Wednesday, 11 January 2023 11:39

A Narrative is Debunked

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Gerry Simone debunks a "debunking article" on Oswald's alleged Mexico City trip published on The Conversation website.

I was browsing the internet on the subject of Mexico City and the JFK assassination last year, when I stumbled upon an online article on The Conversation webpage. (Incidentally, this article has replicated on other online “news” sites faster than the spread of the Corona Virus, it seems).

Above the heading JFK Conspiracy Theory is Debunked in Mexico City 57 Years After Kennedy Assassination, were two photos of the infamous Mystery Man: originally purported to be Lee Harvey Oswald visiting the Soviet Embassy. This spurred my curiosity to keep on reading to see if this Mystery Man photo was finally solved. To my chagrin, the article started off with an unfounded general statement that “most conspiracy theories surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination have been disproven”; citing two examples, one absurd and the other of lesser significance, or a case of misidentification if not coincidence. To illustrate my point, it should be noted that six out of seven mock trials on this case resulted in either a hung jury or acquittal for the accused. Meaning that, under scrutiny, the lone assassin scenario is seriously called into question, or that reasonable doubt in favor of Lee Harvey Oswald exists. And let’s not forget about the many scholarly works by serious researchers, particularly from the file releases since the creation of the ARRB in 1994, who have cast even further doubt on that scenario. Finally, it should be noted that most Americans believe in an assassination conspiracy.

In spite of that unjustified statement, I forged on in the face of this initial tone set by author Gonzalo Soltero, Professor of Narrative Analysis, at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), and author of the book Conspiracy Narratives South of the Border: Bad Hombres Do the Twist. The online article, albeit brief, is based on Chapter 3 of his book titled, “Oswald Does the Twist”. The purpose of this paper is to critique his online article, particularly the main premise: that the late journalist Oscar Contreras Lartigue could not have met Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City, as Contreras claimed. If the reader will recall, some witnesses in and around the Cuban consulate said that the man the CIA said was Oswald, was not actually him. As we will see, the man these witnesses saw or met was short, about 5’ 6”, and blonde. Neither of which depicts Oswald. And one of these witnesses was Contreras. (See, for example, James DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 293)

While researching his book on conspiracy narratives in Mexico, the author discovered what he described as “a hole in the story of the very man who started a “tenacious conspiracy theory about Oswald’s Mexico trip”. He goes on further to describe it as a “main conspiracy about Oswald’s undocumented time in Mexico City (that) puts him in contact with dangerous Mexicans on the left side of the Cold War”. This conspiracy theory began well after the Warren Commission: “This story originated in March 1967 when the American Consul in the Mexican coastal city of Tampico, Benjamin Ruyle, was buying drinks for local journalists”. (I can think of bigger conspiracy theories, also mentioned in Soltero’s book, but more on that later). That man is Oscar Contreras Lartigue, who was a law student at the UNAM and budding journalist for El Sol de Tampico newspaper, who wrote for its gossip column, Crisol. Oscar Contreras told Ruyle he met Oswald in 1963 on campus when he belonged to a pro-Castro campus group and that Oswald sought help in getting a Cuban visa. Contreras said Oswald spent two days with these students and met up later with them at the Cuban Embassy. Contreras said he was involved in some nefarious political activities (including blowing up a statue of a former Mexican president) and was afraid to talk much more. He also mentioned that he told his editor too about his encounter with Lee Harvey Oswald. Three months later, Contreras was visited by a CIA official from Mexico City, but he still refused to go into details, except to say that Oswald never mentioned assassination, only a need to get to Cuba. In 1978, the HSCA’s Dan Hardway went to Mexico. According to Soltero, Hardway was unable to interview Contreras despite several attempts, but reported that his account should not be dismissed. (According to Hardway, the CIA prevented the HSCA from interviewing Oscar Contreras. See the article A Cruel and Shocking Misinterpretation by Dan Hardway, 2015).

Later on, N.Y. Times reporter Phillip Shenon successfully interviewed Contreras for his 2013 book on the assassination and found him to be credible. Contreras was more forthcoming and told him about “far more extensive contacts between Oswald and Cuban agents in Mexico”. Oscar Contreras died in 2016 so Professor Soltero could not interview him, but he remembered a minor detail of Contreras’ account.

That minor detail was Contreras telling his editor, while a law student, about his encounter with Oswald. Soltero questioned this reference to an editor in Contreras’ story, so he did some investigating. He then found out about Contreras’ job with El Sol de Tampico, and two of his gossip columns, one dated September 22nd and the other on October 6th, 1963. Oswald purportedly arrived in Mexico City by bus Friday morning, Sept. 27, 1963 and left very early on Wednesday, October 2nd. After examining those two gossip columns, Soltero concluded that Oscar Contreras Lartigue could not have been in Mexico City during the time Oswald was there, as he would have been in Tampico, some 300 miles away, covering and writing those stories. He therefore concludes that his account about meeting Oswald was a fabrication and that any conspiracy theory arising therefrom, associating Oswald with pro-Castro Mexicans or Cuban agents, is debunked. But if those gossip columns were dated one week before and after the weekend of Oswald’s visit to Mexico City, how can Soltero make such a conclusion? No specific details from those articles were articulated or given in his article or Chapter 3 of his book. So, I did some digging of my own.

The gossip columns published in The Conversation article were not clear enough for me to use a translation app, so I needed to consult with a Spanish translator.   Fortunately for me, I met a gentleman who runs a translation service in Mexico, who also has an interest in this historical subject. And what he found was that Contreras does not admit to personally attending, or even imply his attendance, to any events mentioned in those gossip columns, but only describes what those events are: some of which occured in the past and some which will occur in the future. But no events take place on Friday September 27th or during the weekend, or Monday September 30th or Tuesday October 1st, when Oswald was supposedly in Mexico City (Oswald left early Wednesday morning).

Specific events cited are:

  1. A wedding engagement in Monterrey, N.L between Leticia Lozano & Raul Segovia on the 26th of this month
  2. A reunion at the Club Blanco y Negro in Tampico next Tuesday (the 24th),
  3. A wedding scheduled to take place on October 5th between Lupita Aguilar Adame & Carlos Sanchez Schutz,
  4. A yacht excursion organized by Janet Abisad (on Sept. 16th),
  5. Lupita Rivera Casanova & friends organized a yacht trip (for the 18th).

So, the absence of a social event in Tampico, during the time that Oswald supposedly visited Mexico City (Sep. 27th to Oct. 2nd, 1963), could not prevent Oscar Contreras from being in Mexico City. Furthermore, even if there was an event during that crucial period, why could not Contreras arrange for a proxy to cover a story? It appears that the basis for Mr. Soltero’s repudiation of Oscar Contreras’ account is unfounded. Not to mention that it’s convenient for Soltero to discredit him, since Contreras is not around to defend himself. However, as specifically pointed out above, the Sol de Tampico archives do not discredit Contreras’ account.

Professor Soltero also refers to the account of Contreras as a “main conspiracy about Oswald’s undocumented time in Mexico City”. Is it really? If it is a “main conspiracy”, this writer can think of other more important conspiracy theories related to Mexico City, namely: that Oswald met with a Soviet diplomat named Valeriy Kostikov at the Soviet Embassy, who the CIA suspected of being attached to the KGB’s Department 13 in charge of Assassinations, Terrorism & Sabotage. The purported reason being to apply for a visa to get to the Soviet Union via Cuba (the insinuation being to seek asylum after the assassination after conferring with the enemy). Or what about the one saying that Oswald was offered a large sum of money by pro-Castro Cubans at the Cuban Consulate for the assassination? How is this one: that Lee Harvey Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City to attract attention to himself with his public behaviour, in order to incriminate him by his contact with Cubans and Soviets there, ostensibly to use that offensive association during the Cold War, to effect a possible retaliatory response by the U.S. against Cuba or the Soviets? (A related conspiracy to the latter is that someone or persons in U.S. intelligence was/were manipulating Oswald with their knowledge of the CIA’s surveillance of the Cuban Consulate and Soviet Embassy).

Professor Soltero does mention in his article, an argument between Oswald and the Cuban consul, Eusebio Azcue, when he visited the Cuban Embassy seeking a visa to the Soviet Union. However, the HSCA shed more light on that incident with Azcue. On page 250 of their Findings, they state that “Eusebio Azcue testified that the man who applied for an in-transit visa to the Soviet Union was not (emphasis added) the one who was identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, the (alleged) assassin of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963”. Both Azcue and Silvia Duran described the man in question as dark blond or blond hair and short. (The Lee Harvey Oswald Files, Flip De Mey, p. 292). Interestingly enough, Oscar Contreras even described a person who introduced himself as Oswald, as blond and short (Flip De Mey, p. 419, note 838)! Anthony Summers spoke to Oscar Contreras, who said he met a blond American calling himself Oswald in Mexico City in the fall of 1963 (Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation, p. 447, Skyhorse. Kindle Edition). “Contreras told Summers that he now doubts that the man really was Oswald. He, too, said the man he met was over thirty, light-haired and fairly short. Contreras, not very tall himself, remembers looking down on ‘Oswald The Rabbit’” (Fonzi, The Last Investigation, p. 448). [Note: The reference to “Rabbit” was from a Mexican cartoon about rabbits that included two characters named Harvey & Oswald, that Contreras and fellow students joked about when they met Oswald at a university cafeteria, which is why it stuck in his mind (See Anthony Summers, Not In Your Lifetime, p. 323, Kindle Edition)]

With respect to that alleged meeting with Valeriy Kostikov, a CIA cable on October 9, 1963 sent by its Mexico City Station to CIA headquarters, described an October 1st phone call to the Soviet consulate which it wiretapped, about an American male who spoke broken Russian and who “said his name Lee Oswald”, and that he had been at the Soviet Embassy on September 28th when he spoke with a consul believed to be Valeriy Kostikov. One problem with that call is that the real Oswald was fluent in Russian. Furthermore, the cable’s description of the man entering and leaving the Soviet Embassy from surveillance photos (35, athletic build, 6 feet, receding hairline and balding top) did not match Lee Harvey Oswald’s description, since he was shorter and slimmer. “What one is confronted with in the October 9th cable is an apparently damning connection between Oswald and a KGB assassination expert, but a connection made by a man impersonating Oswald”. [Jim Douglass, JFK and The Unspeakable, p. 76].

The Soviet Embassy and Cuban Consulate in Mexico City were thoroughly monitored by the CIA, which possessed tape recordings, photographs, and transcripts supposedly of Oswald, as he went in and out of those buildings, and from his telephone calls to them. The CIA station sent this information to the FBI in Dallas on the morning of November 23, 1963. Astonishingly, the FBI Agents in Dallas discovered that neither the voice on the recording nor the man in the photographs matched Lee Harvey Oswald, the man in custody. J. Edgar Hoover gave this news to LBJ that morning of the mismatch (a “second person”), and then later to head of the Secret Service about an impostor (“individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald”). The implications of an imposter are quite significant since it could mean a conspirator, not Oswald, was attempting to lay blame to the Cubans and/or Soviets to incite a retaliatory, military response; if not to consciously induce a cover-up of an assassination conspiracy with a lone assassin scenario, by planting a false trail to the KGB (Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, pp. 38-41, by Peter Scott). We now know that this succeeded with LBJ, who intimidated Chief Justice Warren to participate in the Warren Commission, and the infamous Katzenbach memo urging that “The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial” (Flip De Mey, pp. 294).

The CIA and FBI belatedly tried to explain away the photos and tapes, but other sources and rationalizations refute such back-pedalling (As an example, how does one confuse a tape-recording or listening to one, for a transcript? Several other reasons are enumerated in the book, The Lee Harvey Oswald Files, by Flip De Mey, pp. 289 – 291). Moreover, neither LBJ nor Hoover repudiated their initial, recorded communications about an impostor. In fact, Hoover seven weeks after the assassination, scribbled at the bottom of an FBI memo “O.K., but I hope you are not being taken in. I can’t forget the CIA withholding the French espionage activities in the USA nor the false story re Oswald’s trip to Mexico, only to mention two instances of their double-dealing.” (Douglass, p. 81).

To reinforce the aforementioned cases of double Oswalds, there were other instances of possible Oswald impostors around Dallas, in particular, the encounter by Silvia Odio on September 25th if not the 26th, which is suspicious since Oswald cashed a check in New Orleans on the day that he supposedly was in Dallas and/or was on his way to Mexico City through Houston then Laredo. And in another case, much earlier in Russia, from a 1960 memo by J. Edgar Hoover to the State Department, warning “there is a possibility that an impostor is using Oswald’s birth certificate.” [Jim Marrs, Crossfire, p. 209, Basic Books,Kindle Edition]. But it doesn’t end there, as there was a December 2nd, 1963 report by SSA Floyd Boring that a credible witness encountered an Oswald look-a-like in Washington, D.C. on September 27th, 1963, when the Warren Commission was adamant that “Oswald” was in Mexico City on that date! (Honest Answers by Vince Palamara, pp. 201- 202, Kindle Edition)

The other main conspiracy theory in Mexico City involves a young, Nicaraguan named Gilberto Alvarado Ugarte, who was revealed to be a “penetration agent of the right-wing Somoza government of Nicaragua” (Oswald, Mexico & Deep Politics, Peter Scott, p. 36, Kindle Edition) and a CIA informant (Our Man In Mexico: Winston Scott & the Hidden History of the CIA, Jefferson Morley, Location 4512, Kindle Edition). The basic story is that Alvarado says that on September 18, 1963, he witnessed a Cuban give Oswald a total of $6,500, presumably to hire him to kill the President. He claims to have heard Oswald say to the Cuban (a red-haired black man) “You’re not man enough – I can do it”. The problem with that story was that Oswald was not in Mexico on that date and Alvarado later failed a polygraph test. Yet in its early stages, it was promoted by the CIA Mexico City Station via Win Scott and David Phillips and Ambassador Thomas Mann.

Alvarado’s claim was flashed to Washington for the attention of the FBI and the State Department—and the White House, where it became one of the first pieces of “evidence” to sow the idea of a Castro conspiracy in the new President’s mind. Twenty-four hours later, the CIA reported information “from a sensitive and reliable source” that tended to confirm Alvarado’s story.” (Anthony Summers, Not in Your Lifetime p. 388 Open Road Media. Kindle Edition).

Yet, “In spite of the holes in Alvarado’s claim about Oswald, his allegation was brought to President Johnson’s attention on at least three occasions and for some time remained a live issue.” (Summers, ibid, p. 391).

The historical significance of the latter conspiracy theory (together with the Kostikov story) clearly outweighs the one promoted by Professor Soltero involving Oscar Contreras. Because on the basis of the foregoing story, LBJ persuaded Chief Justice Earl Warren that 39 million American lives were at stake if war broke out with the Soviets via Cuba, something that was not going to happen under the Johnson administration, along with any mention of any international Communist conspiracy. Thus, the lone assassin scenario was adopted with the creation of the Warren Commission on November 30th, 1963, which pre-empted any independent Congressional investigation.

Professor Gonzalo Soltero began his online article with a blanket statement that ‘most conspiracy theories surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination have been disproven’, using two outlandish theories as examples, while ignoring all the additional file releases by the ARRB and cumulative work of researchers since the 1990s that point to a conspiracy. This establishes the bias for the ensuing narrative, despite acknowledging the existence of conspiracies in his book Conspiracy Narratives: South of the Border which contains some statements at odds with the rather blanket denial: “conspiracies are planned and executed, and evil squadrons do exist” (p. 19), “the DFS were bad hombres”, “DFS agents were the local muscle for the CIA”, and “the agency (CIA) ran assassination and sabotage missions against other countries” (p. 93 –Kindle Edition).

He claims that the account of Oscar Contreras, a pro-Castro law student and gossip column journalist, who says he met someone that identified himself as Lee Harvey Oswald asking for assistance to procure a travel visa to Cuba, was a fabrication. Why? Because he could not be in Mexico City while covering social events in Tampico, and therefore that a “main conspiracy theory” about Oswald being “in contact with dangerous Mexicans on the left side of the Cold War” is debunked. Yet the basis for his claim is actually not substantiated by the dates and details of newspaper columns during the time that Oswald visited Mexico City in late September/early October 1963. (And it seems superfluous to add, other witnesses also encountered the short, blonde Oswald.)

The relevance of this is that it leaves open the possibility that Contreras met Lee Harvey Oswald, or more importantly, an impostor based on his description and the descriptions by others; not to mention other reported cases of someone impersonating Oswald in Mexico City and beyond. This also resuscitates the belief by Phillip Shenon and Dan Hardway that Oscar Contreras was a credible witness. However, unlike Shenon, Hardway thinks the evidence of Cuban assistance to Oswald is very weak at best, which is also contrary to Soltero’s statement that Hardway “reiterated in 2015 that Lee Harvey Oswald might have been part of a wider Cuban intelligence web”. In fact, Contreras was warned by Cuban Consular staff and an intelligence officer to avoid Oswald as they suspected he was trying to infiltrate pro Castro groups (Hardway, 2015). This parallels the time that Oswald was used to identify and contact pro-Castro students at Tulane University in New Orleans (Ibid). Soltero does not mention the issue of an Oswald impersonator in his online article, but does allude to it in his book. But he dismisses the issue of impersonators in Mexico City as “an espionage operation (counterintelligence impersonation – CIA assets pretending to be Oswald and Silvia Duran) getting caught in another espionage operation (telephone and photographic surveillance). And then the CIA had to cover its tracks to protect their own sources and operations, some of which were covert and perhaps illegal.” (Gonzalo, p.99, Kindle Edition).

How can this be an innocent explanation without considering the possibility that Oswald was being used in an intelligence operation as an “intelligence dangle” or “an attempt to discredit the FPCC, or both?” (Hardway, 2015) Moreover, Hardway says this suggests that Oswald’s trip to Mexico was either designed in advance, or spun in the aftermath, to give the appearance of Cuban and Soviet collusion in the Kennedy Assassination” (Ibid). And, let’s not forget: the conditions ripe to set up a scapegoat, the patsy in Dallas. A patsy who was an opponent of Castro to Silvia Odio in Dallas, but pro-Castro in Mexico City.

This is an inconsistency that should raise red flags, but not to Soltero, who concludes that Oswald was a “disorganized loner who couldn’t handle travel logistics.” Notwithstanding that Oswald successfully managed a trip to the Soviet Union, purportedly as a defector during the Cold War, and returned to the U.S. with hardly a hassle.   Professor Soltero concludes that the JFK Assassination is a cold case and that only exhausted leads remain in Mexico. I agree with the former but not the latter: especially since the CIA resisted the HSCA’s inquiry into that area of their investigation (Ibid). Not to mention the delay on the release of classified files relating to the JFK assassination, which continues to this very day.

And lastly, critics of the Warren Commission or researchers involved in this case, are not concerned with narrativity, or telling a good story, but to ascertain the facts and follow them to reach definitive, evidentiary-based conclusions, if not just to establish reasonable doubt. This is not paranoia, but a quest for justice and the truth.

[Note: This author thanks Robert Rafael Esquivel Diaz for his translation service and insight.]

Last modified on Wednesday, 25 January 2023 05:32
Gerry Simone

Gerry Simone has a Commerce & Finance degree from the University of Toronto and is a Canadian CPA who works in the construction industry. His interest in the JFK Assassination began in the early 80s and was inspired by the late Toronto researcher & lecturer Tony Centa, who was noted for his presentation of the Zapruder film on a projector before available online.  He has attended conferences on the case and is an active contributor on Quora and participant at other social media sites.

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