The Bay of Pigs

from the book

The CIAs Greatest Hits

by Mark Zepezauer


When Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed Batista dictatorship in 1959, he closed down the casinos and brothels and nationalized all businesses. This deprived the Mafia-and other US-based multinationals-of a very profitable cash cow.

Vice President Nixon, who had longstanding ties with the Mob (through his best friend, Bebe Rebozo, among others), began plotting with the CIA to eliminate Castro. They did this largely behind Eisenhower's back, fully expecting that Nixon would be the next president. When JFK was elected instead, he inherited an operation-an invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs-about which he had serious misgivings.

While JFK was eager to get rid of Castro, he didn't want to use US forces to do it, just Cuban exiles. The CIA hoped they could provoke an incident that would force JFK to use the US military. When he held his ground and refused, the whole invasion failed (in April 1961).

It probably wouldn't have succeeded in any case. Security for the operation was poor, as was the training given the 1500 man invasion force. A planned phony attack on the US base at Guantanamo never happened, nor did the agency's other ace in the hole-the assassination of Castro.

The CIA had hired the Mafia to kill Castro (something they both dearly desired); the hit was to occur at the same time as the invasion. Ironically, because the CIA's left hand didn't know what its right hand was doing, the Mob's hit man was almost assassinated himself. He was one of eight JFK-backed exile leaders chosen to head a post-Castro government, but Nixon had them detained during the invasion. If the invasion had succeeded, all eight would have been killed, so that Nixon-backed Cubans could take over.

To shift blame from themselves, and to embarrass JFK into more militant actions, the CIA mounted a propaganda campaign that attributed the whole Bay of Pigs failure to JFK's decision to cancel a crucial air strike. In fact, the decision had been made behind JFK's back-though he took full responsibility for it, as President Eisenhower did in a similar situation).

After JFK's death, the CIA's war against Castro continued. The agency has tried to kill Castro more than two dozen times, up until at least 1987. There have also been numerous cases of CIA sabotage in Cuba, including the use of germ warfare.

As for the Cuban exiles involved in the Bay of Pigs, many have turned to organized crime and freelance terrorism. Others have continued to work for the CIA on covert operations. And many, of course, do both.

CIAs Greatest Hits

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