Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Guatemala sorry over Bay of Pigs

Alvaro Colom
President Colom awarded Guatemala's highest honour to Fidel Castro

President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala has apologised to Cuba for his country's role in the failed US-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

The CIA used Guatemalan territory to train Cuban exiles before their disastrous invasion which was quickly defeated by Cuban forces.

"It was not us, but it was our land," President Colom said in Cuba.

His visit is the fifth by a regional leader in 2009 and supports calls for the end of the US trade embargo.

President Colom's apology was greeted with sustained applause at the University of Havana.

He said he was apologising now as a gesture of solidarity and a sign that times had changed.

"Cuba deserves its own destiny, a destiny that you all built with this revolution of 50 years. Defend it like you have always done."

About 1,500 Cuban exiles trained in Guatemala with US advisors, before invading the island 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.

During his visit to Cuba, President Colom is decorating the former Cuban leader with Guatemala's highest honour, the order of the Quetzal, for the many Cuban doctors who have worked in poor communities across the continent.

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