CUBAN AID RELIEF
Of all the activities financially supported by the CIA conduit Catherwood Foundation, the Cuban Aid Relief (CAR) is one of the most interesting.
In the waning days of the Batista administration in Cuba, American diplomatic support shifted away from Batista to Fidel Castro. Once in power however, some of those who fought with Castro were disenchanted with his regime and left Cuba. Some of the Cuban refugees were professional businessmen whose holdings were nationalized, others were gangsters and prostitutes. Some had fought with Castro or supported him in various ways.
They created refugee problems in some cities, particularly Miami, Florida, but they also settled in Tampa, New Orleans, Dallas, Chicago, New York, North Jersey and Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia the Cathewood Foundation established the CAR “to provide assistance to Cuban exiles with no connection with the deposed Batista regime, …and to make as wide use as possible for the professional men, artists and businessmen who fled the Castro forces.”
In 1961 the directors of the CAR were Cummins Catherwood, former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba Arthur Gardner, E. Wharton Shober of ATEC corporation, Harrison Wood and Enrique Menocal, the only Cuban national among the directors.
With a sense of history, they officially named the organization “The General Leonard Wood Fund for Cuban Aid Relief,” in honor of the U.S. Army surgeon who was the first American governor of Cuba.
Lt. Leonard Wood had organized the 1st Volunteer Cavalry with Teddy Roosevelt. After the battleship Maine mysteriously blew up in Havana harbor – The Tonkin Gulf of the Spanish-American war, the 1st Volunteers saw action. Wood received a promotion after the first engagement and Roosevelt succeeded him as the leader of the regiment. Under Roosevelt’s command the 1st Volunteers achieved notoriety for its famous charge up San Juan Hill, which was led by both Roosevelt and Wood, effectively destroying the moral of the Spanish and making Roosevelt and Wood American heroes.
After spending two years as Governor of New York, Roosevelt’s political opponents had his name placed in nomination for Vice President under William McKinley, a ploy to get Roosevelt out of the limelight of power. The plan worked when McKinley won the election, but then backfired when he was shot and killed by a “glassy-eyed” anarchist while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Although anarchist publications printed a warning about the assassin, Leon F. Czolgosz five days before he shot McKinley, Czolgosz claimed he acted alone. He was convicted and executed in the electric chair within a month of the murder.
One of the first things Roosevelt did as President was to name General Leonard Wood the first American Governor of Cuba. Besides Wood’s grandson, Harrison Wood, the Cuban Aid Relief also enjoyed the support of Theodore Roosevelt III and Samuel P. Wise, who was writing a book on the career of General Wood.
Other members of the CAR included Roland Taylor Ely of Princeton, N.J., Reeves Wetherall, an executive of Wanamakers Department store, Richard P. Sellder, Ivan Oblinsky and CAR co-directors E. Wharton Shober and Enrique Menocal.
A boyhood friend of Fidel Castro, Menocal had a unique position in the Cuban revolution. Menocal’s family, like Castro’s, was well off. They owned huge sugar plantations in the Cuban countryside. As successful businessmen, their parents were wealthy aristocrats and part of Cuba’s elite society. Fidel and Enrique attended the best schools, and were trained with refine tastes, but came to despise the Batista regime and became revolutionaries.
Both Castro and Menocal attended the University of Havana, where Castro studied law and Menocal economics. Menocal eventually became a professor of economics at the University, which became a center of anti-Batista activity in Havana. When Batista left Cuba on January 1, 1959, Castro was still eight days away, so the leaders of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE), including Dr. Rolando Cubella, took over Batista’s offices and smoked his cigars until Castro arrived.
One of the first things Castro did when he assumed power was to name Enrique Menocal the director of the Cuban Sugar Institute. On October 17, 1960 however, Menocal, his wife and four children sought refuge at the Brazilian embassy in Havana. Once safe in the United States, in January, 1961, Menocal held a press conference in Philadelphia where he said, “…the bearded dictator will be ousted within three or four months.” Exactly four months later, the exiled Cuban brigade stormed ashore at the Bay of Pigs.
Menocal said the last time he saw Castro at a dinner party in Havana, “The man looked strong and healthy, but was neurotic, schizophrenic and had the glassy-eyed stair of a madman.”
Newspaper articles indicate that the CAR also ran outreach programs in Florida, providing medical care to exiled Cubans at a Miami field office staffed by five doctors, which worked closely with the Catholic Welfare Services charity.
Also in Florida, the CAR worked with the Pan-Am Society of America, which also received money from the Catherwood Foundation. Before the Guatemalan Coup of 1954, the director of the Pan-Am Society, Curtis Wilgus, organized a conference at the University of Florida’s School for Latin American Studies that was funded by the United Fruit Company.
The Pan Am Society’s liaison with the CAR, Miss Carmelita Manning, met often with CAR other co-director E. Wharton Shober, and the two organizations co-sponsored a seminar for exiled Cuban journalists at the University of Miami (See: JMWAVE) in July, 1963.
At the time E. Wharton Shober was director of the ATEK corporation, which sold printing machinery and provided financial services to anti-communist publishers in Latin and Central America. For his work with ATEK in 1963 Shober received the President’s “E” Award from Asst. Sec. of Commerce Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., for excellence in Export, though it more likely was for Espionage.
Shober, a nephew of former Pennsylvania Governor George H. Earl, attended Princeton before service in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II.
Before Shober, the director of ATEK was Dr. Ralph Deshan, who left Philadelphia and ATEK with his wife to raise beef cattle in Nicaragua with Manuel Artime.
When Shober left ATEK he became president of Hahneman Hospital in Philadelphia, replacing Dr. Charles Cameron, a cancer specialists, who had received a $400,000 research grant from U.S. Army Intelligence.
At Hahneman Shober worked with New York psychiatrist Dr. Albert A. Laverne, establishing a controversial drug treatment program that experimented with giving pure carbon dioxide to junkies, which led to the death of Robert Brown, a black man married to a Main Line heiress.
Philadelphia Magazine described Shober as, “…the polo playing, perennially controversial president of Hahneman Hospital, another fixture at the Main Line balls and debuts, and good friends with Nicaraguan dictator Gen. Anastasio Somoza, one of the godfathers of the Bay of Pigs invasion.” In June 1972 Shober arranged for Somoza to receive an honorary degree from Hahneman medical college, over the objections of faculty and students. Shober left Philadelphia in 1978 to work in Saudi Arabia in the hospital administration field.
Besides Enrique Menocal, another Cuban exile who was assisted by the Cuban Aid Relief was Dr. Julio Fernandez, who was relocated to rural Martinsburg, Pa., where he taught Spanish at the local high school until he was implicated in the assassination of President Kennedy and became the subject of the subsequent investigation.