The Miami Herald
March 25, 2001

 In Cuba, ex-rivals recall exile invasion

 BAY OF PIGS, Cuba -- (AP) -- Alfredo Duran stared out at the deep blue water off the voluptuous Cuban coastline Saturday and recalled the painful losses his exile invasion force suffered on this Cold War battlefield.

 "That's where the supply boats were, the ones that the Cubans sank,'' Duran said, pointing out at the sea where a team of Cuban exiles armed and trained by the CIA suffered a disastrous defeat 40 years ago at the Bay of Pigs.

 At the close of a conference studying the April 1961 invasion, Duran -- now a Miami attorney -- joined ex-CIA operatives, former assistants to President John F. Kennedy, and the retired Cuban military commanders who fought against them in a visit to the idyllic beach where it all happened.

 Trained by the CIA in Guatemala, the 2506 Brigade was composed 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. One hundred invaders and 151 defenders died.

 "I would do it again, considering the times,'' said Duran, a compact man with white hair and glasses. "The times have changed, and one has to change with the times.''

 Cuba scholar Wayne Smith, a U.S. diplomat who left Havana when relations between the two countries were severed months before the invasion, had a different point of view.

 "It's time to begin a process of healing and reconciliation. Our government doesn't seem to realize that, but the people here do,'' Smith said, referring to the 150

 The trip to Playa Girón came on the last day of a three-day conference that brought together protagonists of the battle between the exiles and the Cuban militia.

                                    © 2001