The prelude to the crisis

The Bay of Pigs invasion

Fidel Castro’s confiscation of American-owned property in Cuba and his trade agreement with the Soviet Union, which was engaged in the Cold War with the US at the time, worsened the relationship between Cuba and the US. The US reacted by placing several bans on products exported to Cuba and cutting off one of Cuba’s main exports – sugar. In 1961, US diplomatic relations with Cuba were officially cut off (they were not restored until 2015).

Although Castro denied that his regime was communist, his policies caused great concern in the White House, and the US President at the time, Dwight E. Eisenhower, began to plan how to overthrow Castro. The plan was to invade Cuba and replace Castro’s regime with an American-friendly, non-communist government.

The CIA opened training camps in Guatemala and trained approximately 1,500 Cuban exiles for the Cuban invasion. The exiles were led by a former member of Castro’s government, José Miró Cardona, who was prepared to set up a provisional government if Castro was removed. Despite efforts to keep the plan a secret, Cuban intelligence briefed Castro on the existence of the training camps, and the press spread the news as more intelligence was gathered.

The plan was eventually approved in April 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, who was determined to conceal US involvement. The Bay of Pigs landing point was important for the deception, as it was viewed as a remote area in Southern Cuba which could be used for a night landing without much opposition.

The invasion began on 15th of April, 1961, when American bomber planes, disguised as Cuban planes, launched an attack on Cuban air bases. However, the attack failed, and the Cuban air force was mostly left intact. A second air strike was cancelled after American involvement was made public through photographs showing the disguised US planes.

On 17th of April, the CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs and on several other sites. However, they encountered heavy opposition and later, a counterattack from Castro’s troops. While some escaped to the sea, most of the Cuban exiles were captured and imprisoned, and the Kennedy Administration began efforts to get them back to the US. Castro demanded reparations worth almost 30 million dollars but cha...

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