared in the British press.
Martinez attempted to corroborate his own remarks by stating that after his return to the United States a friend of his, Remegio Arce, had told him that a friend of theirs, Diaz Garcia, had been the man who shot JFK. Arce was no longer living at the time of Martinez’s talks with Blakey and Summers so that corroboration could not actually be verified.
While many have accepted both the Escalante and Martinez remarks, a number of JFK researchers have examined them in considerable detail, expressing both skepticism and concerns over the general reliability of Tony Cuesta as a source.
Which brings us back to Diaz Garcia, and the issue of his viability as either a participant (or an actual shooter) in the attack on JFK in Dallas. As it turns out, recent records releases from both the CIA and FBI actually provide some general information about his background in Cuba and in particular his activities after arriving in the United States in July, 1963.
Diaz Garcia entered the United States by commercial liner, the SS Maxima, in 1963, traveling under a release program which had freed members of the Cuban Brigade, certain Americans imprisoned in Cuba, and a number of Cubans who chose to claim political exile. He traveled to the United States along with his wife and an infant daughter.
Along with other incoming Cuban exiles, Diaz Garcia was evaluated by the CIA refuge filter center and its Cuban intelligence assets (AMLEPTON team) and his 201 file saw a number of additions form 1963 on, including input from the CIA’s Cuban intelligence group (AMOTS). A Church committee summary document on from August 1975 indicates that a CIA file on Diaz Garcia had initially been created because he had been reported in the news as a suspect in gang related murders and attempted kidnappings in Cuba as well in Honduras and Costa Rica.
Some of the more sensational claims, based in newspaper stories identifying Diaz Garcia as having been involved in gang activities including political assassination and attempted kidnapping, remain difficult to verify given that he was apparently never actually charged or sentenced for such crimes while inside Cuba. He did spend a short time in jail in 1957, either as a suspect in one of the reputed crimes or for suspected actions against the Batista regime. Later he was held – as were thousands – for suspected anti-Castro sympathies in 1961 and 1962.
Diaz Garcia gave only limited remarks about his own background, describing his membership in a union of restaurant employees and saying that he had worked in Havana hotels and casinos. However, AMOT sources described him as having a criminal history inside Cuba, working in casino security before being demoted to a cashier’s position.
According to those source reports, Diaz Garcia was reputed to have been associated with activities against the Batista regime, having killed a Cuban secret police chief and plotting to assassinate Batista himself. While there is no proof to support those actions against Batista, Dias Garcia was jailed for possible conspiracy against the Castro regime at the time of the Cuban Brigade landings at the Bay of Pigs held for 70 days and then later released. He had also been taken into custody for a shorter period in 1962.
The CIA summary assessment of him was that he might be a useful source of intelligence on certain Cuban figures, but also noted that Diaz Garcia was “fond of gambling and of committing any crime for money”. Given his apparent association with criminals inside Cuba, and his apparent involvement in illegal arms and possibly drug deals after entering the United States that does seem like an accurate assessment.
As of September 17, 1963 the CIA was still in the progress of evaluating Diaz Garcia and preparing a standard 201 file on him. The initial information collected for that file states that he had trained as a dietician, had been a restaurant worker employee and a union member. His
last job inside Cuba had been as a cashier at the Hotel Havana-Rivera. He had formerly headed the security detail at that hotel, during 1959-60 – before Castro had reorganized the casinos and hotels, eliminating the old line American syndicate ownership and management.
Once established in the United States, Diaz Garcia began to pursue limited anti-Castro activities in 1964. An AMOT source reported that he was dedicated to the assassination of Fidel Castro, either through direct military action or through contacts inside the Cuban Army. In 1966, an AMOT intelligence source reported that Diaz Garcia had been specifically plotting and working on plans and efforts to assassinate since 1964.
In 1965 Diaz Garcia began an association with Tony Cuesta and Cuesta’s Commandos L group. Commandos L had in turn had had become associated with individuals in the Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE). RECE was largely funded by a wealthy Cuban rum magnate, Jose Bosch.
During 1965 Diaz Garcia became personally involved in Commandos L missions, including a November attack near Havana, Cuba.
While RECE may have had substantial funding, the individuals involved with Commandos L were left largely to their own resources, selling bonds and asking for donations. However some of their volunteers (including Diaz Garcia) turned to other, far more illegal activities
We know a good deal about both Commandos L and RECE and certain of its members not only because some of them actually served as voluntary sources to the FBI, also but because the CIA had been able to place its own
informants inside the group and they consistently reported on individual’s political and social connections as well as the group’s plans and activities.
FBI sources also covertly monitored some of the Commandos L affiliates, and their records confirm that that Diaz Garcia was among those engaged in trafficking in explosives, detonators and even hand grenades – dealing with long time Miami traffickers including Norman Rothman. In addition FBI sources reported that Diaz Garcia may also have acted as a courier in narcotics deals; he frequently traveled between Miami and New York City as
well as into Mexico.
Possibly in response to the FBI monitoring and certainly as a person of interest to the FBI, by 1966 Diaz Garcia chose to directly approach the FBI and began to volunteer information on his associations and activities with anti-Castro groups. He even disclosed the fact that he was involved in a new plan which would essentially take him back into Cuba on a one way mission, the mission was to have some financial support from RECE but would be a totally independent operation.
Diaz Garcia and a handful of other men were committed to an independent action which would result in the assassination of Fidel Castro. During his interview with the FBI he refused to discuss any further detail about the planned mission, insisting that it would be a totally independent activity, not associated with the United States or other anti-Castro exile
As it turned out Diaz Garcia’s remarks to the FBI were quite accurate. Later in 1966 he did go into Cuba with a group led by Tony Cuesta. Diaz Garcia and another man landed by inflatable raft and were positioning two rockets for an attack on Fidel Castro when they were captured.
All this leaves us with a great deal of information (some confirmed; some simply rumored) detail about Herminio Diaz Garcia, but no corroboration of any remarks attributed to Cuesta or for that matter to Martinez, whose revelation was made after Escalante’s meeting with researchers and his identification of Diaz Garcia in remarks related to his own book about CIA assassination efforts against Fidel Castro.
While I certainly can’t “prove” that neither Diaz Garcia nor Tony Cuesta himself were involved in the attack on JFK, at this point I can’t point out a path to link either of them to the Dallas conspiracy. I’ve tried to focus Tipping Point on provable associations and actual documented activities related to Dallas, what we now know about Herminio Diaz Garcia is not sufficient to outline a scenario for his recruitment or a unique role for him. In fact we cannot even verify even his claim of involvement, nor that of Tony Cuesta. Until and unless something more definitive emerges, he has to remain a wild card.
Addendum: Tipping Point Segment 3 is now live on the Mary Ferrell Foundation
Segment 3 of Tipping Point is live on the Mary Ferrell Foundation now:
It delves into the chronology of what I found to be especially significant events and movements of individuals during the Fall of 1963. The commentary in the end notes also gives my opinions on topics of that period that are widely discussed and debated.
Segment 3 completes the background for the final two segments, which are both much longer and much more detailed – segments 4 and 5 explore what I see as the context in which the Dallas attack involved, the specifics of the personnel involved and the tactical aspects of the attack – and what followed President Kennedy’s murder.