“We’d done some very important things, but we hadn’t proclaimed ourselves as being socialists, or openly proclaimed Marxist-Leninist doctrines. Girón accelerated the revolutionary process.” Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s reflections about Playa Girón, discussed with Ignacio Ramonet during conversations which led to the publication of the revolutionary leader’s autobiography, indicate the magnitude of defeat for U.S. imperialism at the Bay of Pigs invasion which lasted from April 17 until April 19, 1961. In less than 72 hours, the Cuban revolutionary forces had defeated the 1,500 CIA-trained infiltrators.
The U.S. plan to invade Cuba and overthrow the revolutionary government and process originated in 1960 by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Eisenhower Administration and inherited by the Kennedy administration. The aim was “to bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention.” To achieve this, the CIA trained Cuban dissidents living in Miami for the purpose of carrying out an intervention in Cuba with the aim of overthrowing Fidel.
In the aftermath of the defeat, President J.F. Kennedy declared, “I have emphasised before that this was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way.”
Kennedy’s next comments indicate the nature of U.S. intervention in Latin America. “But a nation of Cuba’s size is less a threat to our survival than it is a base for subverting the survival of other free nations throughout the hemisphere. It is not primarily our interest or our security but theirs which is now, today, in the greater peril. It is for their sake as well as our own that we must show our will.”
The defeat which the U.S. suffered at the hands of the Cuban revolutionaries consolidated imperialist concerns that Cuba was capable of influencing a complete transformation of the region. Such words, although less eloquent, were expressed by Henry Kissinger upon Salvador Allende’s electoral triumph and the socialist transformation which would take place without U.S. intervention.
Based upon earlier U.S. foreign policy aid, in November 1961 Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act which led to the creation of USAID, a program which finances subversion under the guise of aid, sustainability and development. In Cuba, USAID works to “empower Cuban citizens to work together in an independent manner and reduce their dependence on the state.” In other words, USAID exists to create pockets of dissent through which it may influence the abandonment of revolutionary principles. In recent years, USAID’s interference was largely publicised through the case of Alan Gross, a subcontractor involved in subversion activities in Cuba and released upon an agreement that saw the return of the remaining members of the Cuban Five to the island.
Kennedy’s next step in February 1962 was to order the illegal blockade on Cuba. Meanwhile in Latin America, the U.S. adopted the USAID’s alleged targets of humanitarian principles and sustainability to finance the propping of dictatorships across Latin America and isolating Cuba in the process. In the region, the result was a terror network of killings, torture and forced disappearances. Despite economic difficulties, the Cuban Revolution prevailed, with the U.S. increasingly expressing a false premise that the revolution would come to its end with Fidel’s demise.
“Cuba for the heroes who fell at Giron to save the country from foreign domination; the United States for mercenaries and traitors who serve the foreigner against their country.” Thus stated Fidel in the Second Declaration of Havana on February 4, 1962.
Cuban response to the invasion exhibited the unity of the revolution. Despite Kennedy’s statements attempting to portray the CIA-trained mercenaries as Cuban patriots, the U.S. had failed to stir a fragment of support among Cubans, which would have given imperialism the chance to work covertly through the people, as it did in other countries in the region such as Chile. On the contrary, the U.S. fixation to eliminate Fidel resulted in over 600 bizarre plans, all thwarted, even as on the island, Cubans educated themselves within a system that practiced revolution and resilience.
On this year’s anniversary, Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel described the historical events as a constant lesson in revolutionary mobilisation. Decades since the revolutionary triumph and having suffered the impact of U.S. interference and economic sanctions, the differences between U.S. aggression and Cuban internationalism have only become more pronounced. The U.S. still relies on subversion to change the course of the Cuban Revolution, just as it did in 1961 – miscalculating the Cuban people’s loyalty. In Fidel’s words, “They may have believed their own lies and propaganda, and the most certainly underestimated the Cuban people and our Cuban revolutionaries.”