April 17, 2001

Bay of Pigs fiasco spawned anti-Castro plotters

                  By Anthony Boadle

                  WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was the CIA's worst fiasco and spawned a
                  generation of Cuban die-hards who have left a trail of violence and anti-Castro
                  plots spanning four decades.

                  The landing of 1,500 CIA-trained emigres at Cuba's Bay of Pigs 40 years
                  ago on Tuesday was meant to spark an uprising on the island against communist
                  leader Fidel Castro.

                  But the 2506 Brigade invasion was doomed by faulty intelligence and President
                  John F. Kennedy's reluctance to provide U.S. air cover as first planned by the
                  Eisenhower administration.

                  Unlike a successful invasion mounted by the CIA in 1954 in Guatemala that led
                  to the ouster of leftist president Jacobo Arbenz, the Cuban plot only helped entrench
                  Castro, who has survived the Cold War and outlasted nine U.S. presidents.

                  "The core of the hard-line exile community in Miami is made up by the remnants of
                  the 2506 Brigade and their conservative sympathizers," said Peter Kornbluh of the
                  National Security Archives, a public interest documentation office.

                  Prominent figures of the community took part in the Bay of Pigs operation, including
                  the late Jorge Mas Canosa, founder of the staunchly anti-Castro lobby group Cuban
                  American National Foundation, who was on the diversion ship, Kornbluh said.

                  The CIA later recruited dozens of Cuban exiles for a Kennedy-authorized covert
                  action named "Operation Mongoose" aimed at toppling Castro and killing him if

                  Many Cubans trained by the CIA ended up joining extremist groups, such as
                  Omega 7 and Alpha 66, which were involved in hundreds of bomb attacks on
                  Cuban targets in the United States and Latin America, researchers say.

                  They fired rockets at Soviet freighters, dynamited Soviet airline and trade
                  offices, plotted against Cuban diplomats and collaborated with right-wing South
                  American military regimes.

                  Cuban exiles assisted agents of Chilean military dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet's
                  secret police in planting the bomb that killed exiled Socialist leader Orlando
                  Letelier in Washington in September 1976.

                  To this day, it is the worst act of terrorism ever committed by a foreign
                  government in the U.S. capital. The Cubans provided the explosives and
                  detonated the bomb that blew up under the car of the former Chilean foreign
                  minister during the leftist government of Salvador Allende.

                  The only two Cubans in jail for that blast, Jose Dionisio Suarez and Virgilio Paz,
                  were both 2506 Brigade members and belonged to Omega 7, said John Dinges,
                  author of "Assassination on Embassy Row."

                  Dinges, professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, said
                  the correlation between CIA trainees and later acts of terrorism was evident from
                  his research.

                  "It was clear that the training in weapons, intelligence activity and particularly
                  explosives was used by brigade members to carry out terrorist activities," he

                  The most serious case of anti-Castro terrorism took place two weeks after the
                  Letelier assassination when a bomb exploded in the rear toilet of a Cubana airline
                  DC-8 as it took off from Barbados bound for Havana.

                  All 73 people aboard died in the Oct. 6, 1976 disaster, including 19 members of
                  Cuba's junior national fencing team returning from Caracas, most of them

                  Two Cubans were jailed in Venezuela for masterminding the attack. One was
                  Orlando Bosch, a physician who left the United States after he was paroled from
                  a 10-year prison sentence for firing a rocket at a Polish ship anchored in Miami.

                  The other was Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent who was trained as a
                  demolition expert for the Bay of Pigs.

                  Posada Carriles escaped from jail in Venezuela in 1985, reportedly disguised as a

                  He resurfaced in El Salvador working on a clandestine operation to airlift tons of
                  arms and ammunition to Nicaraguan rebels fighting the left-wing Sandinista
                  government. It was run by Lt. Col Oliver North from the Old Executive Building
                  and led to the Reagan administration's worst political scandal over the secret sale
                  of arms to Iran to illegally fund the Contras.

                  Posada Carriles worked at the Ilopango air base with Felix Rodriguez, another
                  former CIA agent who was working inside Cuba at the time of the Bay of Pigs

                  Rodriguez, Posada Carriles and Mas Canosa had trained together at Fort Benning
                  in Georgia, home of the controversial School of the Americas, a U.S. Army
                  facility for training Latin American officers.

                  In 1967, Rodriguez helped the Bolivian army track down and execute Ernesto
                  Che Guevara, the Argentine guerrilla who was Fidel Castro's right-hand man
                  during the Cuban revolution.

                  Posada Carriles has not given up his war against Castro.

                  In a 1998 interview with The New York Times, he admitted masterminding from
                  El Salvador the 1997 wave of bombings of Havana hotels and discotheques that
                  killed an Italian tourist.

                  The former CIA agent said he plotted to send C-4 plastic explosive in diapers,
                  shoes an shampoo bottles of Guatemalan tourists visiting Havana.

                  He also said the bombings, like his escape from Caracas, were financed by Mas
                  Canosa, though he later denied having said so to the paper. The charge was
                  strongly denied by CANF.

                  Now 73, Posada Carriles and three other Cuban emigres were arrested in
                  November in Panama with false documents and explosives. They were charged
                  with attempting to assassinate Castro while he attended an international summit

                  The group, facing an extradition request from Havana, includes Guillermo Novo,
                  the first Cuban to be convicted in the Letelier bombing, though he was later

                  Novo was arrested in 1964 for the firing of a bazooka across New York's East
                  River at the United Nations headquarters when Che Guevara was addressing the
                  General Assembly. The rocket splashed into into the river 200 yards short of the
                  crowded U.N. building. Charges were later dropped.

                      Copyright 2001 Reuters.