By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
A follow-up, larger invasion never happened. Gustavo blames political divisions in the exile community, "like those demonstrated by Juan [Tragedela]."
Gustavo claims that after Boca de Sama, he continued his work with the CIA around Latin America and the Caribbean through the '70s and '80s. But he declines to give details.
It's clearer that he built construction, development, fishing, farming, and banking businesses in Miami. He even imported spiny lobster from the Bahamas to Florida. The Florida Division of Corporations still lists Gustavo Villoldo as the registered owner of 21 firms. And he was named in 19 civil lawsuits between 1973 and 1999 related to his business ventures. Records of virtually all of them have been destroyed. "Every businessman has problems," he says. "I am no different."
Around this time, Gustavo established himself in Alaska, where he traveled on a CIA operation he won't discuss and fell in love with the rugged landscape. He started a fishing venture and began buying land on Amook Island, a remote spit of land in the Gulf of Alaska. He owns around 300 acres there today, worth about $150,000, according to Alaska property records.
As his businesses flourished, Gustavo's personal life suffered. All the years he threw himself into his fight against Castro left him distant from Elia, his wife, and their kids. He has built a hard shell around this part of his life. "My commitment to bringing down Castro was certainly a factor," Gustavo concedes. "But people also change. I changed a lot through all those years fighting."
In 1977, the strain was too much. Elia filed for divorce in the Dominican Republic, where Gustavo had temporarily relocated the family while pursuing a business venture. He remarried two years later to a woman named Maria. They had one son, Rafael, but that marriage too fell apart under the strain of a life at war. Gustavo and Maria divorced in 1983.
Court records of the divorces contain no indication of the reason for the breakups.
"I would say he was a good father to me," Rafael Villoldo says. "He cared passionately about what he did, and he taught us to do the same with our lives."
Gustavo withdrew from public life. He says he feared retribution over his CIA work, but all the personal tumult may have been a factor as well. In the mid-1980s, he bought a mango farm in far south Miami-Dade County and lived at the unlisted address. It was accessible only through winding dirt roads. He kept his phone number unpublished.
He says he left the CIA for good in 1988. The agency doesn't discuss former operatives, so the period of his service is difficult to verify. In 1990, he wedded a woman named Patricia, to whom he's still married.
Even as a gentleman mango farmer, Gustavo didn't give up his struggle. In 1998, after a Spanish judge arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, he collected signatures to mount similar charges against Castro.
That effort failed. But it spurred Gustavo to look to the U.S. justice system as another weapon.
Last year, Gustavo sold his farm, and today he lives quietly in a new orange duplex in far west Kendall. Three blocks west of his home, the pavement ends and the waterlogged Everglades stretch off to the horizon. He's still not listed in the phone book or property records. Six months of the year, he fishes and hunts on Amook Island, where his nearest neighbor is more than 100 miles away by seaplane.
The mementos of a lifetime of struggle hang on the walls of his home: a framed display of yellowed photos from the invasion of Boca de Sama, a faded red-and-black "26 de Julio" armband taken from a Cuban prisoner, an oil painting of his last flight with Sig Seigrist over the Bay of Pigs.
Gustavo walks slowly around the house, staring through watery eyes at the memories.
Then he pulls out a manila file folder holding court documents. They're less impressive than the mementos from the Bay of Pigs — but they're the evidence of a much more successful operation.
"This is my fight for justice, for my father," he says.
Gustavo's legal battle traces back to 1959, when Castro seized businesses and bank accounts from thousands of Cubans. In response, President Eisenhower froze all Cuban funds and created a commission to sort through exiles' claims. It certified 5,911 of them — worth $1.85 billion at the time. But those first efforts were stuck in limbo until 1996, when Congress passed a law in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombings. It allowed suits against foreign governments for terrorist attacks.
Miami's exiles jumped on the law and have won several multimillion-dollar judgments for those killed in the Bay of Pigs and other incidents. Two years ago, Gustavo began totaling his family's holdings at the time of the revolution. The GM dealerships' repair and parts sales totaled about $20 million in 1958. A trading company earned about $411,000. The Villoldos' various properties — the three homes, 30,000-acre ranch, and 113-unit apartment building — were worth close to $100 million.
Add it all together, top it off with a 6 percent interest rate, and the value is $393 million. The decision to file suit wasn't easy. Both Alfredo and Gustavo still awoke to the images of their father, dead in his study. "I have this dream where my father is drowning in the sea and I'm racing on the beach, trying to get to him, but I can't get through the sand," says Alfredo, the more sensitive and vocal of the brothers.