Antonio Veciana described three failed assassination plots he directed against Fidel Castro – with the help and encouragement of the CIA. In 1960, Maurice Bishop, aka David Atlee Phillips, had recruited Veciana for CIA dirty trick operations in Havana. Veciana described how the Agency, working with the Catholic Church, forged a Cuban “law” in which the revolutionary government would substitute for parental authority. Using this forged document, CIA agents circulated the story throughout Cuba, and included an offer by the Catholic Church to spirit the propertied classes’ children, ages 8-19, to the United States. Once free of the indoctrinating state, in the land of freedom, the kids and their parents could count on the US government to assure the children’s welfare until the families reunited – presumably after Fidel’s government was overthrown. In 1960, most of the Cubans who fled for Miami or contemplated departures believed US marines would soon clean up the “communists.”
Monsignor Walsh directed the Church role in Operation Peter Pan. Some 14,000 Cuban children got smuggled out of Cuba between 1960-62. Some kids fared well in the hands of foster families; others less so. But Veciana’s CIA supervisors went beyond “psychological warfare” — like kid theft. Veciana told me that on April 13, 1961, his agents torched El Encanto, Havana’s Macy’s. He also described three of his plots to kill Castro. The first at the Presidential Palace in October 1961 failed when the guys who swore to fire a bazooka at Fidel chickened out.
Ten years later, Bishop-Phillips informed Veciana about a planned Fidel trip to Chile — wink wink. (Veciana testified on this before the Senate.) He recruited two aspiring assassins in Miami and, thanks to his easy relations with the CIA and Venezuelan intelligence, arranged to train them in Caracas as news cameramen. Landing in Chile a month before Cuba’s leader, the two integrated themselves into the foreign press corps. The weapon to kill Fidel at his opening press conference they hid inside a camera. But Fidel’s late 1971 arrival in the Chilean capital also coincided with the departure of the hitmen’s courage.
Disappointed but unwilling to concede, Veciana went to Plan B. Bishop-Phillips told him Fidel planned a stop in Quito, Ecuador on his return to Cuba. Veciana contacted Luis Posada Carrilles employed by Venezuelan intelligence – and the CIA. A marksman, armed with a sniper rifle with telescopic sight which Veciana acquired, Posada could “put one in Fidel’s forehead” from half a mile away as he descended from the plane, Veciana told me, “if there was a certain get away.” Luckily, for Fidel, Posada, saw no assured escape route, and declined Veciana’s assassination offer.
New York, Saturday, summer 1984.
Nestor Garcia of Cuba’s New York UN Mission received a disturbing cable from Havana. He called Robert Muller, chief of security for the US UN Mission. “I need to talk to you, him immediately.”
Muller told Garcia his son, “a promising southpaw,” was pitching Little League game that morning. “Surely this can wait.”
“No, it can’t,” responded Garcia. The exasperated Muller met Garcia at an Irish pub in Manhattan. “This better be good, Nestor.”
Garcia read the Havana cable detailing a planned assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in three days as Reagan campaigned for reelection in North Carolina, with names of the perspective assassins and other key details.
Within hours, Secret Service investigators confirmed this with Garcia in his NY apartment. Shortly after, Garcia read a news item from a North Carolina paper announcing the arrest of several men on vague charges. Muller relayed to Garcia White House thanks. (Nestor Garcia, Diplomacia Sin Sombra, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2007)
The FBI did not, however, arrest those who planned assassinations against Castro. Indeed, in October 1976, Luis Posada, who chickened out of the Ecuador plan, hired two others to bomb a Cuban passenger plane as it ascended from Barbados. 73 passengers and crew died.
In the 1990s, Posada hired other lackeys to bomb Havana tourist sites, killing one tourist. In 1999, Panamanian police arrested him and three other hitmen. They had explosives in their rented car to be used to blow up Castro who was scheduled to speak at a Panamanian University. In 1994, the would-be assassins received a pardon from outgoing President Moscoso and now live in the United States.
Cuba remains on the State Department’s terrorist list. Washington has not claimed instances of Havana-backed plots against US Presidents; on the contrary, Cuba helped save Reagan from a possible attempt. The CIA, says Cuba, has backed some 600 documented attempts against Castro. Should Cuba put Washington on its terrorist list? Or should Secretary Clinton acknowledge Cuba doesn’t belong on its list? Long Live Reciprocity!