Fidel commemorates Bay of Pigs invasion

Campaign News | Thursday, 20 April 2006

Cuba will never be defeated, says Cuban leader

Havana 19 April: "THEY were never able to bring us to our knees, and there is no power in the world that can do it," affirmed President Fidel Castro during his closing remarks at the main event in Havana celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs victory.

During a speech of just over two hours, the Cuban president looked back at the Bay of Pigs invasion (known in Cuba as Playa Girón), financed and organized by the government of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and considered to be the first great military defeat of the United States in the Americas.

As an exceptional witness to those events, having led the defensive actions on the ground, Fidel - wearing his usual olive green military uniform -paid emotional tribute to the Cubans who fell during those days.

"Seeing the faces of these young people," he said, showing a poster with photos of the victims of aggression, "one feels like they, so young, so full of life and hope, are here with us now."

Referring to Cuba’s victories since April 1961, Fidel reiterated that "the history of the Revolution is the history of Girón many times over," and told more than 3,000 veterans of those events assembled at Karl Marx Theater that he had "solid hopes that the new generations will be like you."

During another part of his speech, referring to the military exercises being carried out by the United States in the Caribbean Sea, he affirmed that "those little boats going around out there don’t scare anybody."

In response to a Girón veteran who shouted out, "We’re old, but when it comes to defending the Revolution, we’re young," the leader humorously said, "Who says we’re old?" Even at the age of 500, "we have the sacred duty of dying young," he stated.

The Cuban president transmitted a message of optimism to his compatriots, predicting further progress in the fields of energy, services to the population, and education. Cuba is doing better than ever, and we are optimistic, he emphasized.

Citing reasons for his confidence in the future, Fidel noted that over the last month-and-a-half, the country’s electric power generating capacity has grown at a pace of 80,000 kilowatts per week.

He noted that in Cuba, power outages are becoming less and less frequent, and that progress will continue to be made on solving that problem as part of the national energy revolution underway.

Fidel affirmed that Cuba also sees a promising future ahead for public healthcare, education and other areas, but commented that he would not provide any more details because the enemy is always maneuvering to wreck the Revolution’s work.

Others attending the event included representatives from friendly parties, such as Kgalema Motlanthe of the African National Congress; leaders of the Cuban state and Communist Party; relatives of those who fell during Girón and of the five anti-terrorist Cubans imprisoned in the United States; young people participating in various programs of the Revolution, and members of the diplomatic corps.

Cuba stands firm against US, says Castro

HAVANA, 19 April: Forty-five years after it defeated a CIA-trained invasion force at the Bay of Pigs, Cuba continues to defy the world's biggest power, Cuban President Fidel Castro said on Wednesday.

Castro said his country was not afraid of a US naval force led by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington currently carrying out exercises in the Caribbean.

"This nation faced up to the strongest superpower on Earth and it is still on its feet," Castro said in a speech marking the failed US-planned attempt to overthrow his fledgling revolutionary government in 1961.

"We are not commemorating this 45th anniversary on our knees. There will never be a force in the world capable of bringing us to our knees," he said.

Cuba's closest Latin American ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, this week accused the United States of threatening his country and Cuba with the deployment of four US warships in the Caribbean.

Castro said the US government had too much on its plate elsewhere to be a threat to Cuba today.

"There are some little boats going about. Who is afraid of them? Nobody," Castro, dressed in his trademark green uniform, told militia veterans at Havana's Karl Marx theater.

"They never frightened anyone. They should not waste their time here. They have enough problems in the world," said the Cuban leader, who will be 80 in August.

Castro defended Iran's right to develop a nuclear energy program and said the United States was at a dead-end in Iraq and would have to withdraw.

For Cuban authorities, another anniversary of the Battle of the Bay of Pigs serves to keep the island's 11 million people alert to the threat of a US invasion.

After US troops invaded Iraq and toppled President Saddam Hussein in 2003, staunch anti-Castro exiles in Miami were calling for "Cuba next."

The Bush administration two years ago launched a plan to undermine Castro with tightened economic sanctions and hasten a transition to multiparty democracy.

Wreckage of downed B-26 bombers and a captured M-41 tank exhibited at a museum recall the disastrous landing at Playa Giron beach in the Bay of Pigs on Cuba's south coast.

At dawn on April 17, 1961, as the B-26s strafed coastal villages, 1,500 Cuban exiles organized and armed by the CIA came ashore in launches from US merchant ships. Two days before, the B-26s had bombed Cuba's three main air bases.

"At first we thought it was thunder and lightning when the attack began," said retired sugar mill worker Ramon Medina, 62, who joined up as a militia fighter. "We could not believe they would land in such an inhospitable place," he said.

The invaders never got beyond the mosquito-infested swamps surrounding the Bay of Pigs, as Castro's government scrambled to defend itself.

After three days of fighting, the invaders were defeated, 108 had been killed and 1,197 captured, their hopes of sparking an uprising against Castro dashed.

A year later, the prisoners were returned to the United States after Washington paid out $53 million in food and medicines in exchange for their release.

The invasion was an embarrassment for US President John F. Kennedy and served to strengthen Castro, who declared his government to be Socialist on the eve of the imminent attack.

It also pushed Cuba into a strategic relationship with the Soviet Union, leading to the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

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