Cuban Exile Told Sons He Trained Oswald, JFK's Accused Assassin, at a Secret CIA Camp

Nora Gamez Torres / Miami Herald
Cuban Exile Told Sons He Trained Oswald, JFK's Accused Assassin, at a Secret CIA Camp Ricardo Morales, known as "Monkey," second left, and his "cleanup" crew posing with CIA-provided sniper rifles. The date and the location of the photo are not known. (photo: Ricardo Morales Jr.)

Almost 40 years after his death following a bar brawl in Key Biscayne, Ricardo Morales, known as “Monkey” — contract CIA worker, anti-Castro militant, counter-intelligence chief for Venezuela, FBI informant and drug dealer — returned to the spotlight Thursday morning when one of his sons made a startling claim on Spanish-language radio:

Morales, a sniper instructor in the early 1960s in secret camps where Cuban exiles and others trained to invade Cuba, realized in the hours after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963 that the accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been one of his sniper trainees.

Morales also told his two sons that two days before the assassination, his CIA handler told him and his “clean-up” team to go to Dallas for a mission. But after the tragic events, they were ordered to go back to Miami without learning what the mission was about.

The claims made by Ricardo Morales Jr. during a show on Miami’s Actualidad Radio 1040 AM, add to one of the long-held theories about the JFK assassination — that Cuban exiles working for the CIA had been involved. But the claims also point the finger at the CIA, which some observers believe could help explain why President Joe Biden backed off last week on declassifying the remaining documents in the case.

Morales’ son, 58, said the last time his father took him and his brother to shooting practice in the Everglades, a year before dying in 1982, he told them he felt his end was near because he had revealed too much information of his work for the CIA to a Venezuelan journalist and he was writing a memoir. So he encouraged his sons to ask him questions about his life.

“My brother asked ‘Who killed John F. Kennedy?’ and his answer was, ‘I didn’t do it but I was in Dallas two days before waiting for orders. We were the cleaning crew just in case something bad had to be done.’ After the assassination, they did not have to do anything and returned to Miami,” his son said on the radio show.

Morales Jr. said his father told them he did not know of the plans to assassinate Kennedy.

“He knew Kennedy was coming to Dallas, so he imagines something is going to happen, but he doesn’t know the plan,” he said. “In these kinds of conspiracies and these big things, nobody knows what the other is doing.”

Morales also knew Oswald, his son claims.

“When my old man was training in a CIA camp — he did not tell me where — he was helping to train snipers: other Cubans, Latin Americans, and there were a few Americans,” he said. “When he saw the photo of Lee Harvey Oswald [after the assassination] he realized that this was the same character he had seen on the CIA training field. He saw him, he saw the name tag, but he did not know him because he was not famous yet, but later when my father sees him he realizes that he is the same person.”

Morales Jr. gave a similar account to the Miami Herald in an interview Thursday, adding that his father said he didn’t believe Oswald killed Kennedy “because he has witnessed him shooting at a training camp and he said there is no way that guy could shoot that well.”

He said he believes his father told the truth at a moment he was fearing for his life after losing government protection.

While Lee Harvey Oswald was accused in Kennedy’s assassination, a 1979 report from the House Select Committee on Assassinations contradicted the 1964 Warren Commission conclusion that JFK was killed by one lone gunman. The committee instead concluded that the president was likely slain as the result of a conspiracy and that there was a high probability that two gunmen fired at him.

The House Select Committee, which also interviewed Morales, said they couldn’t preclude the possibility that Cuban exiles were involved.

There have been previous reports that a group of anti-Castro Cuban exiles, including the leader of the organization Alpha 66, Manuel Rodriguez Orcarberro, met at a house in Dallas days before the assassination, and that Oswald was seen visiting the house or being in the area. As that theory goes, Cuban exiles, who felt betrayed by Kennedy’s lack of support in the 1961 Bay of Pigs operation and his deal with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev after the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis not to invade Cuba, could have planned to kill JFK and blamed Castro so the U.S. would invade the island.

Other theories say the CIA was involved in the conspiracy, using Cuban exiles while helping create a fake narrative to paint Oswald as a pro-Castro communist so that the Cuban leader could be blamed for the assassination.

The CIA did not immediately reply to an email requesting comments about the new allegations.

Whatever happened, Biden’s decision to postpone the declassification of the remaining 15,000 documents linked to the case is once again giving life to the conspiracy theories. Morales’ son believes the documents might never be made public.

After advocating for the documents’ release, President Biden ordered the postponement last week citing the impact of the COVID pandemic on the declassifying efforts and the need to protect “against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure.”

“If Lee Harvey Oswald was the killer, acting on his own, why not release the documents?” said Democratic pollster Fernand Amandi, who has extensively researched Kennedy’s assassination.

Other experts think that no single document will reveal the truth, but might shed light on how intelligence agencies impeded the investigations to cover other operations, tactics and shadow figures.

Peter Kornbluh, a Cuba analyst at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., called on the Biden administration to release the remaining JFK assassination records and end “the speculation, conjecture and conspiracy theories that have flourished because of the secrecy surrounding these documents.”

“If we have learned anything from the Kennedy assassination,” he noted, “it is that conspiracy theories like this one spread like mold in the darkness of secrecy. Almost 60 years later, it is time for historical transparency so that the Kennedy assassination can be laid to rest.”

Amandi, who called Morales Jr.’s account “a bomb” said there is no doubt that what Morales told his sons has merit, since he was a confessed CIA hitman, he told the Herald. Amandi believes many documents in the classified records make reference to Morales.

But Morales’ complex history and character, and his legal maneuvers to stay out of prison by becoming an informant in several federal and state investigations of anti-Castro terrorist activities, along with his drug trafficking, gave him a reputation as a clever man who was also unreliable.

The “Monkey,” a former intelligence agent for the Castro government in the early days of the revolution, later worked for or collaborated with the CIA, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Israel’s Mossad and Venezuela’s DISIP intelligence agency during the 1960s and ‘70s. According to CIA documents declassified in 2017, Morales was terminated as a CIA contract worker in 1964 after a mission in the Congo because he was “’too wise’ and not too clever for own good.”

His son said his father was in Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis and was working as a double agent, feeding false information to Cuban intelligence services after he was already a CIA asset.

Morales claimed to have been involved in almost every major plot to overthrow Fidel Castro, and he confessed to having a hand in more than 15 bombings. After his death, he was even linked to a plot to kill Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976, the Herald reported in 1991.

In a pretrial deposition related to a drug investigation case in which he was an informant, Morales confessed to being one of the people behind the mid-air bombing of a Cubana Airlines jetliner in Barbados in 1976, killing all 73 aboard. He also implicated the late Luis Posada Carriles, believed to be the mastermind of the bombing. In a 2005 interview with the Herald, Posada Carriles dismissed Morales’ account, attacking his character.

“I never would have participated in any conspiracy with Monkey Morales,” Posada said. “I’d have to be crazy, my God! Everything Monkey said had a double intent. He was not credible.”

But the fact that Morales avoided prosecution time after time, and that his name seems to pop up in so many government records, make his son and Amandi believe he knew what he was talking about regarding Kennedy’s assassination, they said during the show.

Morales’ son also made another claim on the show that might solve another 1980s murder mystery.

“On his deathbed, my uncle confessed he killed Rogelio Novo in retaliation for my father’s murder,” he said. Novo was the owner of Rogers on the Green, the Key Biscayne restaurant and bar where Morales was gunned down in December 1982. No one was ever arrested in Novo’s death.

A series of killings, including the death of Morales’ lawyer months before Morales himself was killed “destroyed my family,” his son told the Herald. The family split and scattered all around the country, fearing retaliation.

Morales Jr. currently lives in Michigan. He didn’t say anything before about the Kennedy connection because in the beginning, the family was “scared to death,” he said. Later he thought people would not believe him.

He mentioned the family is now considering a TV deal in connection to his father’s life, but gave no further details.

“It’s an amazing story,” he said. “It seems larger than life.”

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