Sylvia Durán – In her own words

All serious JFK researchers know about Sylvia Durán, the secretary at the Cuban Consulate who had several interactions with a “Lee Oswald” in late September, 1963.  Volume 3 of the HSCA contains the belated interview of Duran (Sylvia Tirado). Of course, she never testified before the Warren Commission.  From day one, the arrest and mistreatment of Durán was viewed as a very serious matter by the U.S. Government. There is a lot of good background information here at

This link points to ARRB released documents that truly describe the chaotic circumstances of her arrest. There is, however, one Sylvia Durán document that I found misfiled at Harold Weisberg’s site at Hood College.  Apparently those who were processing Harold’s files mistook Sylvia Odio for Sylvia Durán, and placed this personal account in Odio’s directory.  Yes, the document is in Spanish, so I took to the task of translating it, since it appears no one had ever wondered what she was trying to express.  It is also possible, that Weisberg did not  realize the importance of her statement.  A word of caution: this is a direct translation – present and past tenses are mixed, and she does not differentiate with quotes when one of the principals is speaking to her and vice versa, and this is all intertwined with her own personal thoughts.  Also, please note that she did not establish paragraphs, it is all in one continuous  stream of words and sentences.

A very important and incriminating Lee Oswald link to Duran was cited by the Warren Commission, and it pertains to Duran’s name written in Lee Oswald’s address book which appears as CE18 in Volume 16.  We will present a study which puts this into proper perspective, and allows the reader to decide if the evidence is real.  Here is Sylvia’s translated statement, written 15 years after the fact:

John F. Kennedy’s ghost chases me, periodically it reappears when I think the nightmare is over. Today, May 28, 1978, Horacio called to tell me that judicial agents contacted him and Ruben to tell me that INTERPOL agents would be passing through Mexico and they wanted to ask me some questions. Could it be that I will be persecuted all my life by a casual encounter? On a day in March 1975 I arrive at my office at the Secretary of Labor: Madam attorney they have called twice from New York. I am not an attorney. Did they leave a message? They will call later, Madam attorney. After a few calls to my house, then my office, Miss Collins located me. I am Mr. Epstein’s secretary, he is writing a book about Kennedy and he is interested in talking to you, he has plans to visit Dallas next month and from there on to Mexico, if you will grant him an interview. All I know is contained in the Warren Report I have nothing more to add. She insists. We agreed that he would call me from Dallas. Epstein writes for Reader’s Digest. I go away on vacation and forget about Epstein. The day I return I find out they are in Mexico. From the airport I go straight to my office and when I arrive home that night, I find that someone slid a letter underneath the door. They fly back the next day – I refuse to see them. That is not what was agreed on. They write, I never reply. Miss Collins calls me on the phone and we decide she will send a questionnaire. I never received it. One night in October 1976 someone calls me to verify my address and tells me that Mr. Kessler will drop by to visit. I don’t know who he is. A few days later, a couple of good looking youngsters drop by my house. We are reporters for the Washington Post. Is that the newspaper that published the Watergate case? Yes. I like them. We are investigating the assassination of President Kennedy and I come from Washington to interview you, Marlisse is our correspondent in Mexico. After 13 years of silence I agree to speak to the press and answer all of their questions. And for the first time my photo is published in an American newspaper. Why did I do it? I don’t know, perhaps because of the notoriety; maybe because it is a famous newspaper, or maybe because I am tired of being gagged for so many years, a “suggestion” by the Federal Security Police. I prefer to infer it was due to female solidarity. Woman reporter Marlise, would get the credit for obtaining the first interview which I ever conceded to the press, and I hope it is the last. Months later, they call me once again from New York, this time an investigator from the University of Columbia, who is doing his thesis on Kennedy, he asks a few questions and now a year later INTERPOL appears. I was under the impression that those type of police only existed in TV episodes. Once again, 1963 came upon me. Cuban Consulate in Mexico. Friday November 22, 1963, it is approximately 2PM. They have assassinated President Kennedy!; much commotion, the news goes from mouth-to-mouth. It’s my birthday. I have invited a few friends to dinner. I don’t know what to do. I cancel dinner. I tell some of them, others I cannot locate. At night, we gather at my house. Everyone talks about the same thing. Radio, television. Unanimously, all media describe the assassination and the arrest of the presumed assassin, they announce his affiliation. Throughout the world, the news is heard at the same time: Lee Harvey Oswald, American, married to a Russian, lived in the USSR. My memory goes back to September 27. Do you speak English? Yes. I need a transit visa to Cuba. I’m going to the Soviet Union. He shows me his worker’s id card, letters addressed to the North American Communist Party, not soliciting information, newspaper cutouts which showed him struggling or “being subdued by the arms”? by some policemen, at a meeting in support of the Cuban revolution, a Fair Play for Cuba in New Orleans credential. He says he is a Communist. Why did he not visit the Cuban Communist Party? In these types of cases, the Communist Party of his country would contact the Cuban Communist Party and they would directly process his visa. I found it strange that he would be traveling with all of those documents and I deemed him to be naive. I ask him for photographs. He has none. He asks where to have them taken and I give him the address of a place nearby where they have automatic machines. Some time afterwards, one or two hours perhaps, he returns. We fill his form. I give him a slip of paper with my name and the telephone number of the Consulate. Call me in a week to check on your visa. It’s impossible, I can only be in Mexico for 3 days, my tourist permit expires. There is nothing we can do here, first, you must obtain your visa from the Soviet Embassy, and Cuba automatically extends a transit visa, with the understanding that if a flight is announced to the country to which you are traveling, you will not be able to leave the airport in Havana. I am a friend of Cuba, I want to visit the island and see the achievements of the revolution. I feel pity for him. He does not seem to understand what I am telling him. I explain once again about the requirements to travel to Cuba. His eyes beg for protection and are supported by an ungainly body. He appears not to be sure of himself. I explain how to reach the Soviet Embassy. That same afternoon, Jorrín, a co-worker in charge of the gate, calls me on the inter-phone: Girl, I’m sending an American that speaks no Spanish. We only served the public in the morning and in the afternoon, the doors to the Consulate were closed and one would enter via the gates of the Embassy. It was Oswald, visibly excited. I went to the Soviet Embassy and they will give me the visa. He insists in obtaining his Cuban visa as soon as possible. I again explain the conditions. He does not want to accept them. The dialog is hazy, I only remember his insistence. To get rid of him, I call the Soviet Consul. Yes, that man did request a visa and the response will take three to four months. Why come to Mexico and go through Cuba when he could travel from the U.S.? It is faster and cheaper. He did not want to hear this. His face turned red, his small eyes gleam, and his feeble figure, he is no taller than 5’68” (1.7m), appears to gain strength. “It’s not possible” I cannot wait that long!, he yells. I try to convince him that there is nothing that can be done, except wait. I am unable to calm him. Eusebio Azcue, the outgoing Consul, happens to be in the next office briefing Mirabal, the new Consul, about pending matters. Eusebio there’s a guy here that is very angry because he is being refused a visa. Would you talk to him? The Consul calmly explains, once more, the requirements that need to be met. We cannot do anything, we receive instructions from Cuba. He does not understand the reasons and continues to gesticulate. Azcue loses his patience: if you are a real revolutionary you would understand the reasons why visas cannot be granted to anyone who solicits them, so please leave this Consulate immediately unless you want me to kick you out. Oswald is near tears. He babbles unintelligible words and leaves. As I prepare some snacks at home that evening, I relive the episode. Horacio, I am sure that Kennedy’s assassin is a “gringo” who solicited a visa to Cuba, there are not many Americans married to Russian women. I have been a secretary at the Cuban Consulate for three months, – Maricarmen, a dear friend, died in an automobile accident, and I offered to fill her position, until Cuba arranges for a person to take her place. Saturday, November 23; the morning newspaper arrives. There is his face, now in black and white. I have no doubts. I arrive at the Consulate, search the file. I find the form with the authorization from the Minister of Foreign relations of Cuba, in case the Soviet Union authorizes his entry. Excited, I cross the garden and I go to the Ambassador’s office. Look here, I show him the file. No explanations are necessary. I have read the newspapers and Lee Harvey Oswald has become familiar. I am off work, my sister-in-law and a friend wait for me at my house to eat, as we do every Saturday. We just moved in, we have no telephone. We are sitting at the table when all of a sudden someone knocks loudly on the door. Rita enters, my brother-in-law’s maid. She sees me and explodes in tears. Señora, are you alright? Some men came to the house and they took mister Rubén so he could identify you, they told him that you had an accident and Señora Betty asked me to drop by to find out what happened. We all looked at each other. Horacio says, this is very strange, let’s all go in separate cars. We did as such. I arrive to find a house full of men. Betty, my brother-in-law’s wife, screams when she sees me. Sylvia, you are alive! Next to her a tall strong looking man dressed in a suit, does not allow her to approach me. I turn towards the room and I see Rubén with photos in his hand. Sylvita! What happened? Someone yells: Sylvia Durán is here! I extend my hand towards the telephone. Someone grabs it. You cannot talk on the phone. You are under arrest. I sit on the bed. I am not moving from here unless you show me a warrant signed by a judge. Two agents jump me and throw me onto the bed. Each one grabs an arm. I kick and hit two others who approach. The four remove me from the room. I begin to scream. Their hands are like vises that seem to break my arms and legs, they gag me. Shut up you noisy hag! This is nothing compared to what awaits you. They drag me out of the apartment. The half block seems like an eternity, I can hardly breath, when they covered my mouth, they also covered my nose. They throw me into a van, next to a blond man that I do not know. He has the look of a “gringo”. In front, they seat a woman, who is also blond. She is a friend of Betty’s that I have seen once or twice. She was visiting and Chuck, the American sitting next to me, was picking her up for dinner. Now we are at the building which houses the Institute of Safety and Social Services for Workers of the State, in front of the Revolution Monument. They take me to an office. I am able to see how they take Horacio, Rubén, Betty, Lin, and Agatha somewhere else. This is unconstitutional! Have you not realized that we don’t give a damn about Juarez and the Constitution?…Why won’t you tell me why I am here? They leave me alone in a sort of filing room. My mouth hurts. It is swollen. I rub my arms, they also hurt. My sleeve is ripped. They take me somewhere else. A man in front of a typewriter asks: Date and place of birth, education, employment history, They take photographs, front, profile. They fingerprint all fingers of both hands. I think they failed to measure and weigh me, or did they ask? In a small room, before a table with a microscope at center, they begin to interrogate me, five agents. At one point, I count eight. They all ask at the same time. One in shirtsleeves, with bulldog face, raises his foot on the chair, he blows smoke in my face. Where were you born? In Mexico, D.F. When you address me, call me sir, he yells. Did you address me as Señora when you addressed me? WHERE WERE YOU BORN? IN MEXICO, IN THE D.F. (Federal District) Are you a communist? No. He walks, gesticulates. Look Señora, don’t deceive us. More than talking, he barks. Lenin says you are a Communist when you are a member of a Communist Party. I am not affiliated with the Communist Party (PC), so I am not a Communist. But do you believe that the best system is that of Communist countries? There is no Communist country. Only Socialist. He draws a deep breath and his eyes want to kill me. I arrived at Marxism via Sartre. He says that existentialism is valid where is coincides with Marxism. Where did you learn this? At the school of philosophy, we took Introduction to Marxism, we also studied pre-Socrates and positive logic. Are you a member of the Spartan league? No. Do you know José Revueltas, its leader? Pepe? Of course, he is a magnificent writer. Have you read the Headless Proletariat? Of course! What is your take on Revueltas? He is Hegelian. What?, asks a man who registers everything I say onto a sort of typewriter. How many times have you visited Cuba? Who did you see? What places did you visit? What instructions were you given? I’m thirsty. After five hours of interrogation, that light seems as bright as the sun. I want to smoke. I feel a burning sensation in my eyes and throat. Did you have sexual relations with Oswald? A thin Nazi-type man enters the room. The boss: Captain Gutiérrez Barrios. You could only have had three types of contact with Oswald: Job-related, as man and woman, or political. They all hushed when he spoke. The Captain was the only one who asked concrete questions, without yelling. In a cruel and educated way. I need to go to the ladies room. Two agents accompany me. One on front, the other behind, with pistol in hand, cartridge engaged. They do this to “protect” me, they fear someone might take a shot at me. I come back. At one moment, I cry, scream, I become desperate. I get up and walk around the small room, an agent jumps on me, literally tackling me. Careful! They can shoot you through the window. If they are capable of killing your president, a witness doesn’t stand a chance. Oswald frequented the Mexican-Cuban Institute and that is where you met him. Thirst continues to increase and I start losing my voice. Don’t play the weak one, you are a strong woman, you have already shown it. They show me a photograph of Oswald. Your husband drew this and says you introduced him at the Institute. Seven hours is too much time to prove my innocence before a group of policemen who continuously take turns treating me as guilty, of what?, a cigarette! For nothing in the world would I accept a cigarette from them. I hate them. They also hate me. What do you want to know? Is there a tunnel that connects the Cuban and Russian Embassies? How long did you work at the Cuban Institute? Who are your collaborators, their names, addresses. This is where they have their programs, I used to send them asking for police protection. I know of one. How many times did you attend the Institute? Do you remember the tear gas bombs? I myself used to call them when we would program an activity. All of them cultural. Why am I repeating what you already know? I don’t know the addresses, all are names that I know. Carlos Pellicer is the honorary director, Carlos Fuentes and Carlos Monsivais are in charge of the Literary Section, I coordinated the activities. I don’t know how many times I repeated what I spoke to Oswald about. The Captain enters and gives me a sheet of paper and says: repeat what you wrote for Oswald. I write my name and the Consulate’s phone number, exactly the same way I did for all who solicited visas, so they would not go to the Consulate and exactly the same as I did with Oswald. I did not overreach my responsibilities as affirmed in the Warren Commission. I fulfilled the routine. The Captain leaves, comes back, and asks the same. I don’t know how many times this operation is repeated. Finally, he says that Oswald had my name and telephone number in his agenda.

I think he had the slip of paper that I had given him with my information and they were verifying the writing style. After eight hours of interrogation, everything is cleared up. I am not to blame. Sorry about the inconveniences. We suggest you do not make any comments, about this, with anyone. It was our duty to do an exhaustive investigation, to show that Mexico had nothing to do with the assassination of President Kennedy. The FBI had asked permission to send you to the U.S. for interrogation. With your statement it has been demonstrated that Oswald had no links to Mexican left wing groups. We could not allow the American authorities to interrogate you. Mexican citizens are protected by Mexican laws. Go home in peace, with your family, and don’t talk to anyone about this. Good night and thank you for your cooperation. Sign your statement and go. One last act of defiance. First I want to read it. It’s one in the morning. If I can’t read it I won’t sign it. We all leave to get something to eat, everyone is excited and each recounts their own experience. Horacio was slapped in the face and they dislocated his jaw because he did not answer two agents that questioned him at the same time. They asked him to draw a picture of Oswald, the same one they showed me. The only time he saw it was when I showed him the newspaper that same morning.

Horacio Durán in custody 11/23/63

We arrived home. The maid was waiting for us. Frightened, she told us that as soon as we left, some men came and searched the entire house, even under the mattresses. What? They took some books, photographs, and letters. The kids were very frightened. Paul, 10 years old, the son of Horacio, after the agents left, followed them and noted they boarded a vehicle without any plates, since we lived a few blocks from the Cuban Embassy, he went and announced that we had disappeared and the house had been searched. I don’t think we slept that night. Sunday was sad and gray. We did not want to answer the phone, nor open the door. At night, a friend came to visit and comment on the assassination, he had been invited to be with us Friday night for my birthday. We hardly talked. We were terrorized and thought there were microphones throughout the house. Of course, we told him nothing about the arrest. The following day, Monday the 25th, I showed up to work and was surprised to see that everyone at the Embassy was asking about the interrogation. How did they find out when I wasn’t supposed to say anything? It’s on the front page of this morning’s Excelsior. Indeed, they reported what I had said about Oswald’s visit to the Consulate, and how Azcue had chased him away. I met with the Ambassador and told him in detail what happened Saturday the moment I left the Consulate. I showed him the bruises I had on arms and legs. I tried to recount the interrogation step by step. A report was sent to Cuba, it was Monday, air mail day. That same day, Fidel spoke with Azcue, who was already in Havana, working for the revolutionary government. Eusebio corroborated what I had said and he also remembered what transpired. Fidel expressed doubts about me, since I had been threatened. We are on a third floor and we can say that in a moment of hysteria you jumped out of the window. Don’t forget you have a three year old daughter. I really thought I was going to die, and I decided that it was best that my daughter know that her mother had died telling the truth, and not have a mother who had betrayed herself, in a moment of weakness.

Eusebio knew me and told him I would never betray the Cuban Revolution, that I was a red-boned revolutionary and that no threats would make me say things that were not true. That same night, Fidel, along with Raul Roa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote up a letter where they protested the way in which an employee of their Consulate in Mexico had been treated. The letter of protest was delivered to the Mexican Ambassador in Cuba. I hereby reproduce it, exactly as it was published by the newspaper Hoy, in Havana, on Wednesday the 27th. That morning I was on my way to breakfast when two agents arrived. I already knew them, they had questioned me on Saturday and they kindly asked me to accompany them for some clarifications, not to bother driving my car, they would bring me back in a couple of hours. I spoke to the Consulate advising I would come in a little late. Everything was done in the world’s most natural way. Those two hours turned into 60, approximately. They took me to the same room, and an agent with green eyes, the most aggressive of all, the same one who had affirmed that Oswald was my lover and that he was going to tell my husband, said to me point-blank: I have a black and blue bruise caused by a very well placed blow by you, and no government has protested on my behalf – it was one of those blows when they subdued me, at Ruben’s house one of the kicks I threw, hit him in the testicles, I felt as my foot plunged into a soft mass and saw how he doubled over in pain, and how his eyes flashed in anger which transmitted to the hands that grabbed my leg with a force that immobilized me completely. I will never forget his face. At that moment I did not understand what he said, the Cuban protest was not known at the time. By noon, the newspapers had published the famous note that caused protests from both right and left. Fidel Velazquez, labor leader with more than 40 years at the helm – every country has its well deserved Fidel – declared that Cuba had no right to interfere in the internal affairs of Mexico. The Mexican Communist Party the violent way a Mexican citizen had been treated. Rubén Salazar Mallén, journalist, said I was a prostitute at the service of international communism. In a survey taken by The News, an English section of Novedades, among housewives, they demanded that my Mexican nationality be revoked. For an entire week, I was front page news in the country’s newspapers. Unaware of the course that events had taken, I did not understand the reasons for the second arrest, notwithstanding the attitude of the agents. This time they were very cordial, too courteous, especially the one with the green eyes. They asked me about my trip to Cuba, I assumed this subject had already been exhausted during the previous interrogation; how wrong I was! The same questions, only more detailed, each word I said gave way to another question. This time the interrogation was much longer and inquisitive – from 10AM to 6PM. I was dying of thirst and hunger. Do you want some tortillas? I would rather die than accept anything from them. Around 6PM Horacio showed up. “Gordita”, don’t worry. He shows me the newspapers. They are protecting you. You will stay here until the danger has passed, I brought you some blankets, Ruben sends a TV. Have you eaten? I cannot open up to him, they won’t leave me alone with him – the two and a half days I spent there, I was never alone for a second. Captain Barrios tried to be friendly. Fidel Castro spent some time in this room, on one occasion we protected him when Batista agents came to kill him. Ask for anything you need. They bring the menu from Sanborn’s La Fragua, so that I can choose what I want. I feel calmer and devour the first meal of the day, already at night fall. I don’t remember clearly what happened during those days. One of the things that bothered me most was the presence of the agent with green eyes, who acted in an aggressive manner and immediately was recriminated by his partners. In the morning they would bring all of the newspapers, I watched TV, and chose the food. I was a prisoner in luxury. On Friday afternoon they take me to the Captain’s office. Señora, the danger has passed. You can go home. After all of the security measures they took to protect me, now they throw me out onto the street. I cannot go by myself, let an agent take me home. The Captain was eager to get rid of me. He seemed nervous and continuously looked out the window. Impossible, no one can take you home. Allow me to talk to Horacio, I am not going to stand at a corner, wait for a taxi, with all of my things; clothes, blankets and T.V. Horacio was not home, I called my sister-in-law who worked close to the Revolution Monument. Please come for me. I quickly gather my things and I feel how everything changes at a moment’s notice. I cannot – an entire week being brainwashed, showing me that I was a key person in the Kennedy assassination. Thanks to you it was known that it was not a Communist plot hatched in Mexico. They can kill her. I could not push a button and suddenly feel that the danger had effectively passed. They did a good job on me. After 60 hours being locked up, I come out and the first thing I see: SYLVIA DURAN HAS NO DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY. The newsy yells out the news as I extend my arm and buy the newspaper. I have no diplomatic immunity? When did I have it and why would I have it? Manuel Tello, Secretary of Foreign Affairs is interviewed upon his arrival at the airport after having attended Kennedy’s funeral and is the person who announces the above stated. I do not understand, however, hearing my name everywhere begins to terrify me and I end up sitting on the floor of my car. Lin is also nervous and decides to take me to her house. I enjoy a delicious bath. My eyes scan the quiet street, free of screaming newsies. I realize I am in front of a window. I duck, they can see me and someone can shoot. The policemen have done a perfect brainwash. They would have congratulated me over my reactions of fear. Lin has no telephone and they decide to take me to my brother-in-law’s house. I am an object that is transported from one place to another. Others decide for me. Sylvia Duran does not have the Congress of the Union’s permission to work at the Cuban Embassy. Now the announcement comes from Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Secretary of the Government appears on the front page of all evening newspapers of Saturday the 30th. Furthermore, it says that I was invited to testify and mentions Rubén’s address, where I was detained. That morning several stateside newspaper and magazine reporters show up: The News, The US and World Report, and others. They want to interview me. They leave their cards. Phone calls and visits from Mexican reporters make it impossible for me to stay at my brother-in-law’s house and we decide I should go to a friend’s house.