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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Bay of Pigs veterans expelled

Cold War memories persist on both sides of the Florida Straits
An association of veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 has expelled two members for attending a landmark conference in Cuba about the abortive US-backed mission.

At an emotionally charged meeting in Miami, the veterans of Brigade 2506 voted to kick out the two men, Mario Cabello and Jorge Luis Hernandez.


40 years ago, when I was captured by Cuban soldiers, I was called a traitor...40 years later, I'm being called a traitor by my friends.

Mario Cabello, expelled veteran
The expulsions highlight a continuing rift among Miami's Cuban exile community, between those who advocate some contact with President Fidel Castro and those who oppose any dealings.

The meeting in Cuba brought together former enemies to discuss the lessons of the conflict, in which about 1,500 CIA-trained exiles were sent to overthrow President Castro's fledgling government.

A statement by Brigade 2506 said the pair were expelled "for treason to our principles, treason to all of our martyrs and treason to our country."

Mario Cabello, one of those who went to the three-day meeting hosted by the Cuban government, explained his actions:

"I wanted to let the Cuban people know that we were not mercenaries, that we believed in the right of freedom of expression," he said.

Humiliation

The Bay of Pigs, a CIA-backed invasion attempt in April 1961, left around 200 exiles dead. More than 1,000 were captured.

Bay of Pigs
For Cubans, the victory was their first triumph over what they called "Yankee imperialism."

For the US, it was a humiliating defeat.

From that point relations between the two countries were effectively severed, leading to the tensions that persist today.

"It's ironic that 40 years ago, when I was captured by Cuban soldiers, I was called a traitor," Mr Cabello told the veterans meeting amid jeers.

"And today, 40 years later, I'm being called a traitor by my friends."

Three other veterans also went to Cuba for the event. But they had already been expelled from the association years earlier for advocating better relations between Cuba and the US.

During the conference, top officials from the administration of the then American president John F Kennedy and members of the US invasion force met retired Cuban officials and soldiers.

President Castro also put in a surprise appearance.

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See also:

25 Mar 01 | Americas
Cold War foes revisit battle scene
23 Feb 98 | Americas
CIA blamed over Bay of Pigs
19 Oct 00 | Americas
Castro: The great survivor
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