Cuba Marks Bay of Pigs Victory
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PLAYA GIRON, Cuba (AP) -- On the coastline where his forces claimed victory
over a CIA-trained exile army 40 years ago, President Fidel Castro on Thursday
saluted the veterans and the victims of Cuba's Cold War triumph in the 1961 Bay of
``Today is a day of glory that nothing and no one can erase from history,''
looking out at thousands of Bay of Pigs veterans from a stage decorated with heavy
artillery and surrounded by palm trees. He 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.''
Before Castro rose to address the crowd of men, many with military medals
the commemorative T-shirts distributed at the event, veteran Ernesto Robaina
Figueroa told his former comrades-in-arms that ``there is no powerful enemy for a
people who know what they are fighting for.''
The men, now in their 60s, 70s and 80s, cheered and waved small paper Cuban
Dismissing a U.N. condemnation Wednesday of communist Cuba for its human
record, Robaina declared: ``Liars! What human rights are they talking about...our
country has been blockaded for more than 40 years.''
The vast majority of the more than 10,000 participants who organizers said
on Cuba's south-central coast for the ceremony were older men.
Trained by the CIA in Guatemala at the height of the Cold War, an invasion
known as the 2506 Brigade was comprised 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
ammunition, more than 1,000 invaders were captured. Another 100 invaders and 151
Victory for Cuba came here on Playa Giron -- or Giron Beach -- a strip
palm-dotted coastline on the Bahia de Cochinos, or Bay of Pigs.
While exiles still blame their loss on President Kennedy's refusal to provide
air support, Cuban leaders have always maintained that they won the battle simply
because they fought better.
Exiles in Miami remembered the battle on Tuesday, the day of the beach
Playa Larga -- Long Beach -- at the most inner part of the Bay of Pigs, about 12
miles north of here. The fighting later moved south, to Playa Giron, where Cuba
``The Mercenaries Got This Far,'' reads a billboard just outside Playa
a huge blowup of an old black and white photograph of exile soldiers taken prisoner
after the battle.
``Here Was Unleashed a Decisive Combat for Victory,'' another nearby billboard
Among the guests at Thursday's ceremony were relatives of former castaway
Gonzalez, including the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who waged a seven-month
battle to return his son to Cuba.
But the 7-year-old boy, who was seen Wednesday afternoon at the entrance
beach's only hotel, was not at the event. Also absent were his stepmother and younger
Cuba's Communist leadership considers Elian's return to Cuba last June
one of its
major recent victories over its ``imperialist'' enemies.