February 18, 2009 in Nation/World

Guatemala apologizes to Cuba for Bay of Pigs

Andrea Rodriguez Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, receives the Order of the Quetzal from Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom in Havana on Monday. Colom is in Cuba on a three-day official visit.
(Full-size photo)

HAVANA – Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom apologized to Cuba on Tuesday for his country’s having allowed the CIA to train exiles in the Central American country for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

“Today I want to ask Cuba’s forgiveness for having offered our country, our territory, to prepare an invasion of Cuba,” Colom said during a speech at the University of Havana. “It wasn’t us, but it was our territory.”

About 1,500 Cuban exiles trained under CIA guidance in Guatemala before invading the island beginning April 17, 1961, in an unsuccessful bid to overthrow Fidel Castro’s communist government.

The invasion ended after less than three days, with about 100 invaders killed and more than 1,000 captured by Cuban forces.

Colom, whose government is considered center-leftist, said he was asking Cuba’s forgiveness as “a sign of solidarity and that times are changing,” and to “reaffirm my idea that Latin America is changing.”

At the height of the Cold War, the Guatemalan military government of Miguel Ramon Ydigoras Fuentes allowed the CIA to train an exile force in the rural province of Retalhuleu. Known as the 2506 Brigade and comprising mostly Miami-area Cuban exiles, the group was determined to overthrow Castro’s government – which had brought the Soviet bloc closer than ever to the continental United States by seizing power in Cuba 28 months before.

The invaders landed at Playa Larga at the innermost part of the Bay of Pigs, on the southern coast of central Cuba. The fighting later moved south, to Playa Giron, where Castro’s forces triumphed after less than 72 hours.

Colom said Tuesday that “Cuba deserves its own destiny, a destiny that you all built with this revolution of 50 years.”

Colom’s comments drew sustained applause from his Cuban audience. Like Cubans, Guatemalans harbor a deep resentment toward the United States for past violence. The CIA helped topple the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus