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JANUARY 20, 1967





Last month's Bulletin recorded the "fizzle" of an attempt to invade Haiti from southern Florida.  This proved to be only the end of the first episode, for on December 28 customs agents learned of plans involving a deserted house on Cocoa [Coco] Plum Beach, 7 miles north of Marathon in the Florida Keys.

Setting up a surveillance was not easy, since the site was a fill  island with  only one house  on it, plus ample docking facilities.  However, the officers were equal to the job.  During the early morning hours of December 29, CPIs saw figures making their way to the house under cover of darkness.  The following day vehicles began to arrive, and continued to do so for the next 5 days. Most of the activity occurred during the night and early morning hours.  Large van-type trucks were seen to arrive and unload at night.  On one occasion a CPI saw through his binoculars a rifle being unloaded.  During the daylight hours of December 31 a CPI saw through binoculars a man carrying under his arm what appeared to be an automatic weapon as he moved from the lower to the upper floor and back down again.

It was learned that 4 vessels were at the disposal of the group.  On December 30 two of them, the COLUMBUS and the FRANCISCO, left Miami, but broke down before reaching the open sea. The vessels returned to Miami and were apparently abandoned because of the need for repairs.  Customs agents and CPIs searched the COLUMBUS, found 10 pounds of C-4 explosives, and effected seizure of the craft without the conspirators knowing what had happened.

During the early morning hours of January 1 the 55-foot MV SANDONA left Miami, but also broke down, and during the next night ran aground about 2 miles from its destination.  At high tide about noon on January 2 it was refloated and taken to Cocoa [Coco] Plum Beach, where the group immediately undertook needed repairs.

Activity increased during the afternoon and early evening, and about 8 P.M. the officers learned the vessel was being loaded with arms in preparation for departure.  Customs agents and CPIs from Miami and Key West surrounded the premises, found the vessel was indeed loaded with automatic weapons, and discovered in the house nearly 80 Cubans, Haitians, and Americans, all dressed in army camouflage fatigues, and many carrying sidearms.  Rifles mortars, and greaseguns (a type  of submachine gun) were in evidence throughout the house.

The men (and one woman in the party) were brought  out of the house to separate them from the weapons, but the customs officers met with a great deal of resistance.  After much discussion and many tense moments
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 some semblance of order was established, without any shots being fired, and efforts were made to identify each individual by name and place of birth.  Calls for help were sent to the sheriff's office and the highway patrol, both of which responded.

During this process of identification the group became impatient and demanded that they either be placed under arrest or allowed to leave; indeed, the leader mustered his troops and started to march away to Key West, some 55 miles distant.  Since this could obviously not be permitted, it was decided in conference with headquarters to arrest them all.  As the jail at Key West could not hold the whole party, only 23 of the leaders were sent there, and the other 50 men to Miami.

Seized at Cocoa [Coco] Plum Beach were the MV SANDONA, 2 cars, an old truck, and the following arms:
5 AR-15 rifles
7 M-3 rifles
2 Bren Mark II rifles
1 FAL rifle, caliber 7.62 mm.
3 Beretta rifles, caliber 7.62 mm.
1 Beretta rifle caliber 7.65 mm.
40 Belgian rifles, caliber 7.65 mm.
1 Mauser rifle
80 M-1 rifles, .30 caliber
2 1903 rifles, .30 caliber
3 Enfield rifles, .303 caliber
2 rifles, .22 caliber
1 Russian-made rifle
4 M-2 carbines, .30 caliber
7 machineguns,  .30 caliber
8 Browning machineguns, .50 caliber
1 Schmeisser submachine gun
2 Thompson sub machineguns, .45 caliber
1 Winchester shotgun, 12 gauge
1 revolver, .38 caliber
1 Webley revolver, .455 caliber
1 Smith & Wesson revolver, 357 caliber magnum
5 pistols, caliber 9 mm.
8 pistols, .45 caliber
8 mortars, caliber 60 mm.
1 mortar, caliber 81 mm.
2 rocket launchers, caliber 3.5
89 bayonets
71,812 rounds assorted ammunition
Sundry knives, machetes, rifle barrels, baseplates, telescopic sights, etc.

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At that, there   may have been a little leakage of both conspirator personnel and arms.  Next day, two young cousins from Grassy Key, one being an army private on leave, reported that at dawn on January 3, they had driven out on the road near Cocoa [Coco] Plum Beach "to see what all the excitement was about".  They found out.  On seeing a man standing in the middle of the road, they pulled aside to find whether he needed help. Leaning into the car window with a grenade in each hand, he said only "Go Miami".  They went -- about 90 miles, the man holding between their heads one grenade with the pin pulled.  After delivering him at a house in town, they were released.

Of the 50 persons jailed in Miami, Antonio ROJAS was released on his $5,000 personal recognizance, the others on $100 each.  The leaders at Key West included Rolando MASFERRER Rojas, a former Cuban senator under Batista; and Father Jean Baptiste GEORGES, a graduate of Laval University in Quebec, who had been Haitian Minister of Education and was to have become President if the coup had succeeded.  On January 5, the conspirators in Key West were taken before the U.S. commissioner, 5 at a time, and were released on personal recognizance of $2,500 to $5,000 each.  Masferrer, however, was immediately re-arrested by immigration officers and taken to Miami as a parole violator, having been ordered by a court in 1959 to remain in New York.  His companions kicked the immigration car and tried to follow it, but were held back by local officers.  On January 12, he was released again under $10,000 bail, with additional restrictions on travel.

"The end of it?  It's the beginning of it! shouted Masferrer, who admittedly had planned to use Haiti as a base from which to reconquer Cuba.  He may perhaps have spoken truly.

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