Magazine article The Christian Century

Cuba Confusion: Bay of Pigs Redux

Magazine article The Christian Century

Cuba Confusion: Bay of Pigs Redux

Article excerpt

At the age of 20, Cuban exile Jose Basulto left his studies at Boston University and returned to Havana to work for the anti-Castro Catholic underground. The year was 1960. After being trained as a radio operator by the CIA at a secret base in Guatemala, Basulto was sent to Oriente province in Cuba to await further word on an impending invasion. When the action at the B of Pigs began on April 17,1961, Basulto received radio instructions to interrupt communications, blow up bridges and arrange for an uprising. But as Peter Wyden recounts in Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story (Simon & Schuster), no uprising took place in Oriente or anywhere else on the island. Castro had anticipated the attack and stopped it. Basulto escaped arrest by driving to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo and climbing over a ten-foot fence to safety. According to Wyden, five of Basulto's fellow infiltrators were executed and seven went to prison.

Thirty-five years after the disaster at the Bay of Pigs, Jose Basulto is still trying to remove Fidel Castro from power. He organized Brothers to the Rescue, an organization of pilots which, according to Walter Russell Mead, writing in the New Yorker, "has deliberately violated Cuban airspace many times, as part of what it considers a nonviolent campaign aimed at bringing down the Cuban government." U.S. officials have known of the Brothers' frequent, clearly illegal flights into Cuban territory but have made no serious effort to block them.

U.S. acceptance of the flights is consistent with a longstanding but ineffective American policy toward Cuba. When two planes from Brothers to the Rescue were shot down by Cuban MIGs, Congress quickly passed the Cuban Liberty Act, sponsored by Republican Senator Jesse Helms (R., N.C.) and Representative Dan Burton (R., Ind.), which tightens even further the American trade embargo against Cuba. President Clinton, reversing his earlier opposition, signed the bill into law. After the loss of the planes, U.S. Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright asked the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Cuban action, but all she could get was a mild message that "deplored" the downing of the planes.

The failure of Albright's appeal was not surprising. As Mead points out, as recently as October 1994 the UN General Assembly voted 101-2(Israel alone voted with the U.S.) "not merely to deplore but actually to condemn the American embargo" against Cuba, which has lasted for 35 years. Mead adds that while Cuba's decision to shoot down the private planes was a clear violation of the international Convention on International Civil Aviation, that agreement also "enjoins governments to endeavor to keep airplanes under their jurisdiction from encroaching on the airspace of its neighbors, and here there can be no doubt that the United States has been grossly negligent. …

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