The Cia Involvement In The CubanCastro Government


The Cia Involvement In The Cuban-Castro Government Essay, Research Paper

the cia involvement in the Cuban-Castro Government and How it Affected the view of the CIA by the American Public

In the present as in the past the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has been looked down upon. The story of the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs is one of monumental proportions. The blame for the failure of the operation falls directly in the lap of the Central Intelligence Agency and a young president and his advisors, President Kennedy. The fall out from the invasion caused a rise in tension between the two great superpowers. To understand the invasion and its ramifications on the future it is first necessary to look at the situation as a whole.

The Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, started on April 15th with the bombing of Cuba by what appeared to be defecting Cuban air force pilots. At 6 a.m. in the morning of that Saturday, B-26 bombers bombed three Cuban military bases. The airfields at Camp Libertad, San Antonio de los Ba os and Antonio Maceo airport at Santiago de Cuba were fired upon. Seven people were killed at Libertad and forty-seven people were killed at other sites on the island.

Two of the B-26s left Cuba and flew to Miami, apparently to defect to the United States. The Cuban Revolutionary Council, the government in exile, in New York City released a statement saying that the bombings in Cuba were “carried out by ‘Cubans inside Cuba’ who were ‘in contact with’ the top command of the Revolutionary Council.” The New York Times reporter covering the story alluded to something being wrong with the whole situation when he wondered how the council knew the pilots were coming if the pilots had only decided to leave Cuba on Thursday after “a suspected betrayal by a fellow pilot had precipitated a plot to strike.” Whatever the case, the planes came down in Miami later that morning, one landed at Key West Naval Air Station at 7:00 a.m. and the other at Miami International Airport at 8:20 a.m. Both planes were badly damaged and their tanks were nearly empty.

In the early hours of April 17th the assault on the Bay of Pigs began. In the true cloak and dagger spirit of a movie, the assault began at 2 a.m. with a team of frogmen going ashore with orders to set up landing lights to indicate to the main assault force the precise location of their objectives, as well as to clear the area of anything that may impede the main landing teams when they arrived. At 2:30 a.m. and at 3:00 a.m. two battalions came ashore at Playa Gir n and one battalion at Playa Larga beaches. The troops at Playa Gir n had orders to move west, northwest, up the coast and meet with the troops at Playa Larga in the middle of the bay. A small group of men were then to be sent

North to the town of Jaguey Grande to secure it as well.

When looking at a modern map of Cuba it is obvious that the troops would have problems in the area that was chosen for them to land at. The area around the Bay of Pigs is a swampy marsh land area which would be hard on the troops. The Cuban forces were quick to react and Castro ordered his T-33 trainer jets, two Sea Furies, and two B-26s into the air to stop the invading forces. Off the coast were the command and control ship and another vessel carrying supplies for the invading forces. The Cuban air force made quick work of the supply ships, sinking the command vessel the Marsopa and the supply ship the Houston, blasting them to pieces with five-inch rockets. In the end the 5th battalion was lost, which was on the Houston, as well as the supplies for the landing teams and eight other smaller vessels. With some of the invading forces’ ships destroyed, and no command and control ship, the logistics of the operation soon broke down as the other supply ships were kept at bay by Casto’s air force. As with many failed military

Adventures, one of the problems with this one was with supplying the troops.

In the air, Castro had easily won superiority over the invading force. His fast

Moving T-33s, although unimpressive by today’s standards, made short work of the

Slow moving B-26s of the invading force. On Tuesday, two were shot out of the

sky and by Wednesday the invaders had lost 10 of their 12 aircraft. With air

power firmly in control of Castro’s forces, the end was near for the invading army.

Over the 72 hours the invading force of about 1500 men were pounded by the

Casto fired 122mm. Howitzers, 22mm, cannon, and tank fire at them. By

Wednesday the invaders were pushed back to their landing zone at Playa Gir n.

Surrounded by Castro’s forces some began to surrender while others fled into the

Hills. In total 114 men were killed in the slaughter while thirty-six died as

prisoners in Cuban cells. Others were to live out twenty years or more in those

cells as men plotting to topple the government of Castro.

The 1500 men of the invading force never had a chance for success from almost

the first days in the planning stage of the operation. Operation Pluto, as it came to

be known as, has its origins in the last dying days of the Eisenhower administration

and that murky time period during the transition of power to the newly elected

president John F. Kennedy.

The origins of American policy in Latin America in the late 1950s and early 1960s has its origins in American’s economic interests and its anticommunist policies in the region. The same man who had helped formulate American containment policy

towards the Soviet threat, George Kennan, in 1950 spoke to US Chiefs of Mission

in Rio de Janeiro about Latin America. He said that American policy had several

purposes in the region,

to protect the vital supplies of raw materials which Latin American

countries export to the USA; to prevent the ‘military exploitation of

Latin America by the enemy’ [The Soviet Union]; and to avert ‘the

psychological mobilization of Latin America against us.’

By the 1950s trade with Latin America accounted for a quarter of American

exports, and 80 per cent of the investment in Latin America was also American.

The Americans had a vested interest in the region that it would remain


The Guatemalan adventure can be seen as another of the factors that lead the

American government to believe that it could handle Casto. Before the Second

World War ended, a coup in Guatemala saw the rise to power of Juan Jose

Ar valo. He was not a communist in the traditional sense of the term, but he

“packed his government with Communist Party members and Communist

sympathizers.” In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz succeeded Ar valo after an election in

March of that year. The party had been progressing with a series of reforms, and

the newly elected leader continued with these reforms. During land reforms a major

American company, the United Fruit Company, lost its land and other holdings

without any compensation from the Guatemalan government. When the

Guatemalans refused to go to the International Court of Law, United Fruit began to

lobby the government of the United States to take action. In the government they had some very powerful supporters. Among them were Foster Dulles, Secretary of

State who had once been their lawyer, his brother Allen the Director of Central

Intelligence who was a share holder, and Robert Cutler head of the National

Security Council. In what was a clear conflict of interest, the security apparatus

of the United States decided to take action against the Guatemalans.

From May 1st, 1954, to June 18th, the Central Intelligence Agency did everything

in its power to overthrow the government of Arbenz. On June 17th to the 18th, it

peaked with an invasion of 450 men lead by a Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas.

With the help of air support the men took control of the country and Arbenz fled to

the Mexican Embassy. By June 27th, the country was firmly in control of the

invading force. With its success in Guatemala, CIA had the confidence that it

could now take on anyone who interfered with American interests.

In late 1958 Castro was still fighting a guerilla war against the corrupt regime of

Fulgencio Batista. Before he came to power, there was an incident between his

troops and some vacationing American troops from the nearby American naval

base at Guantanamo Bay. During the incident some US Marines were held captive

by Casto’s forces but were later released after a ransom was secretly paid. This

episode soured relations with the United States and the chief of U.S. Naval

Operations, Admiral Burke, wanted to send in the Marines to destroy Castro’s

forces then but Secretary of State Foster Dulles disagreed with the measure suggested and stopped the plan.

Castro overthrew Batista in 1959. Originally Castro was not a communist either

and even had meetings with then Vice-President Richard Nixon. Fearful of Castro’s

revolution, people with money, like doctors, lawyers, and the mafia, left Cuba for

the United States. To prevent the loss of more capital Castro’s solution was to

nationalize some of the businesses in Cuba. In the process of nationalizing some

business he came into conflict with American interests just as Arbenz had in

Guatemala. “legitimate U.S. Businesses were taken over, and the process of

socialization begun with little if any talk of compensation.” There were also

rumours of Cuban involvement in trying to invade Panama, Guatemala, and the

Dominican Republic and by this time Castro had been turn down by the United

States for any economic aid. Being rejected by the Americans, he met with foreign

minister Anasta Mikoyan to secure a $100 million loan from the Soviet Union. It

was in this atmosphere that the American Intelligence and Foreign Relations

communities decided that Castro was leaning towards communism and had to be

dealt with.

In the spring of 1960, President Eisenhower approved a plan to send small groups

of American trained, Cuban exiles, to work in the underground as guerrillas to

overthrow Castro. By the fall, the plan was changed to a full invasion with air

support by exile Cubans in American supplied planes. The original group was to

be trained in Panama, but with the growth of the operation and the quickening pace

of events in Cuba, it was decided to move things to a base in Guatemala. The plan

was becoming rushed and this would start to show, the man in charge of the

operation, CIA Deputy Director Bissell said that,

There didn’t seem to be time to keep to the original plan and have a

large group trained by this initial cadre of young Cubans. So the larger

group was formed and established at La finca, in Guatemala, and

there the training was conducted entirely by Americans.

It was now fall and a new president had been elected. President Kennedy could

have stopped the invasion if he wanted to, but he probably didn’t do so for several

reasons. Firstly, he had campaigned for some form of action against Cuba. and it

was also the height of the cold war, to back out now would mean having groups of

Cuban exiles travelling around the globe saying how the Americans had backed

down on the Cuba issue. In competition with the Soviet Union, backing out

would make the Americans look like wimps on the international scene, and for

domestic consumption the new president would be seen as backing away from one

of his campaign promises. The second reason Kennedy probably didn’t abort the

operation is the main reason why the operation failed, problems with the CIA.

The failure at the CIA led to Kennedy making poor decisions which would affect

future relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union. The failure at CIA had three

causes. First the wrong people were handling the operation, secondly the agency in

charge of the operation was also the one providing all the intelligence for the

operation, and thirdly for an organization supposedly obsessed with security the

operation had security problems.

In charge of the operation was the Director of Central Intelligence, Allan Dulles and main responsibility for the operation was left to one of his deputies, Richard Bissell.

In an intelligence community geared mainly for European operations against the

USSR, both men were lacking in experience in Latin American affairs. Those in

charge of Operation Pluto, based this new operation on the success of the

Guatemalan adventure, but the situation in Cuba was much different than that in

Guatemala. In Guatemala the situation was still chaotic and Arbenz never had the

same control over the country that Castro had on Cuba. The CIA had the United

States Ambassador, John Puerifoy, working on the inside of Guatemala

coordinating the effort, in Cuba they had none of this while Castro was being

supplied by the Soviet block. In addition, after the overthrow of the government

in Guatemala, Castro was aware that this may happen to him as well and probably

had his guard up waiting for anything that my indicate that an invasion was


The second problem was the nature of the bureaucracy itself. The CIA was a new

kid on the block and still felt that it had to prove itself, it saw its opportunity in

Cuba. Obsessed with secrecy, it kept the number of people involved to a

minimum. The intelligence wing of CIA was kept out of it, their Board of National

Estimates could have provided information on the situation in Cuba and the chances

for an uprising against Castro once the invasion started. Also kept out of the loop

were the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who could have provided

help on the military side of the adventure. In the end, the CIA kept all the

information for itself and passed on to the president only what it thought he should

see. Lucien S. Vandenbroucke, in Political Science Quarterly of 1984, based his

analysis of the Bay of Pigs failure on organizational behaviour theory. He believed

the CIA “supplied President Kennedy and his advisers with chosen reports on the

unreliability of Castro’s forces and the extent of Cuban dissent.” Of the CIA’s

behaviour he concluded,

By resorting to the typical organization strategy of defining the options

and providing the information required to evaluate them, the CIA thus

structured the problem in a way that maximized the likelihood the

president would choose the agency’s preferred option.

As for senior White House aides, most of them disagreed with the plan as well, but Rusk says that Kennedy went with what the CIA had to say. As for himself, he

said that he “did not serve President Kennedy very well” and that he should

have voiced his opposition louder. He concluded that “I should have made my

opposition clear in the meetings themselves because he [Kennedy] was under

information from the CIA and quiet advisors, it is no wonder that the president

decided to go ahead with the operation.

The conclusion one can draw from the articles in The New York Times is that if

reporters knew the whole story by the 22nd, it can be expected that Castro’s

intelligence service and that of the Soviet Union knew about the planned invasion as

well. Tad Szulc’s report in the April 22nd edition of The New York Times says it


As has been an open secret in Florida and Central America for

months, the C.I.A. planned, coordinated and directed the operations

that ended in defeat on a beachhead in southern Cuba


It is clear then that part of the failure of the operation was caused by a lack of

security and attention to detail on the part of the Central Intelligence Agency, and

misinformation given to the president.

On the international scene, the Bay of Pigs invasion lead directly to increased

tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the invasion

messages were exchanged between Kennedy and Khrushchev regarding the events

in Cuba. Khrushchev accused the Americans of being involved in the invasion and

stated in one of his messages that a,

so-called “small war” can produce a chain reaction in all parts of the

world . . . we shall render the Cuban people and their Government all

necessary assistance in beating back the armed attack on Cuba.

Even though this crisis passed, it set the stage for the next major crisis over Soviet

nuclear missiles in Cuba and probably lead to the Soviets increasing their military

support for Castro.

In the administration itself, the Bay of Pigs crisis lead to a few changes. Firstly,

someone had to take the blame for the affair and, as Director of Central

Intelligence, Allen Dulles was forced to resign and left CIA in November of

1961(46) Internally, the CIA was never the same, although it continued with covert

operations against Castro, it was on a much reduced scale. According to a report

of the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence, future operations were “to nourish

a spirit of resistance and disaffection which could lead to significant defections and

other by-products of unrest.” The CIA also now came under the supervision of

the president’s brother Bobby, the Attorney General. According to Lucien S.

Vandenbroucke, the outcome of the Bay of Pigs failure also made the White House

suspicious of an operation that everyone agreed to, made them less reluctant to

question the experts, and made them play “devil’s advocates” when questioning

them. In the end, the lessons learned from the Bay of Pigs failure may have

contributed to the successful handling of the Cuban missile crisis that followed.

The long term ramifications of the Bay of Pigs invasion are a little harder to assess. The ultimate indication of the invasions failure is that thirty-four years later Castro is still in power. This not only indicates the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, but

American policy towards Cuba in general. The American policy, rather than

undermining Castro’s support, has probably contributed to it. As with many wars,

even a cold one, the leader is able to rally his people around him against an


When Castro came to power he instituted reforms to help the people and end

corruption, no longer receiving help from the Soviet Union things are beginning to

change. He has opened up the Cuban economy for some investment, mainly in

telecommunications, oil exploration, and joint ventures. In an attempt to stay in

power, he is trying to adapt his country to the new reality of the world. Rather than

suppressing the educated elite, he is giving them a place in guiding Cuba. The

question is, will they eventually want more power and a right to control Cuba’s fate

without Castro’s guidance and support? If the collapse of past regimes is any

indication, they will eventually want more power.

The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was caused by misinformation and mismanagement, the consequences of that was egg in the face for the Americans and an increase in tension between the superpowers at the height of the cold war.Now, over 30 years later, the target of that invasion, Castro, is still in power the Americans are still trying to get rid of him. The failure also caused the CIA’s image to fall in front of the American public. The once prestigues agency became tarnished with their involovement with Cuba and the cloak and dagger operation that failed. Many believe now that the US government does not need the CIA to function fully. That is completely untrue. This government does need the CIA so as to deture other countries from rising up and aquiring powerful weapons of destruction. They are necessary to the safety of this nation and of the world. They keep the peace between nations and keep psychos from coming into power. Even though the CIA has dirtied its hand in the foreign relations realm, it does serve a useful purpose and it is a part of what we call American.


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