Antonio Veciana fought on the front lines of the CIA’s decades-long secret war to destroy Fidel Castro, the bearded bogeyman who haunted America’s Cold War dreams. It was a time of swirling intrigue, involving US spies with license to kill, Mafia hit men, ruthless Cuban exiles—and the leaders in the crosshairs of all this dark plotting, Fidel Castro and John F. Kennedy.
Veciana transformed himself from an asthmatic banker to a bomb-making mastermind who headed terrorist attacks in Havana and assassination attempts against Castro, while building one of the era’s most feared paramilitary groups—all under the direction of the CIA.
In the end, Veciana became a threat—not just to Castro, but also to his CIA handler. Veciana was the man who knew too much. Suddenly he found himself a target—framed and sent to prison, and later shot in the head and left to die on a Miami street. When he was called before a Congressional committee investigating the Kennedy assassination, Veciana held back, fearful of the consequences. He didn’t reveal the identity of the CIA officer who directed him—the same agent Veciana observed meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas before the killing of JFK.
Now, for the first time, Veciana tells all, detailing his role in the intricate game of thrones that aimed to topple world leaders and change the course of history.
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"Antonio Carlos Veciana Blanch is an accountant by training, a banker and a businessman by trade. Some call him a patriot, some call him a terrorist. Only one knew that he is a spy, with a single mission to destroy Castro." Thanks to Net galley and Skyhorse Publishing for giving me an opportunity to read and review this fantastic book. The book is an account of an 88 year old Cuban exile Antonio Veciana with his CIA handler Maurice Bishop. During the Cuban revolution he was working as an accountant to a wealthy man, Julio Lobo, and Veciana was also the head of the Accountant Association. Like others he also hated the reign of Fulgencio Batista. On 1st January 1959 Batista was replaced by the revolutionist Fidel Castro. But Veciana hated Fidel as he will rule as a dictator.
Later his assumptions of Fidel does not falter and he voiced against him. A CIA, Maurice Bishop also known as David Atlee Phillips comes to his office and gives an opportunity to work for anti Fidel Castro activities. Maurice trains him and makes him his covert field operative. Under Maurice direction Veciana destructs public confidence on Castro by spreading rumours and leaking fake government drafts such as Monetary control and parental right laws. He used men with incendiary bombs to destroy many tobacco fields and industries there by crippling Cuba's economy. After failure of Bay of Pigs invasion, Maurice gives a solution to kill Castro. Veciana with his Mother-in-law takes up an apartment opposite government plaza where Castro and Dorticos will meet. His choice of weapon to kill Castro is a bazooka, its 3.5 inch warhead could pierce a three inch armour plate. Before the mission is accomplished as planned he has to take his mother in law and land in US. He reaches the US coast and was waiting for the news of Castro's death but the mission was a failure.
Then he stays in US, he finds Alpha 66 and becomes the Chief and principal fund raiser, Alpha 66 turned out to be most active group which became a headache to Castro's reign.
Under Maurice instructions he takes up the job of banking advisor to Central Bank of Bolivia, he lived with his family and rubbed shoulders with high ranking members. This time his task is to kill the legend of Che. He tried his best by making arrangements to hand Congo Diary of Che to Castro for publication, he thought that the book will give the feeling that Che's chronicles are a debacle. But the legend continued to grow and inspired many. From Veciana's view point apart from Che's daring, simple and disciplined life, he saw confirmation of Che's failure.
During 1971 Veciana got another big opportunity to assassinate Castro, as he had planned to pay a visit to Chile which is under the rule of Salvador Allende. The weapon of choice had to be small enough to fit inside a fully operational television camera, to remain hidden until the assassins were close enough, and to fire one or more shots, point blank, into Fidel's throat and head. He selects three persons for the job but luck favoured Fidel. When this attempt failed he returned to US and fell from the patronage of Maurice Bishop, and he was paid $230,000 for his service on anti Castro activities.
Some years later he was thrown into prison on the charges of supplying narcotics which he denied. Later he told the United States House Selection committee on Assassination that he met Maurice with Lee Harvey Oswald couple of weeks before assassination of JFK. He was ambushed on the way back to home but he survived a bullet wound. He was sure Bishop is David Atlee Phillips. Veciana says that he regretted his political life.
The book gives much information on how CIA recruits people, different kind of code language and how secret meetings takes place.
A lot of interesting information on the founder of Alpha 66 and a CIA asset in 1959-1960. Worth reading, but it overplays the JFK assassination connection at the expense of some very interesting Cuba content and it's written a bit sensationalist.
Coincidence that I was reading this when the "OMG Bernie loves Cuba" issue was raised.
Summary, of sorts: Veciana was part of Alpha 66, a group of CIA-backed Cubans working to assassinate Castro. His handler was David Atlee Phillips. Phillips insisted that none of Alpha 66's activities be linked backed to the CIA.
I picked this up for the Castro stuff but there is more to the book. Interesting tidbits:
~ Veciana says he saw Phillips with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, and that Phillips requested he put Oswald in touch with the Cuban embassy in Mexico.
~ Veciana says he met Nazi "Butcher of Lyon" Klaus Barbie in Bolivia, says that the CIA was aware of his presence, and says he heard rumors that Barbie was in on the assassination of Che Guevara.
~ Veciana helped start the rumors which led to the Peter Pan exodus, in which lots of Cubans sent their kids to live in the U.S. Among these was 16-year-old Miguel Bezos, stepfather/adoptive father of Jeff Bezos.
Overall, Veciana remains convinced Castro was a monster. But doing the math, I have to say he was a bank accountant who disliked Castro, who plotted and acted out bombings, etc., which led to deaths, who felt that Castro's roundups and retaliations for these very same bombings and killings somehow proved that he was right about Castro. WTH? "I think you're bad, so I'm gonna destroy and kill, and when you retaliate by arresting and executing plotters, I'll say it's proof I was right about you." Um, okay.
Back to the "OMG Bernie said some nice things about Cuba" thing: Veciana does the same. And Veciana is a rightwing reactionary nut who dedicated his life to assassinating Castro, so...
An interesting and heartfelt journey of one mans crusade to free Cuba from Castro. From his humble beginnings in the banking trade to rubbing shoulders with high flying CIA agents to running guns and money. His obsession with Killing Castro takes its toll not only on him but on his family as he sends them away for their safety while he begins organising daring raids and propaganda against Castro's regime. A detailed account of the final hours of Che Guevara's life as well as the insider knowledge of a meeting between the CIA and Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas just months before the assassination of JFK add to this well written part of not only Cuba's but Americas history too.
Recruited by a US intelligence agency and involved in many plots and schemes. Not until page 198 is the phrase "blind obsession" used. Most interesting in terms of discussion of propaganda and misinformation campaigns. One must wonder at the current campaigns and their goals. The author also discloses a link between the CIA and Oswald -- but guess what? No one seems to care anymore.