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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

"JFK: Destiny Betrayed" Misleads on Supposed Tampa 'Patsy'

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

Gilberto Policarpo Lopez

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary series, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, alleges that there were plots to assassinate JFK in Chicago and Tampa in November of 1963. In addition, the documentary alleges that Thomas Vallee and Gilberto Policarpo Lopez were patsies-in-waiting in Chicago and Tampa respectively, who would have been arrested had the supposed plots succeeded.

And there is no evidence of a plot in Tampa as well.

Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (25:06 in Episode four)

Oliver Stone: And what about the trip to Florida?

Paul Bleau: On November 18th, Kennedy was scheduled to do a 27 mile-long motorcade in Tampa. The Secret Service was very nervous about the Floridian Hotel [sic, should be the Floridan Hotel] where the motorcade would have gone by. It would have forced a sharp turn. Nobody fired away at him. But in this case, the alternate patsy would have been a Gilbert Policarpo Lopez. He was a Cuban exile. He, uh, attended Fair Play for Cuba Committee meetings. One day after the assassination, on November 23rd, he makes his way to Mexico City. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee loaned him money for his travel, and he ends up being the lone passenger on an airplane to Cuba. The CIA, they found out about the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, the weird trip to Mexico City, the fact that he was a lone passenger on a plane to, uh, Cuba. And they didn't pass on the information to the Warren Commission. So when the HSCA found out about this lead that wasn't pursued, even they called it egregious.

Oliver Stone: And what do you think was the relevance of it?

Paul Bleau: Well, if he had been assassinated in Tampa, Lopez, he would have been the potential patsy. If they had to admit to a front shot, because Oswald was behind, there were rumors that he had assisted Oswald in the assassination in Dallas.

Bleau's source on the supposed plot in Tampa and Gilberto Lopez is Lamar Waldron's 2005 book, Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK. (pages 254 - 259, 500 - 504, 698 - 703) The only difference is that Waldron believes the Mafia was behind the JFK assassination conspiracy, while the producers of JFK: Destiny Betrayed believe it was the CIA and the military-industrial complex. There is no evidence to support either theory.

Let's start with the supposed threat against JFK in Tampa. Waldron referenced two articles that appeared in local newspapers:

Tampa Tribune, November 23, 1963

Miami Herald, November 24, 1963

There is additional information about the threats from Gerald Blaine's 2011 book, The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence. Blaine was a Special Agent of the Secret Service on the White House Detail who worked on security in Tampa. He had called the Protective Research Section (PRS) in New York and asked for a list of potential threats. One file that came back was of Wayne Gainey, and here is the "flash card" on him that was provided to Blaine:

A local agent, Arnie Peppers, had been visiting with Gainey's parents and his psychiatrist. His parents were cooperative and they made sure that Gainey was with them during JFK's visit to Tampa. An agent was also sent out to keep surveillance on their home.

The other threat was from John William Warrington. He was fifty-three years old and had written a series of threatening letters to Kennedy in October 1963. He was arrested in Tampa on October 18, 1963 for sending an extortion letter to a bank president. Warrington had been in out and out of mental hospitals for years and had been diagnosed as schizophrenic. He was still in jail when Kennedy visited Tampa.

Those were the main threats on Kennedy's life.

Kennedy visited Tampa on November 18, 1963. Here are some pictures from his almost thirty-mile long motorcade:

It doesn't appear that the Secret Service was all that concerned and JFK was actually standing during a large part of the motorcade.

Paul Bleau mentioned some concern about the Floridan Hotel. Once again, he got this directly from Waldron's book:

Waldron interviewed Tampa Police Chief Mullins who said he was concerned about several tall buildings. However, one of his comments is revealing. Waldron says Mullins "said he depended on hotel staff to keep him abreast of any suspicious or strange people." Really? You're really worried about the hotel but you rely on hotel staff?

There is no mention of Mullins' concern about the Floridan Hotel in Blaine's book.

There was no assassination attempt in Tampa despite Waldron's claim that the Floridan Hotel was a better vantage point than the Texas School Book Depository: (page 710)

Ninety-nine windows of the hotel had an unobstructed view overlooking the intersection where JFK's limo would have to slow to a crawl to make a hard left turn. The angle to JFK's limo was even better than that of the Texas School Book Depository, meaning a shooter would not have to extend their rifle out of the window to get a good shot.

Perhaps there was no attempt on JFK's life because there was no assassination plot.

But what does any of this have to do with Gilberto Policarpo Lopez?

Well, absolutely nothing.

January 26, 1940: Born in Havana, Cuba. His mother Esperanza Rodriguez y Castellamos was born in Key West, Florida and was an American citizen.

June 2, 1960: Received an American passport in Havana which was valid until January 25, 1963. Lopez told them he planned to move to the United States.

February 23, 1962: Lopez was classified as 4-F by the Draft Board because of "a language barrier." The Board also received a letter from Dr. James Malgrat noting that Lopez had been treated for Grand Mal Epilepsy for the last six months. He took daily medication for convulsions.

August 11, 1962: Lopez married to Blance Andrea Leon in Key West, Florida. In June 1963, they moved to Tampa. He had had recurrent attacks of epilepsy and in early 1963 was hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

August, 1963: Lopez's wife returned to Key West because of marital difficulties.

November 17, 1963: Lopez attended a meeting of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in Tampa at the home of Mary Quist. Someone was showing color slides taken in Cuba. While at the Quist home, Lopez awaited a telephone call from Cuba on whether he could visit.

November 20, 1963: Lopez obtained a Mexican tourist card in Tampa, and on November 23rd, he arrived in Mexico on his way to Havana. Lopez entered Mexico at Nuevo Laredo. He registered at the Roosevelt Hotel and on November 27th boarded a Cubana flight to Havana. He was the only passenger. The photograph you see at the top of this page was taken at the International Airport in Mexico City on November 27th. To get to Cuba, Lopez borrowed $150 from people in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee of which he only paid back $25.

July 14, 1964: Lopez's wife received a letter from her husband and was surprised he was in Cuba although he had told her he wanted to return before their marriage broke up. She believed that he returned to Cuba "because of his close relationship with his parents."

Here is that message:

The Church Committee discussed this lead and criticized the FBI and the CIA for not giving enough information to the Warren Commission to evaluate the lead for themselves. The FBI had not told the Warren Commission about Lopez's attendance at an FPCC meeting - and that it might have relevance since V.T. Lee had written a letter to Oswald suggesting that he get in touch with the Tampa branch of the FPCC.

In 1977, the CIA Inspector General, in response to the Church Committee report on Lopez's travel, followed up on the lead. They noted that there were numerous errors in that initial report about Lopez:

The HSCA felt that the failure of the CIA to tell the Warren Commission about the Gilberto Lopez lead was "egregious."

The LIFIRE operation referred to cooperation between the CIA and Mexican federal officials who participated in a plan of photographing passengers on flights departing for Havana from Mexico City.

From the information gathered by the FBI, there appeared to be plausible reasons for both Lopez' desire to return to Cuba and for his solicitation of financial aid from the Tampa FPCC chapter. Lopez' contacts in Florida appeared to have been innocent and not connected with the assassination, and while there was a suggestion in the Senate committee's report that Lee Harvey Oswald was also in contact with the Tampa FPCC chapter, the committee could find no evidence of it. Nor could the committee find any evidence that Oswald was in contact with Lopez.

By the way, the FBI submitted two reports to the Warren Commission which mentioned Gilberto Lopez. One mentioned his trip to Cuba, and the other was about his passport.

It can't be denied that the HSCA and the Church Committee said that the FBI and the CIA were delinquent in their obligation to inform the Warren Commission. But there is absolutely no evidence that Gilberto Policarpo Lopez had any connection to the JFK assassination. And as I have shown there was no plot against JFK in Tampa.

So why on earth do people believe that Gilberto Lopez was going to be a patsy?

Well, Lamar Waldron notes that there "eighteen parallels" between Oswald and Lopez which "demonstrate" that they were both "being manipulated by the same people." (page 502) But consider some of the so-called parallels:

  • They each had a job within the vicinity of JFK's motorcade. Not surprising that Lopez might have been near the Tampa motorcade - it was almost thirty miles long.

  • Both men were in a Texas city the week of November 22, 1963.

  • Neither man was a good driver and neither owned a car.

  • Both were white males and 23 years of age during 'most' of 1963.

  • Both spent part of 1963 "in a southern city that was headquarters for one of the two mob bosses that the HSCA says were most likely behind the JFK assassination."

  • Both are "said" to be informants for "some US agency."

  • Both were living apart from their wives.

How does Waldron tie this all to the Mafia? He quotes a 2003 article from the Key West Citizen in which they note that Lopez "worked in the construction industry in Tampa -- which has had a long-established organized crime connection with Key West - before traveling to Texas at the time of the assassination."

That's a pretty loose connection.

While Paul Bleau dismisses the Mafia theory, he does believe there are 'parallels' between not just Oswald and Lopez but a large number of alternative patsies. Here is his "potential alternative patsy comparison chart:

Every good researcher should keep this cheat sheet handy. Perhaps you can add your own column for a patsy of your choice.

This is indeed cutting-edge JFK assassination research, no?

The last part of Bleau's segment on Gilberto Lopez is just plain ridiculous:

Paul Bleau: Well, if he [JFK] had been assassinated in Tampa, Lopez, he would have been the potential patsy. If they had to admit to a front shot, because Oswald was behind, there were rumors that he had assisted Oswald in the assassination in Dallas.

Bleau elevates old rumors into a spurious allegation. Two patsies in Dallas?

The segments in JFK: Destiny Betrayed on the supposed plots against JFK in Chicago and Tampa are outright embarrassing. There is no evidence of any plot in either city, and the notion that there were 'patsies-in-waiting' cannot be taken seriously.

Over the past several months, I have shown in multiple blog posts how Oliver Stone's documentary series, JFK Revisited and JFK: Destiny Betrayed, misleads viewers. In fact, despite months of work, there are still many more misleading segments that need to be addressed. It's no wonder that the fact checkers of Netflix nixed the airing of the films.

There is a choice between four hours of tendentious nonsense (JFK: Destiny Betrayed) and two hours (JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass). As a handy guide for viewers, here are all those posts in order of their appearance in JFK: Destiny Betrayed and JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, preceded by some general critiques.


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