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The CIA Proposes a Covert Operation to Overthrow Fidel Castro

Following the Cuban Revolution of 1959 that brought Fidel Castro to power, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency proposed several plans of action to President Eisenhower. Because the covert operation would take several months to bring about, both 1960 presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy were briefed about the plan while on the campaign trail. Disregarding the recommendations of key advisors, Kennedy would ultimately authorize "Operation Zapata" soon to be known to the world as the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.


16 March 1960


 1. Objective: The purpose of the program outlined herein is to bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention. Essentially the method of accomplishing this end will be to induce, support, and so far as possible direct action, both inside and outside of Cuba, by selected groups of Cubans of a sort that they might be expected to and could undertake on their own initiative…

2. Summary Outline: The program contemplates four major courses of action:

a. The first requirement is the creation of a responsible, appealing and unified Cuban opposition to the Castro regime, publicly declared as such and therefore necessarily located outside of Cuba….

b. So that the opposition may be heard and Castro's basis of popular support undermined, it is necessary to develop the means for more communication to the Cuban people so that a powerful propaganda offensive can be initiated in the name of the declared opposition. The major tool proposed to be used for this purpose is a long and short wave [radio]….

c. Work is already in progress in the creation of a covert intelligence and action organization within Cuba which will be responsible to the orders and directions of the "exile" opposition. Such a network must have effective communication and be selectively manned to minimize the risk of penetration…..

d. Preparations have already been made for the development of an adequate paramilitary force outside of Cuba, together with mechanisms for the secondary logistic support of covert military operations on the island. Initially a cadre of leaders will be recruited after careful screening and trained as paramilitary instructors. In a second phase a number of paramilitary cadres will be trained at secure locations outside of the U.S. so as to be available for immediate deployment into Cuba to organize, train and lead resistance forces recruited there both before and after the establishment of one or more active centers of resistance….

Source | CIA, "A Program of Covert Operations Against the Castro Regime," 16 March 1960, National Archives.
Creator | Central Intelligence Agency
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | Central Intelligence Agency, “The CIA Proposes a Covert Operation to Overthrow Fidel Castro,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 26, 2023,

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