Félix Rodríguez (soldier)
Félix Ismael Rodríguez in August 2011 in Miami.
|Nickname(s)||Lázaro, Max Gómez, Félix Ramos Medina, Félix El Gato|
31 May 1941 |
|Service/branch||Central Intelligence Agency, United States Army|
|Years of service||1959 – Present|
|Unit||Special Activities Division, Army Special Forces, MACV-SOG|
|Battles/wars||Bay of Pigs Invasion, Vietnam War, Laotian Civil War, Bolivian Insurgency (1966-1967), 1973 Chilean coup d'état|
|Awards||Intelligence Star (very rare CIA valor award), Silver Star, (9)
Crosses for Gallantry by South Vietnamese regime
Félix Ismael Rodríguez Mendigutia (born 31 May 1941) is a former Central Intelligence Agency officer known for his involvement in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, in the interrogation and execution of Marxist guerrilla Che Guevara and his ties to George H. W. Bush during the Iran–Contra affair. He is Cuban, of Spanish Basque ancestry.
His uncle was minister of Public Works during the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba. His family was fairly wealthy and owned land. After the Cuban Revolution he and his family became exiles in the United States; several of his family members were captured by the Communist forces and executed.
He attended the Perkiomen School in Pennsylvania, but dropped out to join the Caribbean Anti-communist Legion, created by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, with the intention of ending communism in Cuba.
Bay of Pigs Invasion
He was a Paramilitary Operations Officer from Special Activities Division. He joined and became a leader in the CIA-backed Operation 40 and Brigade 2506, and clandestinely entered Cuba a few weeks before the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Utilizing his familiarity with the country, he was able to gather critical intelligence to be used in the planning and preparation for the invasion.
In 1967, the CIA recruited Rodríguez to train and head a team to hunt down Marxist guerrilla Che Guevara, who was attempting to overthrow the government in Bolivia. After Guevara was wounded and captured by Bolivian special forces trained and supported by the CIA, Rodríguez interrogated him.
He claims that he and Guevara spoke civilly regarding the failing economy of Cuba and Guevara's tactics in starting a revolution in Bolivia. Rodríguez stated that he wanted to keep Guevara alive for further interrogation, but was thwarted by the order of the Bolivian president that Guevara be summarily executed. Rodríguez, whose cover was that of a Bolivian army major, repeated those orders, later stating that it was a Bolivian decision, and Guevara was killed. Rodríguez has in his possession Guevara's Rolex wristwatch.
The last photograph of Guevara alive includes Rodriguez standing by his side.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1969, soon enlisting in the United States Army. During his career with the CIA he also went by the name Máximo Gómez. He was awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor by the CIA and nine Crosses for Gallantry by the South Vietnamese government. He was codenamed Lazarus after his survival of the Bay of Pigs invasion operation.
In the Vietnam War, Rodríguez flew over 300 helicopter missions, and was shot down five times. In 1971, Rodríguez trained Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs). PRUs were CIA-sponsored units that worked for the Phoenix Program. The Walsh Report states (Chapter 29): "During the Vietnam War, [Donald] Gregg supervised CIA officer Felix Rodriguez and they kept in contact following the war." Rodríguez also reported to Ted Shackley during the Phoenix Program - Shackley became Bush's top aide for operations when he directed the CIA; Gregg later became National Security Advisor for Vice President Bush. Rodríguez was in frequent contact with him regarding arms for the Contras.
Iran-Contra and ties to George H.W. Bush
There is extensive documentation of Rodriguez' ties to US vice-president George H. W. Bush during the Iran–Contra affair, from 1983-1988. In September 1986 General John K. Singlaub wrote Oliver North expressing concern about Félix Rodríguez's daily contact with the Bush office and warned of damage to President Ronald Reagan and the US Republican Party. The Walsh Report (Chapter 25) states that M. Charles Hill took notes at a meeting between George Shultz and Elliott Abrams on 16 October 1986, as follows:
- "Felix Rodriguez [sic] – Bush did know him from CIA days. FR [Rodriguez] is ex-CIA. In El Salv[ador] he goes around to bars saying he is buddy of Bush. A y[ea]r ago Pdx [Poindexter] & Ollie [North] told VP staff stop protecting FR as a friend – we want to get rid of him from his involvnt [sic] w[ith] private ops. Nothing was done so he still is there shooting his mouth off."
- (brackets are in the original)
Rodríguez met with Donald Gregg, who by then was Bush's National Security advisor. The Walsh Report (Chapter 29) states: "Gregg introduced Rodriguez to Vice President Bush in January 1985, and Rodriguez met with the Vice President again in Washington, D.C., in May 1986. He also met Vice President Bush briefly in Miami on May 20, 1986."
Rodríguez also met and spoke repeatedly with Bush's advisor Gregg and his deputy (Col. Samuel J. Watson III). As one indicator of this connection, a single chapter in the Walsh Report titled "Donald P. Gregg" (Chapter 29) contains 329 references to Rodríguez.
On 5 October 1986, the Corporate Air Services C-123 carrying Eugene Hasenfus was shot down over Nicaragua, killing two US pilots, William H. Cooper and Wallace B. Sawyer, Jr., and one Latin American crew member. "Rodriguez unsuccessfully attempted to call Gregg to inform him of the missing plane. He reached Watson, who in turn notified the White House Situation Room. The following day, Rodriguez called Watson again and told him that the airplane was one of North's." Hasenfus told reporters that he worked for "Max Gomez" (an alias for Felix Rodriguez) and "Ramon Medina" (an alias for Luis Posada Carriles) of the CIA. On 10 October 1986, Clair George, head of CIA clandestine operations, testified before Congress that he did not know of any direct connection between Hasenfus and Reagan administration officials. In Fall of 1992, George was convicted on two charges of false statements and perjury before Congress; he was pardoned Christmas Eve that year by then-President Bush.
During the 2004 US Presidential election, Rodríguez was highly critical of Democratic candidate John Kerry, due in part to their previous meeting at a Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Narcotics hearing in 1987. During one session Kerry accused him of soliciting a $10 million donation from the Colombian cocaine cartel. The story had originally come from Ramón Milian Rodríguez, a convicted money launderer from Colombia. Rodríguez referred to Kerry as "a liar and self-promoter" and said he "should not be President." During the 2004 presidential election Rodríguez campaigned strongly for George W. Bush. He admitted his main motivation was “to get the real word out about John Kerry.” Others accused him of seeking revenge against Kerry for the Kerry Committee report.
- Cupull, Adys; González, Froilán (1993). La CIA contra el Che (in Spanish). Bolivia: Editora Política. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
- Woodward, Bob. 2002. Bush At War, Simon and Schuester, p.317
- Andrea Billups and Kathleen Walter, Newsmax, 10 October 2013, On Anniversary of Che Killing, CIA's Felix Rodriguez Remembers Archived January 20, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- Nordlinger, Jay (August 5, 2013). "The Anti-Che; Felix Rodriguez, freedom fighter and patriot". National Review. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
- Douglas Brook's MA thesis, "The Phoenix Program: a Retrospective Assessment", Baylor University, 1989, pp. iv, 38-40, 50, 57, 60, 114-18, 127, 140-144, and 148-56.
- Walsh Iran / Contra Report - Chapter 29 Donald P. Gregg Archived April 3, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- Walsh Iran / Contra Report Archived August 8, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Walsh Iran / Contra Report - Chapter 25 United States v. Elliott Abrams Archived April 3, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- Walsh Iran / Contra Report - Chapter 17 United States v. Clair E. George Archived April 3, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=36375 Archived September 27, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Brigada 2506 Archived May 27, 2014 at the Wayback Machine[dead link]
- Felix Rodriguez: Kerry No Foe of Castro
- http://www.bayofpigsmuseum.org/about_us.html Archived October 1, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Rodriguez, Felix I. and John Weisman. Shadow Warrior/the CIA Hero of a Hundred Unknown Battles. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.
- Book review of Rodriguez' autobiography, online at: "Memoirs of the Man the White House Said Didn't Exist", book review of The Shadow Warrior, by Robert Parry, Washington Monthly, November 1989.
Cuba: Che Guevara, Bay of Pigs Invasion, Central America
- The Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965, Don Bohning, (2005)
- Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, PD Scott, J Marshall, (1998)
- Bay of Pigs documents and 40th anniversary conference papers at the National Security Archive at George Washington University's Gelman Library.
- Fabian Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 
- Statement of Information: Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives. United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. 1974. "specially trained to capture documents of the Castro government"
- Detail Information on the Bay of Pigs Invasion — Includes maps of the Invasion and Documents.
- History of Cuba — Bay of Pigs Invasion.
- "The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era", Eytan Gilboa, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 110, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 539–562
- Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, PD Scott, J Marshall (1998)
- PBS’s Frontline: Thirty Years of America’s Drug War: A Chronology
- CIA man recounts Che Guevara's death
Vietnam: Operation Phoenix
- Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (1990)
- Seymour Hersh, Cover-Up, Random House, 1972
- Myra MacPherson, Long Time Passing, Signet, 1984
- Senate Review of Phoenix Program
- Counter-Revolutionary Violence - Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda, by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman
- Lawrence E. Walsh, "Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters," August 4, 1993, Washington, DC, ISBN 978-0-671-66721-4.
- "Iran-Contra's Untold Story," by Robert Parry and Peter Kornbluh, Foreign Policy, No. 72 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 3–30
- Interview (Spanish) Video Archive: Horacio Cambeiro on YouTube
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- BBC News Audio Archive: Cold Warrior - A Profile of the Man Devoted to Removing Castro