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What Was Lee Harvey Oswald Doing in Mexico?

Much about his trip—weeks before the assassination—remains unexamined.


Still, if Oswald openly boasted about his plans to kill JFK among people in Mexico, it would undermine the official story that he was a lone wolf whose plans to kill the president could never have been detected by the CIA or FBI. In Slawson’s mind, it could even raise the question of whether people in Mexico might have been charged as accessories in the murder if they had known about Oswald’s threats but did nothing to stop him.

Ambassador Mann appears to have had similar suspicions. After retiring from the State Department, he told House investigators in 1977 that he had never stopped believing that Oswald had been part of a conspiracy somehow linked to Cuba, and that the CIA and other agencies had refused to investigate Oswald’s activities in Mexico “because it would have resulted in the discovery of covert U.S. government action” that somehow involved Cuba.

In memoirs published in 1987, former FBI Director Clarence Kelley, Hoover’s immediate successor, revealed that, after having a chance to read through the bureau’s raw files on the Kennedy assassination, he, too, came to believe that Mexico held the key to unanswered questions about the president’s murder. “Oswald’s stay in Mexico City apparently shaped the man’s thinking irrevocably,” Kelley wrote.

He said he became convinced from the files that, during meetings with Cuban diplomats in Mexico, “Oswald definitely offered to kill President Kennedy,” and that he had probably made a similar offer during the same trip at a meeting at the Soviet embassy in Mexico. That did not mean that either communist government was behind the assassination, Kelley insisted. But it did mean that people in both the Cuban and Soviet embassies were aware, weeks before the assassination, that a young American—a former Marine with rifle training who was eager to be known as a champion of Castro’s revolution—was talking openly about killing the president.

Another top FBI official, former Assistant Director William Sullivan, who directed the bureau’s investigation of JFK’s murder, wrote in his own memoirs that “there were huge gaps” in the FBI’s investigation and that many of them involved Oswald’s trip south of the border. “We never found out what went on between Oswald and the Cubans in Mexico City,” Sullivan admitted.

After finishing his work on the commission, staff lawyer David Belin, who died in 1999, wrote in a little-publicized book that he came to believe that Oswald may have planned to head from Dallas back to Mexico by bus after the assassination because he had some promise of help from co-conspirators who were waiting on the Texas-Mexico border.

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