Jerry P. Shinley Archive:
Sergio Arcacha Smith and the FRD (Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front)



Arcacha Smith and the FRD
Author: jpshinley
Date: 1998/07/16

      Sergio Arcacha Smith announced his presence in New Orleans on December 6, 1960. He identified himself as the delegate of the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front, known in Spanish as the Frente Revolucionario Democratico or as the FRD. Arcacha had been sent from Miami along with another Cuban named Manuel E. Quesada. Dr Manuel A. De Varona was identified as the coordinator general of the FRD. Overthrow of Castro was identified as the main objective of the FRD; however, the purpose of the New Orleans branch was stated to be merely to inform Orleanians about "exactly what is happening in Cuba." The local branch could be contacted through P. O. Box 5336, Station B, New Orleans. (NOTP; December 7, 1960; secton 1, p 2)
      The FRD's office was opened on December 21, 1960. The address was room 207, 403 Camp Street (the Balter Building). Besides Manuel Quesada, Arcacha was now accompanied by a young Cuban from Baton Rouge, Francisco J. Uriate. (NOTP; December 22, 1960; s 4, p 14)
      In a talk before the Junior Chamber of Commerce in January, 1961, Arcacha declared that that the "Cubans will launch an invasion sometime in 1961 to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro. While the actual invasion would not be launched from U. S. territory, "Cuban citizens are being recruited by the front [FRD] in this country and sent elsewhere to train for the invasion." Six months of fighting were expected to be necessary to achieve victory. Arcacha asked for help in combatting Communist propaganda "all over Latin America." (NOTP; January 5, 1961; s 1, p 2)
       Speaking along with Arcacha were Oscar Higgenbotham, former "general manager of Central Espana Sugar Mills in central Cuba" and Carlos Marquez Diaz, former Cuban consul who was "removed when Castro came to power." Of Castro, Marquez said, "He has destroyed everything that represents decency and honesty in Cuba." (ibid)
       The next day, William Dalzell announced the opening of the offices of the Friends of Democratic Cuba, Inc. at 402 St. Charles Street (another entrance of the Balter Building). Grady Durham was identified as secretary-treasurer and was said to be drawing up a charter and "getting the support of New Orleans citizens, who will be members of the board." A Mrs. Margot Campoamor was also mentioned as being affiliated with the group. (NOTP; January 6, 1961; S 3, p 2)
   Dalzell identified two main aims for the Friends:
            1. To get six ambulances, a field hospital and other
                  medical aid to the FRD which is fighting in guerilla
                  action against Castro forces in eastern Cuba. (Is the
                  acqusition of the six ambulances connected to the widely
                  publicized Bolton Ford Incident?)
            2. To help get out of Cuba 52,000 Cubans who are seeking
Dalzell was alarmed because "Cuba is a satellite of the Soviet Union and is only 15 minutes away by jet-propelled atomic bombs." (ibid)
      During the Garrison probe, Martin L. McAuliffe, jr. gave a statement to the DA's office dated May 9, 1967. According to the statement:
            When I was first contacted by Arcacha and asked if I wanted
            to handle publicity for the [FRD] which was organized in
            November or December, 1960, I called ADMIRAL WARDER, who
            was then Commandant of the 8th Naval District, who a
            roomate of mine when we were at Annapolis. I asked him to
            check if it was all right for me to work with these people
            or not. The Naval Intelligence man then contacted me and
            set up an appointment with a man at the FBI who used the
            name MR. CALL [Ernest C. Wall?]. From that time forward
            until after the Bay of Pigs whenever I had anything to
            report to the FBI or whenever I was contacted by them the
            man was always the man I described as MR. CALL. (p 233; per
            the handwritten numbers on the lower right)
McAulliffe remained in contact with the FRD until the Summer of 1961, when he was advised by Admiral Warder to cease contact. (p 234) In McAulliffe's view the FBI "was supervising" the FRD. (ibid)
      McAuliffe said that he was contacted by Bill Dalzell about allowing his name to be used on the letterhead of the Friends of Democratic Cuba. "[The] next thing I knew I was down as President of the organization." McAuliffe accepted the post on the advice of his FBI contact, Call. "About ... six weeks after the thing was started, I was called over to the FBI office and MR. CALL told me to dissolve the organization." Call told McAuliffe to raise the spectre of arrest with the Friends on the basis of a violation of the Neutrality Act. (p 233) In a memorandum dated April 2, 1968, Andrew J. Sciambra reported that a Phillip Boatwright was a friend of both a "McAuliff" and Kerry Thornley.
      An October 26, 1967, CIA document on Arcacha Smith states the following about his involvement with the Friends:
            Arcacha SMITH was also one of the promoters of a New
             Orleans organization knows as the Friends... This
             organization was created by several New Orleans business
             and political figures, including the deceased former FBI
             agent, Guy BANISTER, to collect money to aid Cubans in
             their fight against Communism. One month after the FDC was
             created, it was put out of business by strong criticism
             from prominent Cubans. There was evidence that the FDC was
             organized strictly for the personal gain of the promoters.
(p 2)
A possibly interesting counterpart to Dalzell and the Friends might be Wendell N. Rollason and the Miami based Inter-American Affairs Commission. A similarity is suggested by Dalzell's goal of helping 52,000 Cubans obtain visas. (NOTP; January 6) Rollason was reported to have provided such services in Miami. The New York Times stated in 1964 that the Commission "which has operated independently since 1962 was previously part of the Cuban Revolutionary Council. At that time, Mr. Rollason's task was to assist Cuban exiles in applying for United States waiver visas." (NYT; Sept 24, 1964; p 11) Rollason was in the news in 1964 because at that time he, and a Cuban assistant, Anthony Farinas Gonzalez, were detained in Mexico on a charge of having supplied forged Mexican entry visas for Cubans attempting to flee Castro. (NYT; ibid; Sept 27, 1064; p 25; Oct 8, 1964; p 4; no copies provided) No resolution of this matter was published in the New York times as far as can be determined. In March, 1961, Rollason was reported to have provided the State Department Office of Security with a report that a Cuban had been overheard saying that Caroline Kennedy should be kidnapped and held until JFK agreed not to invade Cuba. (NOTP; April 1, 1961; s 1, p 1; April 3, 1961; s 1, p 1)
At the FRD offices in the Balter Building on Januray 6, 1961, Mrs. Amparo Rocha announced her resignation as Cuban consul and the closing the Cuban Consular offices in the International Trade Mart. "Mrs. Rocha, a veteran of 23 years of foreign service, had been consul since Francisco Batet quit Dec 7." Arcacha revealed that Rocha has kept her job at the request of the FRD; however, Rocha maintained that "her sympathies with the Front movement had not influenced her work on decisions concerning ... the counsular office." (NOTP; January 7, 1961; s 1, p6)
A week before the launching of the Bay of Big invasion, Sergio Arcacha Smith saw fit to inform the New Orleans press that "preparations are almost complete for an anti-Castro Cuban invasion." Some of the participants were to be Cuban students recruited from Louisiana Universities and sent, via Miami, to training grounds in Central America. Arcacha stated that the aim of the invasion was "to set up a government-in-arms so that Cuba can once again be recognized by countries throughout the world." This statement suggests that Arcacha was indeed aware of the plans for the Bay of Pigs. The invasion "could begin this afternoon, tomorrow, anytime. We are just waiting for the signal." (NOTP; April 11, 1961; s 3, p4)
After the official launching of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the press sought out Arcacha for a reaction:
            Smith learned that the invasion was imminent Sunday about
             11 pm through a coded message on a short-wave radio at his
             home: "Look to the rainbow. The sky is clear. The fish are
             ready." He said each sentence has an important meaning, but
             he declined to elaborate.
             The Cuban official said that refugees in this country have
             been on the alert for several weeks and that he has been
             listening to his radio each day for the signal.
            Many New Orleans area Cubans are members of the invasionary
             force, [Arcacha] Smith said, but he declined to say how
             many. He said all were Cubans - some exiles, some students.
             Many of the students were attending colleges and
             universities in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Arcaha identified Francisco Uriate, who had been present at the
opening of the FRD office in December, as one the leaders of the
invasion. (NOTP; April 18, 1961; s 1, p 9)
Volume X of the report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations states, on page 127, that "the FBI files also indicate [Guy] Banister was performing another service for the Cuban exile group. He ran background checks on those Cuban Students on the campus of Louisiana State University who wished to be members of Arcacha Smith's anti-Castro group, ferreting out any pro-Castro sympathizers who might be among them." Arcacha's comments cited above suggest that these students cleared by Banister were not volunteering to operate the mimeograph machine at the FRD's Balter Building office, but that instead they were recruited to be part of the Brigade 2506. If this surmise is correct, then Banister may have had a personal stake in the men killed and captured at the Bay of Pigs.
The Crusade to Free Cuba
The fund-raising drive to be known as the Crusade to Free Cuba had an abortive beginning when NO Mayor Victor Schiro proclaimed November 6 to December 6, 1961 to be "March of the Paper Bullets for Democratic Free Cuba Month." "Paper Bullets" were identified as dollar bills, which were to be given to the FRD. (NOTP; November 7, 1961; s 2, p 4)
After some retooling, the obliging Mayor Schiro proclaimed December and January to be the "time of the Crusade to Free Cuba." (NOTP; Dec 1, 1961; s 2, p4) A kick-off meeting was held December 1 at the Monteleone Hotel. The principle speaker was Manuel Gil, a Cuban exile who would become involved with INCA. Other Cubans present were Arcacha, Carlos Quiroga, who would later speak to Oswald in an attempt to infiltrate Oswald's FPCC group, and Arnesto Rodriguez. Another speaker was Norman Thomas, identified as a "New Orleans freelance writer, [who] spent two weeks in Cuba during October." (NOTP; December 2, 1961; s 1, p 6) A Norman Thomas was listed as editor on the masthead of William George Gaudet's Latin American Report (contents pages from the February 1960 and June 1962). Dr. Alton Ochsner is listed as a director of Latin American Report in the February 1960 issue.
The Crusade picked up steam with the naming of William A. Monteleone, of the Monteleone Hotel, as general chairman. A city-wide committee was named which included Robert D. Reily; former superintendent of police, Provosty Dayries (the man who fired Banister); city Councilman Paul V. Burke, who had opposed Banister's police corruption probe at every opportunity; Arnesto Rodrigues and Manuel Gil. (NOTP; December 3, 1961; s 1, p 19)
Another gathering at the Monteleone Hotel in late Decemeber featured a speech by Arcacha himself. Arcacha is now described as a delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC) rather than the FRD. To offer an explanation as to why the Cuban populace did not rise up against Castro during the Bay of Pigs, Arcacha gave the following dubious account: "There were 33 people in my office. Of these 33, only five were for Castro. But they were armed with machine guns as were other Castro militiamen. When the invasion came they pointed the guns at us, wouldn't even let us leave the office for lunch." (NOTP; December 29, 1961; s 1, p 6) Funny that the reporters interviewing Arcacha at the time did not notice that he was being held by armed men.
Another speaker was Ronnie Caire, decribed as a coordinator of the campaign. Caire indicated that some of the money raised would be used to keep the anti-Castro underground active. And he offered that "Cuba has missiles. And these missiles will be only 20 minutes away from New Orleans. Suddenly we find the thing in our own backyard. If this doesn't shake you up at night, I don't know what it takes. Caire stated that the had checked out Arcacha and the CRC before becoming part of the Crusade. "I checked unofficially with the CIA, the un-American activities committee of the House of Representatives and the State Department. From every national check source came back the answer, 'This is the group.' I also checked up on Arcacha personally." (ibid)
William Monteleone also piped in: "The revolution in Cuba is no comic opera. It is an international drive aimed at encircling the United States and capturing all of Latin America." (ibid)
The next big event in the Crusade was a parade down Canal Street on January 20, 1962. Arcacha is now conspicuously absent; the parade was led a Carlos Quiroga. The paraders carried a large Cuban flag into which people were encouraged to toss their contributions. Mrs. Harlod K. Marshall was identified as women's committee chairman. J. B. McMahon the large donor's chairman, and Maurice Andry as finance committee chairman. (NOTP; January 20, 1962; s 3, p 4; January 21, 1962; s 1, p 21)
The day after the parade, Monteleone stated that the drive would be extended throuh January 31. Mention is also made of a two-hour telethon held over the weekend. (NOTP; January 22, 1962; s 1, p 8) Was this the telethon Rancier Ehlinger said Gordon Novel was involved with?
A new name is that of Luis Rabel, brought in to replace Arcacha. (ibid) Notice that the Times-Picayune gives no hint of Arcacha's departure or the reasons for it. According to the CIA document cited above, "the FRD in New Orleans threw Arcacha SMITH out of the organization in early 1962. Some Cubans said Arcacha SMITH stole money entrusted to him for the counterrevolution." (p 2) During the Garrison probe, Ronnie Caire was interviewed by Frank Klein, who filed a memorandum dated January 23, 1967. Caire said he was first approached by Arcacha around November or December of 1961. He could not recall if Arcacha had been referred by anyone. "The Crusade lasted about three months and was a failure and [Caire] says that he lost about $10,000 on the deal in expenditures for which he was never remimbursed. He believes that all that was raised was about $4,000 and that [Arcacha] pocketed some cash contributions." (p 202) After the debacle of the Crusade, Arcacha worked for Caire from February to September of 1962. The relationship was terminated when Arcacha departed New Orleans after telling Caire that he had arranged business in Mexico. (p 202) Caire identified Arnesto Rodgriquez as the leader of the "anti-Arcacha" faction in the Cuban community. (p 203) Caire had an uncertain recollection of being introduced to a "Toni Varona" by Arcacha. (p 204)
A memorandum of February 14, 1967, summarizes Sciambra's interview with Ernesto (aka Arnesto) Rodriguez. Calling Arcacha a "bad hombre", Rodriguez recalled that at one meeting of the Crusade "there was an argument between RONNIE CAIRE and some of the Cubans over the way that the finances were being expended. It seems that there was a complaint that the money was being used to pay some of ARCACHA's personal debts." (pp 787-8) Rodgriguez also claimed contact with Oswald during the summer of 1963. (p 787)
Rodriguez recommended an Orlando Piedra as a good source of information on the N. O. Cuban community. (p 787) In February of 1962, Piedra, described as former "chief of investigations for the secret police of deposed President Fulgencio Batista," shared his secret files on the early career of Fidel Castro. Piedra had been in New Orleans since September 1960. (NOTP; February 10, 1962; s 2, p 3) According to James and Wardlaw, Plot Or Politics, page 160, Piedra was in New Orleans until the onset of the Garrison probe.
Citizens for a Free Cuba Committee
On September 24, 1964, the formation of the Citizens for a Free Cuba Committee was announced. Ross Buckley was identified as chairman. (Earlier, an E. Ross Buckley had run as a Republican candidate for Mayor.) Cuthbert Brady was vice-chairman for public relations, Mrs. Sidney Scoenburger vice-chairman for women, Arnesto J. Rodriguez secretary, and Paul Lapeyre coordinator of student groups. (NOTP; September 25, 1962; s 3, p 19)
In October, Cuthbert Brady proclaimed that "Alpha 66 is the only group actually doing something about getting rid of Castro." He said that agents of Alpha 66 were in N. O. A petition circulated by Brady called for the "recognition of the existence of a state of hostilities between Red Cuba and the U. S." and the "use of volunteers from this nations and others to liberate Cuba." (NOTP; October 18, 1962; s 4, p 10) This, of course, was during the Cuban missile crisis.
Jack Frazier, owner of the Ryder Coffee House, in a February 26, 1968 interview with Garrison investigator Gary Sanders, said he had attended meetings of a discussion group whose members were the following: "KERRY THORNLEY, WILLIAM [CUTHBERT] BRADY, HELEN GLADSTONE (a close friend of Brady's), JACK BURNSIDES and ROSS BUCKLEY. (Memorandum dated March 6, 1968; p 134) Frazier said Brady was a homosexual who was arrested on a morals charge and deported to the Phillipines "around the same time as OSWALD's leaflet distribution." Frazier reportedly said, "I think that Brady was deported because the CIA wanted him out of town." (p 135)
David Graydon, who lived with William C. Brady from July to August of 1962 and June to August of 1963, was interviewed by Sciambra on May 27, 1968. (Memorandum of May 27, 1968; p 776) Graydon said that Helen Gladstone had some of Brady's papers, but she was also a personal friend of Clay Shaw (and thus unlikely to be helpful to Garrison's investigation). Brady was also said by Graydon to have known Clay Shaw. Two other Shaw-Brady acquaintances were said to be "LEKLA FREA and VERNON KELLOGG." Graydon also claimed to have been told that Lee Harvey Oswald had attended two parties in Brady's apartment. (pp 776-7)
Jerry Shinley

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