Last prisoner from Bay of Pigs to be freed after 25 years today
By LOURDES MELUZA
Herald Staff Writer
Ramon Conte Hernandez, the last remaining prisoner of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, will come back home today after 25 years in Cuban prisons.
He is expected to be released by the Cuban government early this morning and flown to Miami International Airport in a chartered plane. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who urged Cuban President Fidel Catro to free Conte, sent an aide to bring him to the United States.
Conte will be greeted by his family members and some Bay of Pigs veterans in a restricted area at the airport, according to a Kennedy aide.
For his wife of 30 years, Hilda Conte, it has been a long wait.
In 1960, she and Conte were living in exile in Miami. One September morning he left, as usual, early to go to his job at a factory. A few hours later, a friend delivered a letter and the car keys to Hilda.
Conte had left for Guatemala, to join hundreds of exiles the CIA was training to invade Cuba.
"In the letter he asked me to forgive him. He told me that he loved me, but that he had a duty to our homeland," Hilda Conte, 56, said Friday.
"I always hoped that one day he would knock on my front door and surprise me... Now I'm worried that he will find me destroyed."
In 1962 she thought Conte would be part of the more than 1,000 Bay of Pigs soldiers who were released to the U.S. government in exchange for food and medicines. But Conte and eight other soldiers were left behind, without any explanations.
In 1978, Hilda Conte traveled to Cuba as part of a so-called dialogue between exiles and the Cuban government. More than 3,000 political prisoners were released as a result, including five Bay of Pigs veterans. Conte was left behind again.
Today he finally is coming home.
"I am stunned. I still do not believe it," she said.