Was Gilberto Policarpo Lopez an Assassin or a Patsy?
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
I previously looked at the claim in Oliver Stone's so-called documentary series, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, that there was a supposed assassination plot against JFK in Tampa and that Gilberto Policarpo Lopez would have been picked up as a patsy.
There is no evidence of any plot against JFK in Tampa and there is no reason to suspect that Gilberto Policarpo Lopez was suspicious in any way.
Researcher Paul Hoch has uncovered evidence that significantly adds to our understanding of this story. It turns out that the Church Committee got an important fact wrong.
The Church Committee discussed the Lopez case and was critical of the FBI and the CIA for not forwarding this lead to the Warren Commission.
It should be noted that the FBI did pass on some information to the Warren Commission:
Moreover, a possible connection between Oswald and the Tampa chapter of FPCC had already been indicated. Oswald applied to V. T. Lee, national president of the FPCC, for a charter for a New Orleans chapter. Lee wrote Oswald on May 29, 1963, suggesting Oswald get in touch with the Tampa chapter, which Lee had personally organized. (92) Thus, the suspicious travel of this individual coupled with the possibility that Oswald had contacted the Tampa chapter certainly should have prompted a far more thorough and timely investigation than the FBI conducted and the results should have been volunteered to the Warren Commission, regardless of its failure to request such information.
There is nothing in V. T. Lee's letter "suggesting Oswald get in touch with the Tampa chapter." (Volume XX, pp. 514 - 516)
Here is what V. T. Lee did say: (on page 2)
We feel that the south-east is a very difficult area to work because of our lack of contacts. Our only southeastern Chapter right now is that in Tampa, Florida which I originally organized before coming up to work in the National Office.
This completely changes the nature of the Gilberto Policarpo Lopez lead.
From the information gathered by the FBI, there appeared to be plausible reasons both for 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 also was 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. (emphasis added)
The suggestion in the Church Committee and HSCA reports was unfounded and baseless. There was no reason to expect that Oswald was in touch with the Tampa FPCC and, in fact, no evidence has ever emerged that he had reached out to them.
Perhaps this is why the FBI did not feel Gilberto Policarpo Lopez was an important assassination lead. While they felt that Lopez deserved investigation for "internal security' reasons, there was no linkage to Lee Harvey Oswald, and certainly no linkage to the JFK assassination. They were quite clear they would be interested if his subsequent flight had any relationship to Oswald:
"Above character" means "IS - CU" which appears at the top of the cable and means Internal Security - Cuba. This cable was explicitly telling LEGAT not to use the 'caption' (i.e. "Title (name of subject) and "Character") "Lee Harvey Oswald -IS -R" in the absence of evidence of a connection,
As we have seen, the CIA felt that the Gilberto Policarpo Lopez lead was not worth forwarding to the Warren Commission. There were two cables that raised initial suspicions about Policarpo.
The source for this memo was LITEMPO/4 who was Fernando Gutierrez Barrios of the Mexican secret police, soon to become its head. The suspicion in this cable derives only from the "timing and circumstances." Lopez decided to go to Cuba around the time of the assassination.
The information about Lopez came from an informant of an agent of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police. He could not verify the information -- the informant apparently offered no basis for his claim that Lopez "was involved in [the] Kennedy assassination."
In fact, very little jibed with the earlier report -- Lopez's name was spelled wrong; he did not enter Mexico on November 13th; his passport number was wrong; and Lopez was not in the Cuban embassy.
The CIA certainly realized this and had no reason to pass this lead to the Warren Commission. Regarding the comment that Lopez's "travel through Mexico and departure for Havana are suspicious," the CIA commented:
This comment is cryptic, at least, and -- given that dramatic moment in history -- doubtless reflects a preliminary comment of a person who was on the alert at that time for anything that might be construed as possibly unusual.
It did not jibe in most respects, other than the date and place of entry into Mexico. The mistake of that cable cannot be explained today, but wrong it obviously was. It does, however serve to highlight the basic unreliability of the report and indicate how it should be considered responsibly.
Perhaps we wouldn't even be discussing Gilberto Policarpo Lopez had it not been for James H. Johnston, a staff member on the Church Committee.
In 2019, Johnston published his book Murder, Inc.: The CIA under John F. Kennedy, which makes the case that Castro had JFK killed in retaliation for the attempts on his life.
Johnston has three sections devoted to Gilberto Policarpo Lopez -- in chapter 22, Appendix A and in the notes to Appendix A. He even includes Policarpo's picture in the photograph section. Johnston claims that the Policarpo lead was "ominous" and was "cavalierly ignored." (page 195)
Johnston find the timing of the Policarpo story extremely problematic: (page 255)
The chronology of the week after the assassination is even more troubling. On Monday Kennedy called for Castro's removal. On Tuesday, after meeting with the president, the CIA decided to give Cubela [AMLASH] assassination weapons. The same day Castro sat down with reporter Jean Daniel and asked about Kennedy's intentions. On Wednesday the CIA called Cubela and said it would meet his request for weapons. Later that day Oswald made the decision to assassinate the president.
Johnston then makes an incredible leap. He says that "the chronology, coupled with Roselli's claim that Cuba sent 'teams' that were in cities in addition to Dallas, makes Gilberto Policarpo's actions extremely suspicious."
But why does Johnston believe Roselli? And what actions of Lopez were suspicious? Johnston then claims that Lopez "was in Tampa waiting for a go-ahead call when Kennedy visited there on November 18. He was in Texas on November 22. And he was in Cuba five days after that."
A go-ahead call? He was going to be the assassin?
Johnston finds several aspects of the Policarpo story to be troubling.
Let's review them:
Policarpo was in Texas on November 22nd. Well, yes he was on his way to Mexico from Tampa. There is no evidence he was in Dallas, and he most likely went through Houston which leads directly to Laredo.
He went to Fair Play for Cuba Committee meeting. Not that surprising. He was anxious to go back to Cuba
The mysterious flight to Havana. Of course, the fact that Lopez was the only passenger on a Cubana flight to Havana seemed suspicious. However, it turns out that he traveled on a cargo flight.
The photograph of Lopez wearing sunglasses. Johnston writes that Lopez was wearing sunglasses "presumably to hinder identification." Perhaps he was wearing sunglasses to help with his epilepsy.
Policarpo was pro-Castro. I am not sure why this makes him suspicious.
I have no reason to doubt that Gilberto Policarpo Lopez was who he appeared to be: a young man who came to the United States, got married and then had his marriage fall apart. He couldn't speak English and could only get menial jobs. He had significant health problems, and he missed his family in Cuba. He then decided to go back to Cuba, where they could help take care of him.
Johnston tries hard to prove Lopez was in Dallas on November 22nd. Right before the assassination, a man had a seizure and had to be taken to Parkland Hospital. Johnston actually called up Aubrey Rike, the ambulance driver, to see if Jerry Belknap might have actually been Gilberto Policarpo Lopez. Rike told Johnston that "Belknap was a "good old boy" from Texas."
JFK: Destiny Betrayed misleads viewers by failing to mention that its (baseless) allegation that Policarpo was a designated patsy in Tampa is just a watered-down version of the original (baseless) accusation that Policarpo was involved in the assassination.
Yet another innocent person has been slandered by the team of Oliver Stone and James DiEugenio.
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