9. “An Unbreakable Will”

Title Quote: Antonio Veciana

To both get a feeling for the man and to evaluate his various claims, it is necessary to look at the true story of Veciana rather than the manufactured image he has sought to propagate through his association with Fonzi and his autobiography.

Antonio Carlos Veciana Blanch was born October 18, 1928, in Havana.1 He was the only child of Spanish immigrants who met and married on the island. In his autobiography, Veciana described himself as “skinny, asthmatic and plagued with insecurities.” He grew up in the La Víbora neighborhood of Havana on a small farm. The living conditions were harsh because of the effect the great depression had on commodity prices in Cuba and because thirteen relatives were living in the same space. Veciana’s father was a bricklayer who earned six and a half pesos a day. Despite their impoverished circumstances, Veciana’s parents made sure he ate meat, a rare delicacy, once a week. But nothing could stop his “frightening and exhausting” asthma attacks for which the only affordable remedy was breathing sea air.2

In September of 1933, Cuban President Carlos Manuel Céspedes was overthrown by the “Revolt of the Sergeants” led by Fulgencio Batista. Ramón Grau was appointed as the provisional President but when he resigned, the way was clear for Batista to assume power. Batista, who would be the primary force in Cuba for twenty-five years due to his control of the military, first ruled the island nation through a series of puppet-Presidents. In 1940, Batista assumed the Presidency outright defeating Grau in the first election held under Cuba’s new constitution. Batista’s dictatorial regime would form the backdrop for Antonio Veciana’s youth.3

Despite their monetary situation, Veciana’s parents enrolled the youngster in a private Catholic school-the Colegio Champagnat-Hermanos Maristas. Veciana claims that his mother negotiated a reduced fee for him to attend the school through sheer determination. The Catholic upbringing was strict and Veciana taught himself discipline by eating only half of his dessert to receive playtime. He also sought to earn the weekly designation of “most religious” and was frequently successful. Because of his asthma attacks, Veciana focused on academics instead of sports. The realization that he had a talent for mathematics led him to focus on a career in accounting.4

Due to teasing by his classmates, Veciana developed an inferiority complex that followed him into adulthood. He believed that he formed what he referred to as his “unbreakable will” because of his struggles with asthma, which miraculously disappeared when he was seventeen.5 Veciana graduated from the Marist school and enrolled in the University of Havana in 1947. He claims that he met Fidel Castro there, although the future dictator moved in different social circles. While studying at the University, Veciana accepted a position as an accountant at the architectural firm of Arrellano and Batista. Working while attending school meant long hours for Veciana, but with his fiancée’s support, he was able to endure the hardship.6 In 1952, Veciana graduated from the University of Havana with an accounting degree. On May 15, 1953, Veciana married Sira Muino who would remain his companion until her death in 2002.7 Together, the couple would raise five children.8

Upon graduating from the University, Veciana accepted a position with the Banco de Fomento Agrícola e Industrial de Cuba (BANFAIC), the Agricultural and Industrial Bank. BANFAIC was formed to extend credit to non-sugar related industries to stimulate economic expansion. It was during Veciana’s tenure at BANFAIC that Batista, who had returned to Cuba after a self-imposed exile in the US, seized power through a political coup that preempted the 1952 election. Veciana became involved in underground resistance movements against the dictator by founding a magazine for accountants and selling bonds for the anti-Batista fighters.9

On July 26, 1953 Boris Luis Santa Coloma, who served as the best man at Veciana’s wedding, was killed during a Castro led attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago De Cuba.10 Castro himself was captured and spent just under two years in prison but was able to reorganize what would be known as the 26th of July Movement in Mexico after his release.11 On the one-year anniversary of his friend’s death, Veciana arranged a memorial service at the University. At that ceremony, Veciana openly expressed his respect for his fallen colleague. To Veciana’s surprise, Batista took no action against him despite his candid demonstration of support for a man who had fought against the dictator.

In 1954, Veciana started a job with the Banco Nacional, a position that required six months of preparative study. The Banco Nacional was Cuba’s equivalent of the US Federal Reserve and such a prestigious position was an impressive accomplishment for the relatively young Veciana. Equally welcome was the increase in income from 300 pesos per month to 500 that the new title brought.12 Veciana stayed in this position until 1958 when he accepted an even more impressive title at the Banco Financiero, owned by Julio Lobo. Veciana’s new job as comptroller paid the impressive sum of 750 pesos a month, a 50 percent increase over his former position.13

By December 1958, Batista’s situation in Cuba had become untenable due to ongoing operations by Castro and other rebel organizations. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled the island on the advice of the US ambassador and Castro soon seized power. The bearded dictator spent the rest of 1959 consolidating his control and determining what direction to take. His brother Raul and aide Che Guevara were both communists, but Fidel’s own ideology was equivocal. Some historians believe his eventual leftward turn was born of necessity and a desire to maintain power once achieved. Whatever the truth, Castro actions soon made it clear that he was an anti-American with communist proclivities.14

In the beginning both Veciana and his boss Lobo were “hedging their bets” regarding Castro as they sought to see what the dictator would do and if he would remain in power.15 Fairly early on, Veciana allegedly considered an offer by Rufo López-Fresquet, Castro’s finance minister, to join the new government but declined on the advice of his wife. Veciana’s dislike of Castro and his government may have been born out of a situation that arose regarding the Professional Accountants Association rather than his political inclinations.16

Veciana says that shortly after Castro assumed power, he ran for President of the Professional Accountants’ Association as the representative of the party opposing the dictator’s July 26th Movement. When Veciana won the election, Castro reacted by taking over the accountant’s association. Veciana countered by producing a circular denouncing the government takeover. Veciana was in a meeting with a customer when a member of Cuban Intelligence showed up to arrest him. He was taken to headquarters to speak with Carlos Aldana who would later rise to become the number three man in Castro’s government. Veciana says he was able to defuse the situation by explaining to Aldana that he was not against the Castro revolution but merely concerned about his organization. Aldana released Veciana with an admonition to stay out of politics.17

In May of 1960 Manuel Ray Rivero, an American-educated civil engineer, formed an anti-Castro organization called the Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo (Revolutionary Movement of the People) known by the initialism MRP. That same year, Veciana was likely brought into the group by López-Fresquet with whom he had discussed his anti-Castro sentiments.18 Veciana claims that he was the Chief of Sabotage for the organization.19 Another source, which was likely based on statements by Veciana as well, stated that he had been the MRP’s “chief-of-action for three of Cuba's six provinces.” Even though in an interview with the HSCA Ray only confirmed that Veciana was a member of the group, Cuban archives agree that he was, at least, a “military chief.”20

In his autobiography, Veciana claims that he was the mastermind of the El Encanto department store firebombing which occurred on April 13, 1961 in Havana and resulted in the death of a female employee.21 Since he evidently was a “military chief”, this may be true. But because this is a recent assertion, it may also be another case of Veciana using a historic fact to enliven his biography. As with much of Veciana’s story, the facts about this incident are conveniently ambiguous. According to the 1999 book Bay of Pigs and the CIA by Juan Carlos Rodriguez, the El Encanto was Cuba’s largest department store and an important cultural landmark for the Cuban people. An investigation of the incident culminated with the arrest and execution of Carlos González Vidal, an apparently disgruntled store employee. González confessed to setting two incendiary bombs and named those who helped him, including CIA and MRP associates.

Although Veciana was not one of those González named, the fact that the CIA and the MRP were allegedly involved lends some level of credibility to Veciana’s story in the mind of supporters such as former Washington Post editor Jefferson Morley and others. Morley, a CIA critic and conspiracy advocate, is one of the strongest backers of Veciana’s book. (Morley’s assertions will be discussed in Chapter 25.) Indeed, Veciana’s unsupported statements regarding El Encanto were apparently convincing enough to make Morley change his mind about who was responsible for the incident.

In his 2008 book, Our Man in Mexico, Morley says that “[the DRE, a CIA-backed student group] used napalm to burn down El Encanto, Havana’s largest department store.” Of course, Veciana has never claimed that he worked with the DRE. In the final analysis, there is a hint of truth in Veciana’s story about the El Encanto incident and that is apparently enough to keep people like Morley onboard. But all the information about the fire from Trained to Kill could have been obtained by Veciana from other sources.

Go to Chapter 10
The Bishop Hoax: Table of Contents


1. CIA Personal Record Questionnaire, RIF 104-10181-10423. As is the case with much about Veciana and his story, a certain ambiguity surrounds even his date of birth. Some documents in the National Archives list his birthdate as October 4, 1935 (see, for example, RIF 104-10095-10167). However, public statements by Veciana and other information point to his birth as occurring in 1928. For example, at the late September 2014 AARC Conference Veciana stated he was “about to turn 86 years old in a few days.” That would indeed place his birth in 1928.
2. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 19-21.
3. Gott, Cuba: A New History, 136-141.
4. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 21-23.
5. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 23.
6. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 24.
7. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 26.
8. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 24.
9. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 24-26.
10. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 26-27.
11. Gott, Cuba: A New History, 151-152.
12. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 27-28.
13. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 32-33; CIA Personal Record Questionnaire, RIF 104-10181-10423. According to a CIA memo and other sources, during his time at Lobo’s bank, Veciana funneled money to the anti-Castro group MRP through embezzlement. It is said that Veciana was able to secure 300,000 pesos in this manner (CIA Memo from S.D. Breckinridge to G. Robert Blakey, December 18, 1978. Record Number 1993.07.12.10:38:51:400410; Arboleya, The Cuban Counterrevolution, 96). This is one example of Veciana’s illegal (or at best unethical) conduct but not the last. In the case of the diverted funds, it may be argued that this was necessary to achieve the end of removing Castro from power, a goal that would have undoubtedly improved the lives of all the Cuban people. But a study of Veciana’s questionable activity made me think that he came to believe that whatever benefited him personally was justifiable. The CIA’s William Sturbitts said that Veciana was, “a slippery tongued type completely capable of conning anyone and diverting funds for his personal use.”
14. Bohning, The Castro Obsession, 10-11.
15. Transcript of HSCA Interview with Rufo López-Fresquet, May 19, 1977, 1. RIF 180-10086-10456.
16. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 37.
17. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 37-38.
18. Transcript of HSCA Interview with Rufo López-Fresquet, May 19, 1977, 7-8. RIF 180-10086-10456. Manuel Ray said that López-Fresquet was “instrumental” in the founding of the MRP so it would be natural for the latter to invite his friend Veciana into the group (HSCA Interview with Manuel Ray Rivero, June 28, 1978, 1. RIF 180-10093-10063).
19. HSCA Executive Session Testimony of Antonio Veciana, April 25, 1978, 14. RIF 180-10116-10202.
20. Arboleya, The Cuban Counterrevolution, 96.
21. In his book, Veciana gives the date of the bombing as April 13, 1960, instead of 1961. This could be an honest mistake or it could have been done intentionally. In the latter part of 1960 until his departure from Cuba in October 1961, Veciana is supposed to be absorbed with an assassination plot against Castro rather than planning bombing raids.


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