Recently author Judyth Vary Baker used some historical documents to make some points on Facebook that were not accurately portrayed. Much like the inaccurate insertion of Kerry Thornley and Eric Rogers into her memoir she has recently taken some events that occurred in Mexico City and has attempted to use them to support her story. This is part one of a two part response to her claims on her Facebook page. She takes aim at the CIA and Sylvia Duran in her post. These assertions do not stand up when examined with all of the evidence you will see in this article.
SYLVIA DURAN’S ARREST IS QUITE LOGICAL
Sylvia Duran was arrested twice by the Mexican authorities. What Baker makes seems sinister is actually very logical. Duran was arrested initially because she did not have any kind of diplomatic cover. Duran was recorded on a tape of two phone calls from the Cuban Embassy to the Soviet Embassy on September 27,1963. The phone calls were made on behalf of an unidentified America looking to travel to Cuba. Duran was a Mexican Citizen and therefore was easily apprehended without causing an international incident (1) She was not arrested to torture her and get her to confess to an affair, she was arrested the first time because of the phone call and the fact that this phone call had been tied to Lee Harvey Oswald’s visit to Mexico City.
CIA HEADQUARTERS DID NOT WANT DURAN ARRESTED
The first arrest and the second arrests of Duran were not authorized by CIA headquarters. At the time of the first arrest, a phone call from Chief of the Western Hemisphere/3 John Whitten (Pseudonym John Scelso) to Win Scott requested that Duran NOT be arrested, but Scott informed him it was too late. (2) This is also documented in a cable from CIA Mexico City to headquarters stating, “…SYLVIA DURAN AND HER HUSBAND HAD ALREADY BEEN ARRESTED.”(3) Whitten responded with a cable from headquarters to the Mexico City Station.
1. ARREST OF SILVIA DURAN IS EXTREMELY SERIOUS MATTER WHICH COULD PREJUDICE ODYOKE (UNITED STATES) FREEDOM OF ACTION ON ENTIRE QUESTION OF PBRUMEN (CUBAN) RESPONSIBILITY. WITH FULL REGARD FOR MEXICAN INTERESTS, REQUEST YOU ENSURE THAT HER ARREST IS KEPT ABSOLUTELY SECRET NO INFORMATION FROM HER IS PUBLISHED OR LEAKED, THAT ALL SUCH INFO IS CABLES TO US, AND THAT FACT OF HER ARREST AND HER STATEMENTS ARE NOT SPREAD TO LEFTIST OR DISLOYAL CIRCLES IN THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT
2. WE ARE TRYING TO GET MORE INFO ON OSWALD FROM ODENVY (FBI) AND WILL ADVISE DIRECTOR THROUGH ODENVY (FBI) MEXI.,., (4)
Deputy Station Chief, Alan White cabled headquarters on November 24, 1963 about the results of the Duran interrogation. Sylvia Duran and her entire family who were having a party were arrested. Duran blamed a relative for her arrest, so the CIA was not connected by her to her arrest, and the phone taps were still secret. The interrogation revealed that Oswald thought he would be able to travel to Cuba through an arrangement with the Soviets. That this was not so, and he was rude to the Soviets and that he became abusive in the Cuban Embassy when his efforts to get to Cuba were thwarted. (5) In addition, a human source within the Cuban Embassy explained that Duran returned to the embassy, satisfied with the way she had conducted herself during the arrest. The source reported that she had returned to work on November 25th. Interestingly the source inside of the embassy states that she “had no fear of confrontation.” (6)
DURAN PHYSICALLY FOUGHT WITH THE POLICE AT THE TIME OF HER ARREST
Duran testified before the HSCA in 1978. She spoke of her arrest and provided the committee with details about her arrest. Duran did not go quietly stating that when they told her she was being arrested, she refused to go with the police officers wishing to see a judges order. They then proceeded to put their hands on her, they grabbed her hands and she began to kick them to try and stop them from taking her. She stated that they covered her mouth and loaded her into a station wagon. (7) This is the only time she refers to being physically handled by the Mexican authorities in her testimony. Later in the questioning, the physicality of the arrest was again brought up and brought up the man she kicked in the “balls” at the first arrest was quite upset when they arrested her the second time. She admits she was scared, and they attempted to intimidate her, but she says she answered all of their questions truthfully. (8)
THE ALVARDO STORY CAUSED AMBASSADOR MANN TO WANT DURAN REARRESTED
After Sylvia Duran was released from her first interview, a man by the name of Gilberto Alvarado contacted the American Embassy on November 25, 1963 with a story that he witnessed Lee Harvey Oswald receive $6,500 from a red-haired Cuban inside the Cuban Embassy on September 18, 1963. Alvardo described that Oswald was friendly with a female employee of the embassy. (9) There is plenty to the Alvarado story that can be written but this is not the focus of this article. David Atlee Phillips was responsible for initially investigating Alvarado’s story, and initially found his story to be credible and his the cable to CIA indicated, Alvardo was able to identify members of the Cuban Embassy from photographs and what their jobs were within the embassy. (10) The investigation of Alvarado began to not ring true and by November 27, 1963 the CIA reported their doubts of his story to the FBI and Washington, DC, with the hypothesis that the story Alvarado was telling was designed by the government of Nicaragua to worsen relations between the US and Cuba. (11)
Alvardo’s story again focused the CIA’s attention on Sylvia Duran. It was not to establish that she had an affair. Duran was the ONLY person who was employed in the embassy who did not have diplomatic immunity. There was a communication from CIA headquarters again stressing that they did not want Sylvia Duran arrested. This appears to be in direct response to Ambassador Mann wanting to pursue the Cuban Assassination angle to its fullest potential. (12) On the same day there was a second communication from CIA headquarters again stressing that they did not want Sylvia Duran arrested but to place her under direct surveillance of the CIA or the Mexican authorities. This direction was in direct response to investigate the Alvarado story further. (13)
DURAN ARRESTED AGAIN AGAINST THE WISHES OF CIA HEADQUARTERS
Despite the directive from headquarters, the Mexican authorities decided to arrest Sylvia Duran. At 12:15 on November 27, Scott was notified that Mexican authorities had arrested Duran. (14) This information was passed from CIA headquarters directly to the White House. (15) Duran however, testified before the HSCA that she was not planning on leaving the country for Cuba. (16)
It is well documented that Ambassador Mann believed that there was a Cuban conspiracy that was being uncovered in Mexico City. He was frustrated by CIA headquarters, and my suspicion is that the Mexican authorities were directed through informal channels to arrest Sylvia Duran a second time. Ambassador Mann himself cabled CIA headquarters stating that there were two stories circulating from the Mexican Police, that Duran was arrested because she was going to leave for Cuba and a later story that they were trying to prevent her from leaving because she was a witness. This cable includes a firm statement from the Ambassador that they had not directed the Mexican authorities to arrest Duran. However, the cable exemplifies the ferocity in Mann’s desire to chase down the Alvarado lead by asking for permission to arrest Cuban consular officers Eusebio Azcue, Alfredo Mirabal, and secretary Luisa Calderon, all of whom were Cuban nationals. Luisa Calderon was identified as the woman that Avarado claimed was communicating with Oswald. In addition she was recorded on the wiretap of the embassy joking that she knew about the assassination before Kennedy (17). It is no wonder that Ambassador Mann believed the Alvarado story and wanted it pursued to the point where he wanted Cuban diplomats arrested. (18)
The rearrest prompted this response from Richard Helms at headquarters:
…TO BE CERTAIN THERE IS NO MISUNDERSTANDING BETWEEN US, WE WANT TO INSURE THAT NEITHER SLVIA DURAN NOR CUBANS GET IMPRESSION THAT AMERICANS BEHIND HER REARREST. IN OTHER WORDS WE WANT MEXICAN AUTHORITIES TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHOLE AFFAIR. (19)
THE CIA PROVIDED QUESTIONS TO DURAN’s INTERROGATORS
Duran was held for two days. The results of this investigation indicate no interest in Duran’s potential affair with Oswald, but it does contain questions related specifically to the Alvarado story. Win Scott added comments to the cable from Helms. He stated that the Mexican authorities should attempt to get the questions answered and that the CIA was still able to provide questions to the Mexican police, but that Americans should not have any direct contact with her. (20) And what was the focus of the second interrogation of Duran, according to the report of the transcripts, there is evidence that the details of the Alvarado story was at least part of the focus. There were questions asked about Calderon and then there are these statement in the report:
11. In answer to special questions, DURAN said that only she and the Consul are in the Consulate. She said that the first time that Lee Harvey OSWALD was in the Consulate in the morning, to request information about getting to Cuba, she did not observe him very well. In the afternoon, however, when he had the argument with the Consul, she did observe him closely and is sure that he was not wearing glasses.
12. There is no red-headed negro of that description in the Embassy. Lately, no new person has arrived at the Embassy. (21)
The special questions were asked of her. Alvarado’s story continued to fall apart. It is here that the FBI directs the CIA to turn Alvarado over to the Mexicans. The FBI wanted them to interrogate Alvarado and for them to conduct the polygraph of him. Since they had questioned Duran, they wanted Alvarado to be investigated by them as well, to determine if their stories matched at all. This directive was given to the CIA on November 28 and in the same communication we learn that the Mexicans were preparing to release Duran. It is clear, the CIA was not at all interested in any alleged affair on the part of Duran, but they were interested in determining if the Alvarado story had any truth to it. (22) In the end the Alvardo story did not hold water, and Alvarado recanted it.
ALLEGATIONS THAT DURAN WAS WITH OSWALD AT A PARTY 1964
As for the allegations that Duran slept with Oswald, Ms. Baker should heed her own advice in her post. She quotes from Dr. John Newman and his book Oswald and the CIA. Unfortunately, Ms. Baker does not read the portion of his work about the Duran/Oswald affair. Dr. Newman clearly points out through his outstanding research that the rumors of the affair between Oswald and Duran did not reach the CIA until after the Warren Report was published. This is a critical hole in her statement that Duran was tortured to admit that she was romantically involved with Oswald on behalf of the CIA.
The story which evolved over time made it’s way to Win Scott’s desk, on October 5, 1964. (23) In the original version of the story, Ms. Elena Garra de Paz, cousin of Sylvia Duran’s husband, Ruben, claimed to have attended a party in which Lee Harvey Oswald was present at the Duran’s house. The information was passed onto the FBI and she was interviewed on November 24, 1963. There was no mention of Duran having an affair with Oswald in the FBI interview of Elena. (24) Win Scott also wrote a memorandum about the interview and it does not include any details of an affair between Duran and Oswald. At this point both the FBI and Win Scott believe there is not much to report about the allegations because the dates are not in alignment with the established Oswald timeline in Mexico City.
ALLEGATIONS THAT DURAN WAS OSWALD’S MISTRESS 1965
By December 10, 1965, State Department Officer, Charles Thomas speaks with Elena, she add’s a detail to the story, that Sylvia Duran was Lee Harvey Oswald’s lover. In addition she makes reference to a red-haired Cuban. This brings back into question the information from Alvarado and his story of a red-headed Cuban who had given Oswald money inside of the Cuban Embassy. What was Win Scott’s reaction to the information that had crossed his desk?
“What an imagination she has!?!” If the CIA wanted to paint Oswald as the lover of Sylvia Duran, would this be the reaction that anyone would suspect? This is followed by the question posed to Anne Goodpasture, “Should we send to Hqs?” Again, if the CIA were indeed trying to perpetuate the lie of an Oswald and Duran affair as Ms. Baker alleges, why would they debate sending this information to headquarters? Winn Scott clearly did not believe that this had any credibility and again, in another memorandum written by the FBI to the Ambassador that Elena’s allegations were investigated and unsubstantiated. There was no further action necessary. Again Win Scott writes at the top, “Can we send in a report to HQS?” (25)
Finally a cable is sent to headquarters letting the CIA know that her allegations are not substantiated. In notes at the bottom of the dispatch between Deputy Chief of Station Allan White, and Win Scott, Scott writes, “She is also nuts.” (26)
Newman concludes that there is credibility to Duran’s assertions that she did not have an affair with Lee Harvey Oswald because she had had an affair with Cuban Ambassador Lechuga and admitted to it. When Duran was interviewed for Newman’s book Oswald and the CIA, she denied the affair stating, “No, no, no. Of course not. I had a relation with someone in the embassy, but not with Oswald…he was somebody you couldn’t pay attention to.” (27) She had high standards, was clearly drawn to powerful men, something Oswald was not based on his behavior inside the consulate.
OSWALD DURAN AFFAIR REPORTED BY ASSET 1967
Finally, in 1967 at the time of the Garrison investigation, the story began to take life again. The following dispatch from the Mexico City station to Chief of the Western Hemisphere completely eviscerates Ms. Baker’s statement that Silvia Duran was “tortured to admit that she slept with Lee Harvey Oswald.” A CIA source, LIRING/3 informed his case officer that he had spoken with Duran:
Sylvia Duran informed him that she first met Oswald when he applied for a visa and had gone out with him several times since she liked him from the start. She admitted that she had sexual relations with him but insisted that she had no idea of his plans. When the news of the assassination broke she stated that she was immediately taken into custody by the Mexican police and interrogated thoroughly and beaten until she admitted that she had an affair with Oswald. (28)
MEXICAN POLICE NEVER REPORTED AFFAIR IN 1963/CIA NOT CONCERNED WITH THE AFFAIR
While this comment appears to support the “torture” this is in contrast to Duran’s HSCA testimony where she speaks about resisting arrest and fighting the police. In addition this conflicts with the reports of her return to work after the first arrest. But what is VERY contradictory to Ms. Baker’s assertion that the CIA wanted to force her to admit the affair, we have this reaction from the Mexico City station to headquarters about this, the first confirmation that can be found in any CIA document is the following statement:
The fact that Silvia Duran had sexual intercourse with Lee Harvey OSWALD on several occasions when the latter was in Mexico City is probably new, but adds little to the OSWALD case. The Mexican Police did not report the extent of the DURAN-OSWALD relationship to this Station. (29)
BAKER’S CLAIMS DO NOT HOLD UP AGAINST THE PRIMARY EVIDENCE
One can see how Ms. Baker’s statements on her Facebook page are misleading.
- The CIA did not want Sylvia Duran arrested the first time.
- The CIA did not want Sylvia Duran arrested the second time.
- The CIA provided Mexican authorities with questions for Duran to verify the Alvarado story.
- The historical record is clear that the FBI investigated the claims of relations with Oswald and found them unsubstantiated.
- The CIA did not care that Duran had relations with Oswald and there is no evidence that they wanted Duran tortured to admit the affair.
It should be noted that in addition to making these claims on Facebook about Duran and the reason for her arrest, she presents a similar statement in her book Me & Lee: How I came to Know, Love, and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald, Future work will demonstrate that her presentation about Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City, is not what she would like her reader to believe, and is not supported by primary sources.
Baker is absolutely correct about one thing, Oswald was in Mexico City.
Part II will be coming soon.
Please note the name Sylvia is spelled Silvia in many of the primary documents. I have tried to keep it Sylvia throughout but when I have cited documents, I kept the spelling from the primary source.
(22) NARA Record Number: 104-10015-10179CABLE – LIAISON OFFICER OFFICIAL ADVISES THAT FBI REQUESTS THAT KUBARK TURN ALVARDO OVER TO MEXICAN AUTHORITIES AND THAT KUBARK REQUEST MEXICAN AUTHORITIES TO INTERROGATE ALVARADO IN DETAIL
(25) INTERVIEW WITH MRS. ELENA GARRO DE PAZ AND HER DAUGHTER, ELENA PAZ GARRO, WERE INTERVIEWED BY PERSONNEL OF THIS OFFICE ON NOVEMBER 17 AND 24, 1964, AT WHICH TIME THEY FURNISED INFORMATION SIMILAR TO T
(27) Oswald and the CIA, Chapter 18: “Mexican Maze”, Jonn Newman, 2008
(30) Me & Lee: How I came to Know, Love, and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald, Copyright 2010, Trine Day LLC.