Back to the Bay of Pigs

By Dinges, John | The Nation, April 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

Back to the Bay of Pigs


Dinges, John, The Nation


Havana

Two senior citizens of the cold war are chatting amiably over small cups of thick, sweet Cuban coffee in a Havana hotel. Bob Reynolds, tall and erect in his mid-70s, made clandestine trips to Havana for the CIA in the early years of the Cuban Revolution. And in Miami, as CIA station chief, he was in charge of recruiting thousands of tough young Castro-haters and turning them into a fighting force to invade Cuba. Comandante Ramiro Valdes, shorter, a few years younger than Reynolds, has a gray goatee reminiscent of Trotsky and an iron handshake. One of the most feared and respected men in Cuba, he was at Castro's side at all the major events of the revolution and became chief of state security after the 1959 victory.

Their encounter, counterspy and spy, was one of many head-turning vignettes at a historic meeting here in Havana, March 22-25, in which Americans and Cubans from all sides reconstructed and relived the April 17, 1961, Bay of Pigs invasion. On the Cuban side for three days of intense discussions were Fidel Castro and sixty of his top military leaders; the US delegation included five Cuban veterans of the CIA-trained 2506 Brigade, which carried out the invasion, and White House advisers Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Richard Goodwin.

"We talked as professional to professional," Reynolds said of his first-ever meeting with Valdes. "I congratulated him on the effectiveness of their system." Valdes had only a few months to organize islandwide security before the Bay of Pigs invasion. He rejected the notion that it was a draconian secret police system that doomed the effort. "I told [Reynolds] it was the total support of the people for the revolution," said Valdes.

Valdes disclosed that his security network quickly rounded up 20,000 suspected dissidents in the hours after the invasion began, squelching the US expectation that the invasion would set off mass rebellion and sabotage on the island. Valdes also revealed that Cuba had no intelligence from inside the 2506 Brigade itself. The Cubans knew from secondary sources and partly from US press accounts that an invasion was imminent but did not know the date or landing site. Security on the island, however, was so tight that according to Samuel Halperin, the other CIA official at the meeting, the CIA found it virtually impossible to plant agents anywhere but in rural areas. Halperin was the CIA's point man on Operation Mongoose--the Kennedy Administration special project against Castro that included intelligence collection, sabotage and assassination missions inside Cuba.

Castro sat across from Halperin and Reynolds, showing no sign of lingering hostility to the Americans and Cubans who had plotted his overthrow, even his death. On the contrary, the atmosphere was jovial, respectful. Castro--who missed not one minute of the presentations and himself talked in long half-hour and hour stretches--remarked at one point that it was more than respectful, it was friendly. At a final banquet, Castro used the word "family" to describe the conference participants and the frank, intimate exchanges. Once, Jose Ramon Fernandez, the Cuban battlefield general at the Bay of Pigs, called the anti-Castro troops mercenarios, and Fidel pointedly corrected him. "They're brigadistas," he said.

During a break, Castro rushed over for a private conversation with CIA official Reynolds after an exchange in which the Cuban side had been adamantly skeptical about Reynolds's denial that the CIA saboteurs had blown up a ship unloading weapons in Havana harbor in 1960. He shook hands and put his hands on Reynolds's shoulders, saying, "I don't want you to think we are trying to settle old scores."

The five members of the 2506 Brigade delegation were also frequently engrossed in deep conversation with Cuban officials, although Castro himself seemed to make a point of keeping them at arm's length. One brigade member, Roberto Carballo, who runs a hotel in Cancun, Mexico, has a long record of anti-Castro activities, including being named in newly declassified US documents as a suspect in terrorist activities in the 1970s.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Back to the Bay of Pigs
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.