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Operation 40 was a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored undercover operation in the early 1960s, which was active in the United States and the Caribbean (including Cuba), Central America, and Mexico. The group was formed to seize political control of Cuba after the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
It was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in March 1960, after the January 1959 Cuban Revolution, and was presided over by Vice-president Richard Nixon. The group included Frank Sturgis (who would later become one of the Watergate burglars); Felix Rodriguez (a CIA officer who later was involved in the capture and summary execution of Che Guevara); Luis Posada Carriles (held in the US in 2010 on charges of illegal immigration, he is demanded by Venezuela for his key role in the execution of the 1976 Cubana Flight 455 bombing); Orlando Bosch (founder of the counterrevolutionary Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, that organized the 1976 murder of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier); Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero; Virgilio Paz Romero; Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz; Bernard Barker; and Porter Goss.
Operation 40 had 86 employees in 1961, of which 37 were trained as case officers.
On 11 December 1959, following the Cuban Revolution of January 1959, Colonel J.C. King, chief of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division, sent a confidential memorandum to CIA director Allen W. Dulles. King argued that in Cuba there existed a "far-left dictatorship, which if allowed to remain will encourage similar actions against U.S. holdings in other Latin American countries."
As a result of this memorandum, Dulles established a ZR/RIFLE unit named Operation 40, from the "Group of 40" of the National Security Council group that followed Cuba. The group was presided over by then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon and included Admiral Arleigh Burke, Livingston Merchant of the State Department, National Security Adviser Gordon Gray, as well as Dulles himself.
Tracy Barnes functioned as operating office of the Cuban Task Force. He called a meeting on 18 January 1960, in his temporary office near the Lincoln Memorial. Those attending included David Atlee Phillips, Jacob 'Jake' Esterline, E. Howard Hunt, and Frank Bender (an alias of Gerry Droller), all of the CIA. Barnes, Phillips, Esterline, Hunt, David Sanchez Morales and others had previously worked together in the 1954 overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, organized by the CIA under the code-name Operation PBSUCCESS.
On 17 March 1960, President Eisenhower signed a National Security Council directive on the anti-Cuban covert action program authorizing the CIA to organize, train, and equip Cuban refugees as a guerrilla force to overthrow the government of Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro.
Operation 40 was not only involved in sabotage operations. One member, Frank Sturgis, allegedly told author Mike Canfield: "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents...We were concentrating strictly in Cuba at that particular time." The group sought to incite civil war in Cuba against the government of prime minister Fidel Castro. "In October 1960, they realize that this project has failed, and that is when Brigade 2506" was created, a CIA-sponsored group made up of 1,511 Cuban exiles who fought in the April 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion.
On 17 April 1961, Vicente Leon Leon, with other members of Operation 40, landed at the Bay of Pigs via the CIA-chartered freighter Atlantico. He was killed in action.
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- Scott, Peter Dale; Marshall, Jonathan (1998) . Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America. University of California Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780520921283.
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