The Miami Herald
April 20, 2001

 Castro lauds Bay of Pigs veterans

 Associated Press

 PLAYA GIRON, Cuba -- With a tank, a mortar and anti-aircraft artillery as a backdrop, President Fidel Castro on Thursday saluted the veterans and victims of Cuba's Cold War triumph in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

 At a ceremony on the coastline where his forces claimed victory over a CIA-trained exile army 40 years ago, Castro spoke of ``remembering the fallen, remembering the humble sons of the nation who pushed forward into the crushing blow of the pride and arrogance of the empire.''

 ``Today is a day of glory that nothing and no one can erase from history,'' the 74-year-old Castro said, looking out at thousands of Bay of Pigs veterans, mostly elderly men.

 He used the occasion to recast a U.N. vote to condemn his country's human rights record as a ``moral defeat'' for the United States.

 He said the U.N. censure -- approved in a 22-20 vote Wednesday by the U.N. Human Rights Commission -- was not a blow to communist Cuba.

 Before Castro rose to address the crowd of men, many with rows of military medals pinned to commemorative T-shirts, veteran Ernesto Robaina told his former
 comrades-in-arms that ``there is no powerful enemy for a people who know what they are fighting for.''

 Robaina also dismissed the U.N. condemnation, saying: ``Liars! What human rights are they talking about . . . Our country has been blockaded for more than 40 years,'' a reference to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

 Trained by the CIA in Guatemala at the height of the Cold War, an invasion force known as the 2506 Brigade was comprised of about 1,500 exiles determined to overthrow Castro's government, which had brought the Soviet bloc closer than ever to the continental United States by seizing power in Cuba 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.

 Among guests at the ceremony were relatives of former castaway Elián González, including his father. Elin did not attend.

                                    © 2001