JFK Files: U.S. Government Planned to Offer Cubans a 2¢ Bounty for Castro’s Assassination

28th September 1960: Cuban president Fidel Castro speaks to reporters after attending the UN General Assembly meeting, New York City. (Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images)
New York Times Co./Getty Images

The Kennedy administration considered offering Cuban nationals financial rewards for killing communists, including a two-cent reward for killing Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro, according to documents released Thursday by the National Archives.

The document, which is one of 2,800 redacted files on the Kennedy assassination released by the Trump administration October 26, reveals a plan by senior leaders in the Kennedy administration to provide financial incentives to Cubans to “overthrow the Communist regime.”

Kennedy administration officials considered this solution after a series of papers addressed to the National Security Council in 1961 titled “Cuba and Communism in the Hemisphere” recommended against using “military intervention” to take down Castro after the failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion.

The papers advised against intervention because of the risk of “significant loss of life and other casualties” and the possibility that overthrowing Castro would “severely endanger the U.S. position of leadership in the Free World.”

A representative from Kennedy’s Joint Chiefs’ sent a memo in January 1962 to “Special Group Augmented” — a team which included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, CIA Director John McCone, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, General Maxwell Taylor, General Edward Lansdale, and other members — proposing “Operation Bounty.”

The goal of “Operation Bounty” was to “provide financial rewards” to Cubans who killed Communist leaders or captured them alive depending on the leaders’ “position and stature.”

The proposal offered rewards as low as two cents to as high as $1 million and called for air-dropping “leaflets” over Cuba with the names and positions of communist leaders along with the reward for their capture.

The bounties ranged from as little as $5,000 for an informer to $100,000 for a government official. The reward for Castro, however, was just two cents.

Lansdale testified to the U.S. Senate in 1975 that the Kennedy administration planned on offering such a small amount of money for Castro’s capture “to denigrate” Castro’s importance “in the eyes of the Cuban population.”

The document states that once the proposal was put into place, U.S. agents would “kidnap” the Communist Party members caught or killed, “thereby instilling confidence in the operation among the Cuban populace and apprehension among the Cuban hierarchy.”

In his 1975 testimony to the Senate, Lansdale explained that he scrapped the plan once he received it because he “did not think that it was something that should be seriously undertaken or supported further.”

It is not clear exactly why Lansdale thought to keep the plan from going forward, but the CIA had attempted to assassinate Castro and overthrow the regime multiple times unsuccessfully.

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