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Publication date: September 2025

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The legend of Cuban exile turned US government operative Ricardo Morales Navarrete has been known in espionage circles for decades. Only recently, thanks to his posthumous appearances in mainstream media offerings like the TV series Griselda and Hotel Cocaine, book Hotel Scarface, and podcasts True Spies and Who Killed JFK? with Rob Reiner and Soledad O’Brien, has his story bubbled to the surface in the entertainment zeitgeist. We see Morales used anecdotally, with tales of his remarkable actions used to tell remarkable stories, though no work has explored his singular, storied journey.

Morales, dubbed “The Monkey” for his disruptive effect on all in his sphere, grabbed headlines in the local and national press from the 1960s through the 1980s. Tales of his bombings, arrests, assassination attempts (both executed and suffered), and testimony constructed a real-life spy story unlike anything brought to page or screen. His story touches diverse aspects of our nation’s story, from its conflict with Cuba, anti-communism military support overseas, JFK’s story before and after the “Bay of Pigs”, and the explosion of the illegal narcotics industry of the 80s.


Morales escaped Cuba after serving in Fidel Castro’s secret G-2 police, into the waiting arms of the CIA who prepared him and a slew of Cuban exiles to enact their secret campaign against the communist country. Morales completes his contract service for the CIA in Cuba and later the war-torn Belgian Congo and becomes a valuable asset for the FBI in Miami during an anti-Castro bombing epidemic that Morales is actually helping coordinate. His acumen with explosives makes him a sought-out asset for local political bombers as well as organized crime figures. He is soon installed as a commander in Venezuela’s secret police and conducts missions through that office as well. Morales uses his influence on both sides of the law to conduct a symphony of chaos that builds a forcefield around himself and allows him to thrive.

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Morales’s counterintelligence skills-for-hire help are soon a prized utility for Cuban drug kingpins in Miami, many of them discarded Cuban ex-CIA operatives, as the trade becomes the city’s leading industry in the late 1970s. He builds and expands their businesses, while at the same time assisting law enforcement in decoding that new world and feeding them arrests.


Monkey Morales is all parts James Bond, Rambo, and Scarface—a concoction of danger and politics told by authors Sean Oliver and Morales’s youngest son, Ricardo Morales, Jr. The labyrinth of intrigue and action is steadily paced and, most remarkably, all true.

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