12. “There Were Never Any 66 Men”

Title Quote: Antonio Veciana

Because Veciana has consistently maintained that Maurice Bishop ordered him to form Alpha 66 and directed the group’s activities thereafter, an understanding of the facts surrounding the creation of that anti-Castro organization are vital when evaluating the veracity of his claims. Unfortunately, there are as many stories about the founding of Alpha 66 as there are ostensible co-founders. Among those whose names have plausibly been mentioned as founders of the group are: Veciana, Menoyo, Armando Fleites, Andres Nazario and his brother Aurelio, Dr. Diego Medina, Felix Zabala and Ernesto Diaz. What is the truth about how the group was founded and who participated in its creation?

While Veciana told Fonzi that Bishop ordered him to form the group, other details have varied.1 In Fonzi’s HSCA writeup, he says that Bishop “directed” Veciana to form the group in 1962 and “advised” the group thereafter.2 Veciana says in his autobiography that Bishop was the impetus behind the formation of the group which he ordered in late 1961. He also says that he spontaneously came up with the name Alpha 66 which was based on the number of members and the first letter of the Greek alphabet symbolizing the beginning of the end of Castro.3 But in a 1993 interview for the book Ultimate Sacrifice, Veciana told Thom Hartman and Gordon Winslow that he used “66” because he was driving down the street and saw a Phillips 66 gas station and “took the name” because it was “catchy.” Notably, Veciana added that there “were never any 66 men who formed the organization.”4

Veciana’s earliest version of the story of the founding may have been the one he related to reporter Daniel James in October of 1962. But even at this early date, there were inconsistencies in his account. Veciana “proudly” told James that the “idea of Alpha 66 is mine.” Veciana said that he “got hold of some friends … and soon there were 66 of them and they decided to form a group.” However, Veciana told James that these events occurred “early in June” in the Puerto Rican town of Ponce near San Juan.5 But that is not possible since Veciana had already begun fundraising on behalf of the group by May of 1962.6

Even details such as the year of the creation of the group are in question. The University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection finding aid lists the date as 1961. A document from the now defunct Alpha 66 website circa 2005 says the group was founded “at the end of 1961.”7 In an interview for the book The Cuban Exile Movement, Andreas Nazario implied that the group was created “in Puerto Rico at the end of 1961.”8 But the year 1962 is given as the time that the group was founded nearly as often. An “Official History” that was sent to contributors circa 1965 stated that the group was founded in “February 1962.” Similarly, the CIA’s “Cuban Counterrevolutionary Handbook” says the group was founded “early 1962 in Puerto Rico.”

Predictably, accounts of the creation of Alpha 66 provided by SNFE loyalist Andreas Nazario have supported the notion that SNFE members, rather than Veciana, were the driving force behind the establishment of the group. In an interview with Hermando Calvo and Katlijn Declercq, Nazario was asked how Alpha 66 was created. “When a group of 12 officers and I [emphasis added] realized that Castro was turning the country over to the Soviet Union,” Nazario replied, “we decided to leave for the United States clandestinely. We were kept at a military instillation because they didn’t trust us”.9 Indeed, Nazario told author Enrique Encinosa that Alpha 66 was “made up for the most part of veterans of the II Front of Escambray.”10 FBI informant Julio Aton agreed with Nazario, telling the bureau that Alpha 66 was created “at least intellectually” by Menoyo.11

Despite conflicting information on the subject, the truth regarding the formation of Alpha 66 is discernable. At some point in late 1961 or early 1962 (or both), a group of individuals came together in a meeting or series of meetings that probably took place in Ponce, Puerto Rico near San Juan. Menoyo and his fellow SNFE veterans encompassed the core of Alpha 66’s organizers. But two key positions needed to be filled. The group needed a military chief and it needed someone to arrange financing.

Although Veciana had little in common with Menoyo and his men, he was nevertheless given the key role of fund raising and promotion in the fledgling organization because of the personal contacts he possessed from his time as President of the accountant’s association in Cuba and his ability to utilize those financially lucrative relationships. Menoyo was the obvious choice to be the chief of the military branch of the organization and it is doubtful that anyone else was even considered.12 Max Lesnik, who knew both Menoyo and Veciana well, told Fonzi and his assistant Gonzales that the pair had indeed formed Alpha 66.

However, the notion of Menoyo running the military arm of the group presented new problems. Menoyo was considered a controversial figure with a questionable reputation by right-wing members of the new accountant’s association (who represented the bulk of Alpha 66 membership) for several reasons. First, Menoyo was considered to have a “pink” tinge because of his left-leaning political views13 and his family’s alleged association with the communist party. A second justification for exiles suspicious of Menoyo was his role in warning Castro about the Trujillo conspiracy. This was an unforgivable circumstance in the eyes of some exiles since Cuban lives were lost in the brief clash at the Trinidad airport when the conspiracy was put down and others were imprisoned by Menoyo and his men acting on Castro’s orders.

Finally, there was the allegation by the Cuban state-controlled magazine Bohemia that Menoyo was to have been an integral part of a Cuban plot to touch off a revolt in Spain and Angola. According to Bohemia, had he not defected, Menoyo would have led a Cuban force aboard the Portuguese liner Santa Maria which was hijacked on January 22, 1961 by Portuguese and Spanish rebels led by Henrique Galvao. According to the Cuban propaganda, Menoyo would have landed with the rebels at Portuguese Angola to spark uprisings there and in Spain. “The defection of a single man [Menoyo] was the reason the Santa Maria changed course [to Brazil] and [altered] the course of destiny for millions of human beings,” Bohemia claimed. But, as noted, the hijacking occurred on January 22 before Menoyo defected to the states. Indeed, Portuguese diplomats told the Associated Press that Menoyo had been in contact with Galvao, but there was nothing to indicate that Cuban forces were to join the insurrection.14

Even though the Bohemia story was demonstrably false, it rang true to those who were predisposed to be wary of Menoyo. Adding to the concept of Menoyo as a clandestine communist supporter was the fact that some critics believed that both the Trujillo conspiracy and the Santa Maria incident occurred partly because of his association with Raul Castro.

The solution to the problem of Menoyo’s unpopularity may have been initially proposed by Rufo López-Fresquet who was a key advisor for Alpha 66. The group would become a front for SNFE who would run the actual raids against Soviet and Cuban targets. Alpha 66, personified by Veciana, would collect funds and publicly take credit for the raids allowing Menoyo and SNFE to remain in the background.15

At about the same time that Alpha 66 was formed, Veciana began a brief but ultimately fruitless association with the CIA. In his autobiography, Veciana touts himself as a “CIA asset” and a “bomb-making mastermind.” He recounts tales of polygraph tests, suicide pills, disappearing ink and long black CIA limousines. Veciana claims that he was “trained to kill” by the agency even though, by his own admission, he never killed anyone. While this rhetoric makes for an interesting book, the truth is quite different.

On December 29, 1961, the JMWAVE CIA station in Miami requested a Provisional Operational Approval (POA) to use Veciana as an MRP sabotage man. On January 25, 1962, the POA was approved by the CIA subject to further investigation. Veciana’s case officer was not David Phillips but Calvin Hicks who had previously worked on Operation Liborio although there is no evidence that he supervised Veciana on that project.16 It was Hicks who handled the POA request and whose name appears on other CIA documents associated with Veciana. Another document that confirms Hicks as Veciana’s case officer is the CIA’s Request for Approval or Investigative Action.17 On January 8, 1962, JMWAVE relayed Veciana’s Personal Record Questionnaire to the CIA Chief of the Western Hemisphere. On January 30, Veciana’s POA was approved after the requisite background investigation was completed and he was assigned the cryptonym AMSHALE-1.18

Despite this promising start, there is no evidence that Veciana was ever used by the CIA as a sabotage man or for any other purpose. A CIA cable from July of 1962 states that there was “no record [in] his file whether he [was] ever used or if contact was established” and seems to be asking for clarification on the matter. By October 4th, Veciana’s POA had expired because of “failure to … indicate any further [CIA] interest.” Hicks was notified of the canceled POA on November 5th.

Why did the agency drop Veciana like a hot potato? First, there is the possibility that the loss of stature of the MRP, under whose auspices Veciana had been approved for sabotage work, resulted in him not being used as originally intended.19 Additionally, the agency had other concerns. Operation Mongoose was a multi-agency plan to overthrow the Castro regime that began in November of 1961 and lasted until the missile crisis in October of the following year.20 William Harvey, the CIA chief of Mongoose, thought Veciana was a pest and broadcast alerts to numerous government agencies regarding his anti-Castro efforts.21 By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, tensions between the US and Cuba’s benefactor, the Soviet Union, had escalated to a dangerous level and the sabotage operations of Veciana and Alpha 66 were seen as an unneeded complication.

A dubious escapade that Veciana claimed to have been a part of occurred in late 1961 shortly after his escape to America. Veciana told Fonzi in the March 2, 1976 interview that Bishop ordered him to infiltrate a “secret group” involving Frank Sturgis called Cellula Fantasma whose goal was to drop propaganda leaflets over Cuba. According to Veciana, this group, which expended $300,000 on the operation, was “not CIA” and broke up after two pilots were killed.22

In the March 16, 1976 interview, Veciana provided additional information about the shadowy organization. Veciana said that he had attended “about” four meetings after being “introduced” to the “coordinator” Sergio Rojas by his old Cuban boss Julio Lobo. The group’s efforts were partially funded by Lobo who received some of his funds from the dictator Somoza of Nicaragua. Veciana told Fonzi that the group met at a motel in Miami Springs and that Sturgis, who served as a “special advisor” was present as well as Pedro Díaz Lanz who functioned as the “military leader.”23

In his HSCA report, Fonzi attached significance to Veciana’s recollections and cited them as one example of the “many aspects of Veciana's story that the evidence does corroborate.” Fonzi went on to write that the committee had “reviewed files which confirmed the existence and mission of the group and the involvement of Frank Fiorini Sturgis at the time.”24 What is the truth about Cellula Fantasma and Veciana’s alleged association with the group?

Even today, there is no consensus on whether the operation was undertaken by exiles at the behest of the CIA or on their own.25 But one thing is certain—Cellula Fantasma was not a “secret” to anyone, especially by 1976. The project and Sturgis’ involvement in it were mentioned in newspaper reports dating back as far as 1962.26 Even without the benefit of these articles, Veciana could have learned of the leafleting mission through his extensive contacts in the Miami exile community who in turn heard about it from family members still in Cuba. Although Fonzi spoke to Sturgis, he did not ask him if Veciana was involved in the operation.27 Either Fonzi did not really think that much of Veciana’s allegations despite what he wrote in his HSCA report and his book or he was afraid of what Sturgis would say. Although it took 41 years, Veciana effectively conceded defeat on the issue when he omitted any mention of Cellula Fantasma in his 2017 autobiography Trained to Kill.

Go to Chapter 13

The Bishop Hoax Table of Contents


1. In early accounts of his story, Veciana consistently said Bishop ordered the formation of Alpha 66. But in a 2006 interview with E2 films, Veciana said, “Eloy Gutierrez [Menoyo] and I made a pact that I would be the civil leader and he would be the military leader.” Veciana did not say anything about Bishop ordering the formation of the group.
2. HSCA X, paragraph 114.
3. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 108-109.
4. Waldron with Hartmann, Ultimate Sacrifice, 548; https://cuban-exile.com/doc_326-350/doc0330.html.
5. Daniel James, “'Alpha 66’ Continues Anti-Castro Movement.” The Huntsville Times, October 4, 1962, 19.
6. https://cuban-exile.com/doc_401-425/doc0420.html. Note that Veciana could not have been referring to June of 1961 since, by all accounts, the group was not founded until after he had relocated to the US in October of that year.
7. “Alpha 66, Our History: Cuban Freedom Fighters in Quest of the Liberation of Our Homeland.” Obtained in 2005 by Walter Lippmann.
8. Calvo and Declercq, The Cuban Exile Movement, 27.
9. Calvo and Declercq, The Cuban Exile Movement, 26-27.
10. Encinosa, Cuba: The Unfinished Revolution, 195.
11. RIF 124-90135-10117. Similarly, Max Lesnik told Rafael Hernandez, “… Menoyo and some of them [his followers] form[ed] Alpha 66 …” (Hernandez, Rafael. “I've always considered myself a socialist: Max Lesnik talks about the Cuban Revolution”).
12. Transcript of HSCA Interview with Rufo López-Fresquet, May 19, 1977, 12. RIF 180-10086-10456; CIA document, October 6, 1962. RIF 124-90135-10038. Note that in his book, Veciana claims he founded the group and later enlisted Menoyo to run the action arm of the organization (Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 110). This is very unlikely.
13. A few examples out of many: RIF 124-90135-10014; RIF 124-90135-10117; RIF 124-90135-10117. Menoyo’s friend Max Lesnik claimed that one reason that some in the exile community believed that Menoyo was a communist was because of a “smear campaign” conducted by “E. Howard Hunt and his right-wing cohorts” (RIF 180-10065-10373.
14. Associated Press. “Says Cuban Spoiled Galvao Bid for Revolts in Spain and Angola.” The Boston Globe, February 12, 1961, 44.
15. López-Fresquet’s involvement with the Alpha 66 creation and Alpha 66 as a front for SNFE: CIA document, October 6, 1962. RIF 124-90135-10038. Veciana stated that López-Fresquet led “several interviews” in Miami regarding the idea of making a “different front” to SNFE called Alpha 66 (Veciana interview with Edmundo Garcia, WQBA Radio, June 19, 2007); Alpha 66 as a front for SNFE: RIF 124-10220-10061; After his capture in Cuba, Menoyo told his interrogators that Alpha 66,” dedicated itself exclusively to the problem of finances and propaganda” (124-90135-10097.
16. According to his CIA file, Hicks was a Senior Operations Officer who worked for the CIA from 1950 through 1974 in the far east, middle east and western hemisphere.
17. RIF 104-10181-10431. Despite the existence of documents such as these, Veciana insisted in his autobiography that his case officer was David Phillips.
18. CIA Cable from Director to JMWAVE, January 30, 1962. RIF 104-10181-10206. Some theorists believe that the fact that Veciana had a CIA cryptonym proves that he was employed by the agency and verifies the claims made in his book (see, for example, https://jfkfacts.org/antonio-vecianas-connection-cia/). But an agency cryptonym simply means that the CIA had an interest in a person, not that they were necessarily employed by them. For example, President Kennedy had a cryptonym—GPIDEAL. The cryptonyms also referred to projects and organizations that the agency was interested in.
19. Newman, Into the Storm, 293.
20. Bohning, The Castro Obsession, 79.
21. Newman, Into the Storm, 294; see, for example, RIF 104-10181-10202.
22. Fonzi-Veciana I, 6.
23. Fonzi-Veciana III, 5.
24. HSCA X, paragraph 146.
25. Those mentioned by various sources as being involved in the group were, Rojas, Lanz, Alberto Fernandez, Julio Garceran, Luis Conte Aguero, Paul Bethel, Frank Gutierrez, Alexander Rorke, Hazen Jones, Osvaldo Padron, Mario Llerena and Armando Castellanos among others. None of these sources, which include CIA and FBI reports and trial documents generated by legal action taken by the survivors of the pilots killed in a December 1962 mission, mention Veciana as a member of the group nor do they report that he was present at meetings.
26. Charles Keeley. “’Phantom Cells’ Termed Major Success in Cuba.” El Paso Times, May 13, 1962, 37; Associated Press, “Government Denies Using Two Flyers.” Pensacola News Journal, March 30, 1963, 16.
27. Fonzi’s Notes of a Phone Call with Frank Sturgis, June 30, 1976. RIF 180-10112-10466. Sturgis did refute Veciana’s allegation that Rojas was the “coordinator” of the operation by naming Luis Conte Aguero as “the big man” on the leafletting mission.


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