“, We are still hoping that we can bring freedom to the people in Cuba,” Johnny Lopez de la Cruz, a retired US Army colonel and president of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association. “We really can’t rest until we take notice of that situation.”
López de la Cruz was a teenager during Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, but could almost immediately recognize that Cuba was headed for a totalitarian dictatorship as Castro revoked the right to property, dissolving free expression Gave and brutally broke any form.
“Even though I was younger, I could feel something going wrong,” said Lopez de la Cruz, who says that an innocent friend was killed without a firing squad before proceeding to take action without due process inspired.
“I was sick, I couldn’t believe it … and immediately, you know, I started looking for a place to start working against the government.”
That effort led him to Brigade 2506, a group of about 1,500 Cuban exiles armed and trained by the CIA in camps in Florida and Guatemala.
“It was a response to our situation, providing us with the tools to fight,” said Pedro Roig, who joined the brigade without knowing what the CIA was, recruited by friends on the island.
The brigade was a cross-section of Cuban society, which he says trains farmers and fishermen as well as doctors and engineers.
“They were Black, White … It was a mixture of everything,” Lopez de la Cruz said, indicating that many were still students in their teens.
“I was just a kid,” said Roberto Heros, who was 17 when his parents begged him to leave Cuba out of fear that he would be imprisoned or killed after a shootout with a pro-Castro group . “The next morning, my parents said, ‘You’re out of here.’
After a few months of training, the operation was underway.
“Everyone was very excited, and I was singing patriotic songs,” recalls Lopez de la Cruz, who, along with the heros, was assigned to the paratroopers to land on the island by air. “I was just desperate to jump.
“Clearly we all knew we could be killed or injured. But frankly, the idea that never passed through my mind is that we could lose,” Heros said. “I was sure we were going to win.”
But almost immediately, he says, there were indications that the operation would fail.
After landing, Heros says the first thing he remembers was a fellow brigade paratrooper who shot before he reached the ground.
“The first thing I saw was hanging from a tree, which was killed.”
“There was not a single minute in which we did not take any action,” said López de la Cruz, adding that the brigade had some early success against Castro’s army, but could not retain their advantage. “We actually ran out of ammunition.”
Lopez de la Cruz said, “I always say that we landed in the war two days ago.”
According to López de la Cruz, who would later serve in the US armed forces, several strategic changes to the original plan of attack and the overall lack of commitment from the US government ruined the operation.
Originally under a plan devised by the Eisenhower administration, the US promised to assist the brigade with aerial assistance of 2506 after the operation began. But after three days of intense fighting, help never came.
The planned strike was canceled by then President John F. Kennedy, which led to the brigade being crushed and captured.
“I think Kennedy wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do – and that gave us a result,” Lopez de la Cruz said, adding that he doesn’t blame anyone for the damage, it Saying that he does not know if the administration was facing the same kind of intelligence and other foreign policy ideas at that time.
Heros said that “many of us blame President Kennedy – not myself.”
After more than a year incarcerated by Castro, sympathizers in the United States eventually negotiated for his release in Miami, where Kennedy hosted a “Welcome Back” ceremony for the captured fighters.
However, six decades later, the failed invasion and Kennedy’s decision still airs pleas in Little Havana, Miami that extend beyond South Florida.
“The mention of Kennedy’s name is considered a betrayal for the Cuban people,” said Eduardo Celerio, a Cuban American and fond Domino player on Calle Ocho. “So Cubans started going to the Republican Party.”
“I think you can draw a straight line from the trauma of the Bay of Pigs, and the generational trauma of the Bay of Pigs, all the way to the 2020 election – and maybe beyond,” said Billy Corbin, an award-documentary film. Producer Winner who has spent decades documenting culture and politics in Miami.
“A great many politicians, especially Republicans, found a way to weaponize ‘C-Word:’ Communism.”
“There is a way that Democrats can talk to that constituency, but they still fail,” Corbon said. “And in that vacuum comes constant reminders of trauma.”
Corbin cites former President Donald Trump as the perfect example of a candidate who is running an emotional melody with runaway persecution connecting Democrats to their oppressors.
“Those strategies and tactics are now used by Republicans across the country,” says Corbon.
Despite hosting political candidates for decades, Bay of Pigs veterans gave Trump their first presidential support in 55 years. In particular, Trump first visited members of the brigade when initially considering a bid for the White House in 1999 and then received their support during his 2016 campaign.
During his 1999 visit with the veterans of the brigade, Trump called for Embargo to continue with Cuba, calling Castro a “murderer” and a “criminal”, and then said ending the embargo would mean those people Those who were part of the invasion, including “all”, according to an article in the Miami Herald, “Those who were killed or wounded and those who are living in the memorial will be hurt by this government for the second time.”
In September 2020, veterans visited the White House, thanking Trump for instituting sanctions and reversing Obama-era policies on Cuba.
“You kept your promises,” Lopez de la Cruz told Trump during a speech in the East Room.
Trump’s approach paid off in the Sunshine State. In one of the biggest swings toward Trump in the country during the last election, the former president increased his vote in Miami-Dade County by more than 12 points.
While Joe Biden eventually won the county, Democrats also lost two House seats there and Trump’s lead narrowed the statewide margin – to help Trump win 2016 in Florida – again by the state’s 29 electoral college votes. Claimed to be.
“We are just people who want the best for Cuba … We are conservative and anything that smells like socialism or communism, we are going to reject,” Lopez de la Cruz’s Trump Endorsement of the group Said about He says there was a downfall of veterans after Barack Obama’s visit to the island, which he says has not taken concrete steps for democracy.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the son of Cuban exiles, said the failure of the Bay of Pigs still affects the political landscape.
Menendez said, “I think it began to build a foundation, especially among older Cubans, a belief that the Democratic Party eventually put their backs on them at a pivotal moment in history.” The exiled community was passed by Democrats in the United States. Although he acknowledged that the GOP’s rhetoric worked, he says it has not changed much on the island.
“Four years of Donald Trump and none of those years changed the reality of Castro’s rule and the suffering of the Cuban people … We are very sensitive to the emotional element, but sometimes I wonder, ‘ Are we seeing what we really are? ”
The New Jersey senator said it should be a bipartisan effort to eliminate romantic perceptions about Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution.
Menendez said, “I think we all share a universal desire for the Cuban people to be free,” adding that veterans should be regarded as heroes who risked their lives for a noble purpose Inserted into
Along with fellow Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, Mendez is co-sponsoring a proposal to honor the Brigade with 2506 and re-invite the United States to stand against the regime – which Rubio says is bipartisan. Should be the issue.
“The loudest voices in American politics who have been sympathetic to the Castro regime are members of the Democratic Party,” said Rubio of Florida, although he says there are notable exceptions to the change, like Menendez. Rubio also acknowledged that he has those within his own party who believe he is misguided on Cuban policy.
Rubio argues that right-wing sentiment among Quebec-Americans was solidified by policies established long after the Bay of Pigs, noting that the Biden administration now has a chance to advance the cause that the Brigade 2506 veteran Still fighting.
Regarding the Brigade’s dedication of 2506, Rubio says, “For me, it will ultimately be the defeat of the Castro regime.” “These people never gave a reason and that’s why it is still alive today.”
Roberto Hiros said, “Ever since I miss Cuba, Cuba, which I remember, is not a very beautiful dream, because I haven’t been away for a month.”
None of the three veterans spoke to CNN, never returning to Cuba, because according to Pedro Roig, their mission is unchanged.
“Sixty years later, we are still fighting the freedom struggle.”