I. April 14, 1961, en route to disaster
Immediately after the victorious Revolution took power in Cuba in 1959, the United States decided that it could not allow the movement lead by Fidel Castro to take root in the island. To achieve their goals, they started making serious plans to destroy the Revolution and assassinate its leaders. In their customary arrogance, they thought that an invasion would provoke a popular uprising against the revolutionary government that had replaced US protégé and Dictator Fulgencio Batista, and that the mercenaries would be received as liberators by the oppressed masses (an assumption that more often than not has thrown the US into troubled waters, as we all know). Instead, the invaders were defeated in three days. This huge miscalculation gave the Cuban Rebel Army its first military victory over the US and turned Cuba into the symbol of resistance that it is today.
Kennedy, who during his presidential campaign had accused Eisenhower of being too lenient with the Cubans, inherited this invasion plan when he was inaugurated in January 1961. On April 12, 1961, he told reporters at a press conference in Washington that the U.S. had no intentions of intervening in Cuban affairs; five days later, and in absolute confidentiality he would give the CIA the go ahead for the operation, making provisions to keep US involvement secret.
The forces, around 1500 mercenaries who would be supported by the US Air Force, had begun gathering in Guatemala, and had just been waiting for the order to sail. The order came and they set sail to disaster in six ships from Nicaragua on April 14, 1961.
II. April 15, 2011, U.S. B-26 airstrikes cover-up
On April 15, 2011, B-26 airplanes disguised to look like Cuban official aircraft attacked different points in Cuba as a prelude of the invasion. Two of those points were in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The idea was to make it appear as Cuban Air Force defectors attacking their institutions; however the cover-up was unsuccessful since the U.S. could only show one actual defector to the press, which rapidly uncovered much of the truth of U.S. involvement in the invasion.
III. April 16, 2011, the invasion, the failure, the humiliation
On April 16, 2011, the aggression began officially, but the plans to land the troops in a desolated and inhospitable tack of land called Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) and then request official U.S. support, did not result as it had been anticipated. Within the first hours of the operation it was clear that everything was going terribly wrong for the “liberators”; locals firmly resisted and defended the Revolution, the airstrikes did not have the desired effect, and no land could be taken and kept.
Fearing the international scandal that was nearing, the U.S. announced on April 17 that it would not intervene any further in the operation, thus sealing the fate of the invasion that was already militarily defeated by then by Cuban revolutionary forces.
IV. April 19, 1961, our first Victory
On the afternoon of April 19 the invaders surrendered, and 1,197 of them were taken captive. After 20 months of negotiations the prisoners were released in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine, and the light of Cuba spread throughout the world. On April 20, Kennedy lied again when he said to the American Society of Newspapers Editors, that the whole episode had been “Cubans fighting Cubans” and that the U.S. had not been involved at all.
The hostility and aggression unleashed during and after the failed invasion has marked how the U.S. has conducted its ‘non-relations’ with the Cuban government for the last 50 years. Shortly after the defeat suffered in Cuba, the U.S. imposed a unilateral and illegal blockade against the revolutionary island that still lasts today. Cuba, a poor country under a state of permanent siege, tries very hard to perfect its own system of development, and has struggled day by day to defend its independence and dignity. Despite the constant aggression, Cuba today is an emblem of social justice, equality and respect for the most elemental rights of human beings, facts that have been acknowledged by the United Nations and other international organizations and by most countries in the world.