The Miami Herald
Thursday, April 16, 1998

Bay of Pigs survivor: We became cannibals

Herald Staff Writer

A Cuban exile who maintains he fought in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion says he and his comrades resorted to cannibalism to survive a 16-day ordeal at sea after escaping from Cuba.

Julio Pestonit told the Fox News Channel that the men who fled with him in a boat in April 1961 swore to carry their secret to the grave.

All the survivors agreed to use the bodies of their comrades for food if it became necessary, Pestonit told Fox News correspondent George Harrison. The interview will be broadcast at 10 tonight during a special program about the invasion.

``I did eat some of the interior [of a corpse] that was extended to me,'' he said. ``It was crazy. It was like being in hell.''

Pestonit added that he and other survivors also drank the blood of their dead comrades.

"We were desperate,'' he said. "People dying one after other.''

Pestonit said he broke the promise to keep the secret because of his prolonged resentment toward President Kennedy, said Fox spokesman Robert Zimmerman.
Kennedy refused to provide American air cover for the invaders.

The reference to cannibalism is not new, said Jose Enrique Dausa, one of the 12 survivors of the 22 occupants of the boat.

Dausa, who was a leader of Brigade 2506 at the time, said Pestonit's account "is an open secret among the members of the brigade.''

"This is not the first time Pestonit has talked about the affair,'' Dausa said. "He did it once before, in 1961, here in Miami.''

The story told by the survivors spread through the exile community at that time, Dausa said. He said the survivors shared only one corpse.

"What is not known, and will never be known, is who was the man whose body nourished us,'' Dausa said. "It was only one, but his name will never be spoken.''

According to Dausa, the 22 raiders escaped from Playa Giron, the invasion beach, aboard a boat called Celia. After 16 days in the water, they were rescued by a U.S. cargo ship in the Gulf of Mexico, near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Juan Clark, professor of sociology at Miami-Dade Community College, a paratrooper during the invasion, said it would be regrettable if the documentary gave sensational treatment to an event so traumatic to the survivors and the families of those who died.

"I never had any confirmation of the event. It was talked about at the time, but that's not something you ask the protagonists, out of respect and ethics,'' said Clark, who was interviewed in the documentary.

"These are extreme situations, and the protagonists maintain a respectful silence about them,'' he added.