The Associated Press
March 22, 2001

Cold War Adversaries Gather in Cuba


HAVANA (AP) -- President Fidel Castro sat alongside ex-CIA operatives, advisers to President Kennedy and members of the exile team
that attacked his country four decades ago as former adversaries met Thursday to examine the disastrous Bay of Pigs landing.

Dressed in his traditional olive green uniform, Castro read with amusement from old U.S. documents surrounding the 1961 invasion of Cuba
by CIA-trained exiles, which helped shaped four decades of U.S.-Cuba politics. Some of the documents were analyses of a young,
charismatic Castro.

Castro arrived in the morning as protagonists sat down to start a three-day conference on the invasion. Participants at the meeting -- which
was closed the media -- said he was still there in the evening.

The Cuban president personally greeted former Kennedy aide and American historian Arthur Schlesinger, but made no public statement.

Participants later said that at one point, Castro read aloud from a once secret memorandum to Kennedy about his own visit to the United
States as Cuba's new leader in 1959.

'``It would be a serious mistake to underestimate this man,''' Castro read with a smile, said Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive
at George Washington University.

'``With all his appearance of naivete, unsophistication and ignorance on many matters, he is clearly a strong personality and a born leader of
great personal courage and conviction,''' Castro read, according to Blanton. '``While we certainly know him better than before Castro
remains an enigma.'''

Blanton said Castro told the group he believed the actual aim of the invasion was not to provoke an uprising against his government but to set
the stage for a U.S. intervention in Cuba. Blanton said a member of the former exile team, Alfredo Duran, agreed.

Among the newly declassified documents about the April 17-19, 1961, event was the first known written statement by the Central
Intelligence Agency calling for the assassination of Castro.

In one document released Thursday in connection with the conference, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev warned Kennedy in a letter sent the
day after the invasion began that the ``little war'' in Cuba ``could touch off a chain reaction in all parts of the globe.''

Khrushchev issued an ``urgent call'' to Kennedy to end ``the aggression'' against Cuba and said his country was prepared to provide Cuba
with ``all necessary help'' to repel the attack.

Trained by the CIA in Guatemala, the 2506 Brigade was comprised of about 1,500 exiles determined to overthrow Castro's government,
which had seized power 28 months before.

The three-day invasion failed. Without U.S. air support and running short of ammunition, more than 1,000 invaders were captured. Another
100 invaders and 151 defenders died.

Blanton called the conference ``a victory over a bitter history.''

Other key American figures attending were Robert Reynolds, the CIA station chief in Miami during the invasion; Wayne Smith, then a U.S.
diplomat stationed in Havana; and Richard Goodwin, another Kennedy assistant, who with Schlesinger considered the invasion ill-advised.

On the Cuban government's side were Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez, a retired general who led defending troops on the beach
known here as Playa Giron, and many other retired military men.

The group will visit the Bay of Pigs on the island's south-central coast Saturday.