There, in that backward Florida metropolis, it's an open secret how George Bush (Sr.), as the CIA agent in charge of anti-Cuban operations, got to know Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia, former Batista police agent, while he was recruiting Cuban emigres for a troop comprised of assassins and saboteurs. After rigorous training, this “elite” force was supposed to engage in actions on Cuban soil, timed simultaneously with the Bay of Pigs invasion, as part of the famous Operation 40 designed by Charles Cabell, assistant director at the CIA.
That’s how Bush came to assemble a group that included Luis Posada Carriles, Frank Sturgis, E. Howard Hunt, Guillermo and Ignacio Novo Sampoll, Rafael Quintero, José Basulto, Herminio Díaz and Bernard Barker, who would go on to be involved in the Miami mafia's dirtiest work.
The young Rodriguez, (actually Felix Ismael Fernando Jose Rodriguez Mendigutia) had been a student at the Havana Military Academy and was the nephew of Cuba’s pre-revolutionary minister of Public Works, Jose Antonio “Toto” Mendigutia Silvera. As such he was perfectly qualified to be a member of Bush’s troop of hired killers.
Directly after his recruitment, Rodriguez was sent to the U.S. base in Panama, to be trained in sabotage and terrorism.
A DISASTROUS FIRST MISSION
Just a few months later, at the end of 1960, the CIA gave him his first mission. He would arrive in Cuba along with other agents on February 14, 1961, dropped off by a speedboat landing at an area near Arcos de Canasi, on the border of the Havana and Matanzas provinces.
The crew disembarked with two tons of equipment and explosives that were discovered just a few days later by Cuban state security, thanks to an agent that had infiltrated the operation. Rodriguez also came with instructions for the internal counter-revolution, which included, among others, plans to blow up the bridge at Bacunayagua simultaneously with the planned invasion on the southern coast.
The moment arrived and the invasion at the Bay of Pigs began. It was a miserable failure, lasting less than 72 hours. The Cuban Revolution not only smashed the invading forces but managed to capture more than a thousand mercenaries. With Cuban state security in hot pursuit, Rodriguez hid in the home of a counter-revolutionary and managed to make contact with a CIA agent at the Spanish embassy who organized his departure from the country through the Venezuelan embassy.
After the defeat at Playa Giron, the extremists in Miami vented their fury on the Kennedy government, accusing it of “betrayal.” But the president was furious as well. He fired CIA director Allen Dulles, along with assistant director Charles Cabell, and the head of CIA undercover operations, Dick Bissell.
In 1963 Kennedy was assassinated. Various investigators have pointed to the involvement of Cuban conspirators, including Rodriguez, Frank Sturgis, Herminio Diaz, Orlando Bosch, the Novo Sampoll brothers and especially, Luis Posada Carriles. Meanwhile, the role of George Bush, Richard Nixon and a number of the titans of Texas petroleum has also been questioned.
Bush was in Texas that day. Like Rodriguez, he has always said that he doesn’t recall what he was doing that day. Nevertheless, some years later, a declassified letter from former FBI head J. Edgar Hoover explained how “Mr. George Bush, CIA agent” had reported on the reaction from Cuban-American circles in Miami after the assassination.
FORT BENNING, WITH POSADA AND MAS CANOSA
Upon his return from Cuba, the CIA ordered Rodriguez to Fort Benning, for training alongside the most fanatical operatives from Operation 40, including Posada Carriles, the future capo of a terrorist gang and Jorge Mas Canosa, who would go on to fund and direct the terrorist Cuban American National Foundation.
Afterwards, he was sent to Nicaragua with a group of agents who attacked the Spanish ship “Sierra de Aranzazu” in reprisal for Spain’s continued relations with Cuba. The terrorist attack created such a scandal that the CIA was forced to withdraw its supposedly elite anti-Cuban troop.
According to his own declassified testimony, in June of 1967, Rodriguez received a call from a CIA officer who called himself Larry S., who proposed that he join an operation directed at capturing Che Guevara, whose presence in Bolivia had been confirmed. Rodriguez would use the name “Felix Ramos Medina” in the operation. He would end up with the nickname “El Gato”.
Along with another Cuban American mercenary, whose last name was Gonzalez, Rodriguez arrived in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, on August 2, 1967. They were received by a case officer called Jim, and a Bolivian immigration officer. The CIA station in Bolivia was directed by John Tilton. Another Cuban-American, Gustavo Villoldo, would shortly join Rodriguez and Gonzalez.
On August 31, Rodriguez had his first chance to exercise his “talent” for interrogations. Jose Castillo Chavez, “Paco,” a member of Che’s troop, had been taken prisoner. Rodriguez flew from Santa Cruz to Vallegrande, accompanied by Major Arnaldo Saucedo.
On September 22, the guerrillas took a farmhouse at Alto Seco but were later trapped in an ambush at Jaguey, where Coco Pedredo, Manuel Hernandez Osorio and Mario Gutierrez Arcaya were killed. The Bolivian soldiers tied the guerrillas' corpses to burros and marched them past horrified peasants at Pucara, a short distance away. The report on the incident was delivered directly to "Ramos" Rodriguez.
That same day, during combat, guerrilla Antonio “Leon” Dominguez Flores seized the chance to distance himself from his companions, later turning himself over to the army. “El Gato” Ramos took it upon himself to extract all possible information from him, torturing him and turning him into an informant by incarcerating him with guerrilla prisoner Ciro Roberto Bustos.
Leon’s betrayal and the death of three of the guerrillas was undoubtedly a serious blow to the troops under Che’s command.
Rodriguez has said that he then pushed Colonel Joaquin Zenteno Anaya, head of the Bolivian Army’s Eighth Division, to deploy his Second Battalion of Rangers from general headquarters at La Esperanza, toward Vallegrande.
The Bolivian soldiers in the battalion had been trained by instructors led by U.S. Special Forces Major “Pappy” Shelton. On September 29, Colonel Zenteno ordered his 650 Rangers to head for a specific sector of Vallegrande in order to surround the guerrillas. Rodriguez accompanied the troop. Protecting his real identity more than ever, the CIA officer went exclusively under the name of “Captain Ramos.”
On September 31, Che and his group were located in that part of Vallegrande. On October 8, around 3:30 p.m., Che fell prisoner after expending all his ammunition in a battle where he was wounded in the leg. Three guerrillas and two soldiers were killed in the battle.
At 4:00 p.m. he was driven to a captain by the last name of Prado, who ordered his radio operator to send news of the capture to Vallegrande.
RODRIGUEZ INSULTS CHE, BOUND, ON THE GROUND
Back at headquarters in Vallegrande, Colonel Zenteno received the message “Ramon’s fall confirmed,” and astonished, insisted on a second confirmation. Once received, he ordered Che brought to La Higuera…just before sending a coded message to Rodriguez in Vallegrande.
In the coming hours, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson would learn via an urgent memorandum from his adviser Walt Rostow, that Che was being held prisoner in Bolivia. According to his version of events, Felix “Ramos” Rodriguez arrived at La Higuera by helicopter at 6:15 in the morning on October 9. He was accompanied by Zenteno Anaya who left his own intelligence chief Saucedo Parada behind in Vallegrande, for lack of space on the small aircraft. “El Gato” brought along a powerful radio and camera.
Seeing Che bound on the ground, his arms tied behind his back and his feet lashed together, he began to insult him contemptuously.
Later, he used his radio to send a coded message to the closest CIA station, to be rebroadcast to CIA general headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He began to systematically photograph all the documents found with Che, including his diary, page by page.
He took a number of photos of Che that the CIA has still not released to this day. That same day, the Bolivian dictator Barrientos received the order to kill Che, from U.S. Ambassador Henderson.
Felix Rodriguez later received a coded message containing the established codewords for the execution.
According to declassified U.S. documents, it was Rodriguez himself who later informed the Bolivian Colonel Zenteno of the decision. In this regard, Ramos-Rodriguez would later pretend that his CIA superiors had ordered that Che be kept alive “at all costs.” According to his disinformation, the CIA and the U.S. government had “helicopters and aircraft” at the ready to transport Che to Panama. What actually occurred was nothing remotely of the sort.
Rodriguez would go on to say that faced with a Colonel Zentero who said that he must obey orders (those coming from Rodriguez), he decided “to let history take its course.” In his retellings of the events, "Ramos-Rodriguez," CIA agent and Fort Benning trained torturer is careful to emphasize his humanitarian impulses, something totally ludicrous coming from such a stunning piece of human garbage.
Such claims, coming from a man who would go on to participate in the extermination of communist activists through the bloody slaughter of Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, simply deserve to be archived alongside the phrases invented and attributed to Che by the CIA, phrases it continues to distribute, even on the internet.
Certainly, it was “Captain Ramos,” and not the Bolivian colonel who received the directive to kill Che. “El Gato” communicated the order to the Bolivian colonel and went on to direct the execution.
According to the young solder Eduardo Huerta Lorenzetti, who was serving as a guard at the tiny schoolhouse where Che was kept, Rodriguez kept entering the school and shaking the bound Che by his shoulders trying to force him to talk, yanking his beard and shouting at him that he was going to kill him.
When Huerta tried to intervene, “El Gato” threatened him, shouting “you Bolivian piece of shit!” The argument was interrupted by the arrival of another corpse and another prisoner, Juan Pablo Chang Navarro “El Chino,” who had been nearly blinded.
Ramon beat the prisoner and later, using a bayonet, stabbed him repeatedly, trying to force him to talk, without success.
“I SENT TERAN TO CARRY OUT THE ORDER”
Felix Rodriguez, alias Captain Ramos, alias “El Gato,” then ordered Sargent Jaime Teran to kill Che.
Rodriguez told the Spanish magazine "Cambio 16," in its December 18, 1998 edition: “I went out and sent Teran in to carry out the order. I told him that he should shoot below the neck because it needed to look like he had died in combat.”
The frightened Teran couldn’t manage to shoot at the man known throughout Latin America as the Heroic Guerrilla.
“Shoot, coward, shoot!” Rodriguez shouted at Teran.
Teran remained frozen and left the schoolhouse.
“El Gato” continued to bellow and threaten the young soldier, ordering him to go back in and complete the execution.
Teran finally did it.
Then, CIA agent Rodriguez, in cowardly imitation of various soldiers present, shot at Che’s lifeless body.
That same afternoon, Rodriguez left La Higuera in a helicopter headed for Vallegrande. He said that upon his arrival “knowing that Castro’s people would be looking for CIA agents,” he put on a Bolivian army cap.
The British correspondent for The Guardian, Richard Gott, wrote that from the moment that Che’s body arrived at Vallegrande, the operation was left in the hands of a man wearing fatigues, whose description corresponds to that of Rodriguez.
“WE’RE TAKING HIM STRAIGHT TO HELL!”
Che’s body was transferred to a truck.
Gott reported how “the doors of the truck opened right away and an American agent jumped out, delivering a battle cry: “We’re taking him straight to hell!”
When one of the correspondents present asked where they had come from, Ramos-Rodriguez snapped: “Nowhere!”
Gott noted how disturbed “El Gato” became every time a camera was trained on him. He also observed how this “Captain” was speaking with higher ranking officers “in familiar terms.”
At a Vallegrande hotel, CIA agents headed by Felix “El Gato” Rodriguez, and Bolivian officials, celebrated Che’s death.
According to eyewitnesses, Rodriguez opened a bottle of whisky and delivered a toast to those present. In the coming hours, “El Gato” would also participate in the decision to cut off Che’s hands for later identification.
With his pusillanimous assassin’s mission completed, Rodriguez left Vallegrande for Santa Cruz, traveling on to Panama and finally the United States.
TORTURER IN VIETNAM
On February 24, 1969, Rodriguez obtained U.S. citizenship.
The CIA sent him to Saigon, in Vietnam, where he dedicated himself to torturing and interrogating prisoners alongside Ted Shackley, who had been head of the gigantic CIA station JM/WAVE in Miami, in charge of anti-Cuban operations.
He participated in Operation Phoenix, using extreme violence. According to William Colby, former CIA head, of the 33,350 people taken to the U.S. centers for interrogation, 26,369 did not come out alive.
Felix Rodriguez, as part of the undercover Air America operation would go on to traffic heroin from Laos for the U.S. network controlled by Santos Traficante, the former godfather in Havana, in order to gain the support of isolated tribes and influence the conflict in Laos. The operation was directed by Donald Gregg, who answered to orders from Ted Shackley.
Between 1972 and 1973, Rodriguez was an instructor for the Argentine army, brought by the head of the army at that time, General Tomas Sanchez de Bustamante, who he had gotten to know in Vietnam.
Later he was associated with Trident Investigative Services, Inc. The agency was represented in Argentina by John Battaglia Ponte, a Uruguayan with U.S. residency and a former CIA agent who in the 1970s participated in “Plan Condor” which coordinated the illegal actions of repressive forces throughout the Southern Cone.
In August of 1974, George Bush, who by now had risen to director of the CIA, gave Orlando Bosch the task of uniting all Miami’s terrorist groups under one umbrella, the notorious Coordinadora de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas (CORU) that later carried out around a hundred terrorist attacks in more than 25 countries.
Rodriguez collaborated with Bosch and completed various missions in Uruguay, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. He was active in Central America and assisted in Anastasio Somoza's escape from Nicaragua.
Bush would disinform the U.S. Congress regarding the death of Orlando Letellier, Chile’s former foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S., along with Ronni Moffit, a human rights activist. The two were killed in broad daylight in downtown Washington D.C. by agents from the Pinochet dictatorship and Cuban-American thugs sent for the job by the Sampoll brothers, both followers of Bosch and “associates” of Rodriguez ever since the days of the notorious Operation 40.
HONORED BY HIS MENTOR
In 1976, Bush decorated his friend Rodriguez with a medal. In 1979, Rodriguez was connected with arms trafficking in South American, in association with his Saigon boss, Ted Shackley.
In 1981, Reagan and Bush occupied the White House and Rodriguez carried out various CIA missions in parallel with his trafficking operations.
In 1982, CIA Director William Casey launched operation Black Eagle, to “broaden the U.S. role in Central America.”
In August, U.S. Vice President George Bush named Donald Gregg (from Laos) as National Security Adviser. Gregg sent Rodriguez to work on support missions for the Contras in Nicaragua.
Along with Jose Basulto (the Brothers to the Rescue capo), Rodriguez organized what would later be called the largest theft of social security funds in U.S. history, under the pretext of illegally organizing hospital services for the mercenaries fighting for the Nicaraguan contras.
In October of 1984, Gerald Latchinian, Assistant Director of Giro Aviation, a CIA aviation company run by Rodriguez, is arrested and incarcerated for importing $10 million dollars worth of cocaine.
At the end of 1984, Donald Gregg introduces Colonel Oliver North, head of Central America operations, to Rodriguez. Rodriguez is interviewed directly by Bush on January 22, 1985.
EL SALVADOR DRUG TRAFFICKER
At the same time, in El Salvador, the former Operation 40 member took on the job of coordinating the operations to transport massive quantities of cocaine from Colombia to the United States.
As his main assistant, the CIA offered his old associate, the arch-terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who would go on to be convicted in Panama for a failed assassination attempt against Fidel Castro. Celerino Castillo III, a former DEA agent, later told an intelligence committee at the House of Representatives how his informants discovered warehouses full of drugs, weapons and money at the Ilopango air base. He also noted how many of the pilots flying for the Contras had been marked as drug traffickers in the DEA files.
On January 18, 1985, Rodriguez interviewed with Roberto Milan-Rodriguez, a money-laundering expert with the Medellin Cartel, who boasted of having laundered more than $1.5 billion dollars for the cartel. The money launderer gave Rodriguez a $10 million dollar donation, earmarked for the Nicaraguan Contras.
On May 8, 1985, Rodriguez warned Bush’s office that a C-123 aircraft had been downed by the Nicaraguan armed forces. The pilot, Eugene Hasenfus, admitted working for the CIA under the orders of Max Gomez (Felix Rodriguez) and Ramon Medina (Luis Posada Carriles).
In December 1985, George Bush openly and shamelessly receives his friend Felix Rodriguez – torturer, murderer, thief and drug-trafficker – in the White House. Rodriguez participates there in a Christmas celebration.
In October of the following year, General Singlaub complained about Rodriguez’s “daily contacts” with Bush’s office, fearing “damage to President Reagan and the Republican Party.”
“YOU HAVE WON A LOT OF RESPECT”
In 1988, a Senate Committee directed by Senator John Kerry investigated the scandalous drug and arms trafficking operation involving Oliver North, Donald Gregg, John Poindexter, Elliott Abrams, Otto Reich, Richard Armitage, John Negroponte, Mitch Daniels and Felix Rodriguez. The latter would testify, apparently to good effect: “...you have won a lot of respect in the process,” George Bush wrote enigmatically in a personal message he sent him.
In 1989, George Bush wins the presidency. Rodriguez is present at the inauguration, alongside his great friend, General Rafael Bustillos, head of El Salvador’s air force.
Although Rodriguez says that at that point he left the CIA, Rolling Stone revealed that he continued to visit the agency monthly to receive instructions and bring his bulletproof Cadillac in for servicing.
During the trial of the Cuban Five in Miami, it was revealed how one of the Cubans on trial had by coincidence run into Felix Rodriguez standing behind him in the checkout line at Costco in Miami. He was later able to observe how Rodriguez walked, untroubled, toward his luxury vehicle in the Costco parking lot.
Part of the Cuban-American terrorist network in Miami and of the arch-terrorists Posada and Bosch, torturer in Saigon, Watergate burglar, drug-trafficker in Laos and El Salvador, mercenary in Bolivia, “El Gato” now boasts of “having killed” Che Guevara. He lives in a luxurious home in Miami Dade and exhibits his trophies – a steel Rolex GMT Master watch and pipe that belonged to Che, among other relics from his countless victims.
Imperial hero, the decorated assassin walks freely in Miami, boasting of his crimes. But this is business as usual for assassins, hired guns, torturers and criminals of all kinds who’ve found sanctuary in South Florida.
Posted by: Walter Lippmann firstname.lastname@example.org