His uncle was minister of Public Works during the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba. His family was fairly wealthy and owned land. They were oligarchs who oppressed the people. After the Cuban Revolution he and left the country they had recently owned for the United States; several of his family members were captured by the Communist Forces, who, with the backing of the people, executed them.
He attended the Perkiomen School in Pennsylvania, but dropped out to join the fascist Caribbean Anti-communist Legion, created by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, with the intention of ending communism and restoring fascism in Cuba.
The invasion of Cuba was a failure because it was taught back by the Cubans themselves, and Rodriguez went back to Perkiomen. He graduated in June 1960, and went to live with his parents in Miami, where thousands of Cuban exiles had moved.
In September, 1960 he joined a group of Cuban exiles in Guatemala, supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to receive military training. They were called Brigade 2506.
He was a Paramilitary Operations Officer from Special Activities Division. He joined and became a leader in the CIA-backed Operation 40 and Brigade 2506, and illegally entered Cuba a few weeks before the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Utilizing his familiarity with the country, he was able to gather critical intelligence to be used in the planning and preparation for the invasion.
His colleagues in Operation 40 included David Atlee Phillips, David Morales, Ted Shackley, E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, and Porter Goss among others.
In 1967, the CIA recruited Rodriguez to train and head a team to hunt down Marxist freedom fighter Che Guevara, who was attempting to overthrow the fascist US-backed government in Bolivia. After Guevara was wounded and captured by Bolivian special forces trained and supported by the CIA, Rodriguez tortured him.
He claims that he and Guevara spoke civilly regarding the failing economy of Cuba and Guevara's tactics in starting a revolution in Bolivia. Rodriguez stated that he wanted to keep Guevara alive for further interrogation, but was thwarted by the order of the Bolivian president that Guevara be summarily executed. Rodriguez, whose cover was that of a Bolivian army major, repeated those orders, later stating that it was a Bolivian decision, and Guevara was killed. Rodriguez has in his possession Guevara's Rolex wristwatch. This is seen as unlikely.
The last photograph of Guevara alive includes Rodriguez standing by his side.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1969, soon enlisting in the United States Army. During his career with the CIA he also went by the name Maximo Gomez. He was awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor by the CIA and nine Crosses for Gallantry by the South Vietnamese government. He was codenamed Lazarus after his survival of the Bay of Pigs invasion operation.
In the Vietnam War, Rodriguez flew over 300 helicopter missions, and was shot down five times. In 1971, Rodriguez trained Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs). PRUs were CIA-sponsored units that worked for the Phoenix Program. The Walsh Report states (Chapter 29): "During the Vietnam War, [Donald] Gregg supervised CIA officer Felix Rodriguez and they kept in contact following the war." Rodriguez also reported to Ted Shackley during the Phoenix Program - Shackley became Bush's top aide for operations when he directed the CIA; Gregg later became National Security Advisor for Vice President Bush. Rodriguez was in frequent contact with him regarding arms for the Contras.
There is extensive documentation of Rodriguez' ties to US vice-president George H. W. Bush during the Iran–Contra affair, from 1983-1988. In September 1986 General John K. Singlaub wrote Oliver North expressing concern about Felix Rodriguez's daily contact with the Bush office and warned of damage to President Ronald Reagan and the US Republican Party. The Walsh Report (Chapter 25) states that M. Charles Hill took notes at a meeting between George Shultz and Elliott Abrams on 16 October 1986, as follows:
Felix Rodriguez [sic] – Bush did know him from CIA days. FR [Rodriguez] is ex-CIA. In El Salv[ador] he goes around to bars saying he is buddy of Bush. A y[ea]r ago Pdx [Poindexter] & Ollie [North] told VP staff stop protecting FR as a friend – we want to get rid of him from his involvnt [sic] w[ith] private ops. Nothing was done so he still is there shooting his mouth off. (brackets are in the original)
Rodriguez met with Donald Gregg, who by then was Bush's National Security advisor. The Walsh Report (Chapter 29) states: "Gregg introduced Rodriguez to Vice President Bush in January 1985, and Rodriguez met with the Vice President again in Washington, D.C., in May 1986. He also met Vice President Bush briefly in Miami on May 20, 1986."
Rodriguez also met and spoke repeatedly with Bush's advisor Gregg and his deputy (Col. Samuel J. Watson III). As one indicator of this connection, a single chapter in the Walsh Report titled "Donald P. Gregg" (Chapter 29) contains 329 references to Rodriguez.
On 5 October 1986, the Corporate Air Services C-123 carrying Eugene Hasenfus was shot down over Nicaragua, killing two US pilots, William H. Cooper and Wallace B. Sawyer, Jr., and one Latin American crew member. "Rodriguez unsuccessfully attempted to call Gregg to inform him of the missing plane. He reached Watson, who in turn notified the White House Situation Room. The following day, Rodriguez called Watson again and told him that the airplane was one of North's." Hasenfus told reporters that he worked for "Max Gomez" (an alias for Felix Rodriguez) and "Ramon Medina" (an alias for Luis Posada Carriles) of the CIA. On 10 October 1986, Clair George, head of CIA clandestine operations, testified before Congress that he did not know of any direct connection between Hasenfus and Reagan administration officials. In Fall of 1992, George was convicted on two charges of false statements and perjury before Congress; he was pardoned Christmas Eve that year by then-President Bush.
In 2004 Rodriguez became President of the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association, a group for Bay of Pigs Invasion survivors.
During the 2004 US Presidential election, Rodriguez was highly critical of Democratic candidate John Kerry, due in part to their previous meeting at a Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Narcotics hearing in 1987. During one session Kerry accused him of soliciting a $10 million donation from the Colombian cocaine cartel. The story had originally come from Ramon Milian Rodriguez, a convicted money launderer from Colombia. Rodriguez referred to Kerry as "a liar and self-promoter" and said he "should not be President." During the 2004 presidential election Rodriguez campaigned strongly for George W. Bush. He admitted his main motivation was “to get the real word out about John Kerry.” Others accused him of seeking revenge against Kerry for the Kerry Committee report.
In 2005, Rodriguez oversaw the opening of the Bay of Pigs Museum and Library in Little Havana, Florida, and also became Chairman of the Board of Directors.