Sunday, May 14, 2017

Veciana and the AARC Conference

In September 2014, Antonio Veciana appeared at the Assassination Archives and Research Center’s (AARC) Bethesda, Maryland conference. While Jefferson Morley has called Veciana’s turn there a “once in a lifetime experience,” most of his rhetoric could be characterized as either regurgitations of his well-known Maurice Bishop story or CIA-killed-JFK assertions that could have been lifted straight from conspiracy literature. However, the evolution of Veciana’s story that has taken place since he first related it to Church Committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi in 1976 was clearly on display. For more than an hour, Veciana talked about his alleged experiences with Maurice Bishop who he now says was CIA man David Atlee Phillips.

Probably the most dubious claim made by Veciana at the conference is one that is missing from all early accounts of his story. Veciana through his interpreter, Fernand Amandi, declared “… prior to the assassination, Phillips asks Mr. Veciana directly … if one were to go to the Cuban embassy in Mexico, would one be able to get a visa to travel to [Cuba], to which the response was absolutely no.” Veciana went on to explain that from personal experience he knew it would take four to six weeks to obtain a visa. Armed with this information, Phillips could send Lee Harvey Oswald to Mexico City and “… use that foreknowledge as a pretext … through which he can stage a very public and clear event … that resulted in the Mexico City incident.”

At least one questioner seemed doubtful of this new story and asked Veciana “I don’t know if I understood this correctly, did Mr. Veciana say that David Atlee Phillips imagined and organized the entire Mexico City scenario?” Veciana initially changed the subject but after a rambling monologue, held his ground and confirmed the statement. What is unclear is why Phillips, who in addition to his obvious access to US government resources had lived in Cuba and undoubtedly had extensive contacts there, would need to ask Veciana for this type of information. It is also unclear why Veciana never revealed this scenario to Fonzi and the HSCA who would certainly have been interested in it.

Veciana’s retellings of the Guillermo Ruiz story have remained more or less consistent until recent years. As first voiced publicly by Fonzi in HSCA volume X, Bishop told Veciana that if he could get in touch with Ruiz, who was the cousin of Veciana’s wife, that he would pay Ruiz a large amount of money to say publicly that he and his wife had met with LHO. However, Veciana expanded on the story before the conspiracy-oriented AARC audience. Veciana now claimed that rather than simply asking Ruiz and his wife to say they had met with LHO, Bishop wanted Ruiz to “publicly declare that Oswald came to the Cuban consulate to discuss with members of the Cuban security forces at the consulate plans to assassinate John F. Kennedy.”

This new claim is missing even from Veciana’s book, although he has Bishop asking, “what it would take for him [Ruiz] to tell us about Cuba’s involvement in Kennedy’s death.” The book also contradicts Fonzi’s HSCA writeup by saying that rather than being a person who was “tempted with money” Ruiz was a “communist” who wouldn’t “accept any payment.”

Questioner Malcolm Blunt brought up an important point and that is the fact that the available documentation points to a Veciana relationship with Army Intelligence rather than the CIA. Blunt alleged that Veciana had a “working crypt” which was DUP-748 and this fact indicated he was working for the “nine hundred and second military group.” Veciana responded by saying “at one point he had been approached by Army Intelligence for some activities that he was involved in the [Florida] Keys and the Caribbean.”

Veciana continued “there was a gentleman by the name of Patrick Harris from Army Intelligence that approached him in Puerto Rico.” After sending Harris to a base in the Bahamas as he had requested, Veciana had no further contact with him and maintained that was his only experience with Army Intelligence. But all this information is publicly available and did not answer Blunt’s original concern that the weight of the documentation favors a Veciana-Army Intelligence connection rather than any CIA affiliation. Blunt also made the excellent point that it is doubtful Veciana could have worked for the CIA and Army Intelligence simultaneously, which would have been the case according to Veciana’s own timeline.

Veciana said that he knew Phillips was Bishop the moment he saw his photo at the Miami Public Library but remained silent because he lives by a code of “loyalty and appreciation.” But Fonzi’s book tells a different story. Fonzi, who was present when Veciana saw the photo of Phillips in People magazine, said he looked for a reaction from Veciana and “there was none.” Fonzi also watched Phillips when he first met Veciana at the AFIO CIA luncheon for any hint of recognition and again came up empty. Phillips, who Veciana says had been a hero to him, “collapsed as an icon before his very eyes” at the Reston luncheon “because of the way he conducted himself.” What exactly Phillips did to elicit this alleged reaction from Veciana is unclear.

It should be noted that Veciana continued to conceal Phillips’ identity for many years even though he believed from “all of the conversations … [with Phillips he] formed little puzzle pieces … [which] he puts together and leaves him with no doubt that Phillips was at the center of the assassination planning …” Veciana characterized the CIA killing of JFK as “reprehensible” and believed he was going to be arrested as a conspirator on the night of the assassination. But apparently, Veciana wants us to think that since Phillips had empowered him to become “an important person who was playing an important role in the future of Cuba” that this fact coupled with his “loyalty and admiration” for Phillips trumped any concern he might have had over his involvement in a CIA conspiracy to kill JFK.

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