Cuba, the Bay of Pigs, and President Nixon
Between trials and border issues, Cuba was in the news this week. We also remember former President Nixon who was a key figure in those early days of the Castro regime.
First, it was the 60th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs. I remember looking out the window that morning and telling my brother a plane was in the area. "The plane! The plane!"...and it was not Fantasy Island. I was a child growing up in Cuba on that day and saw a real plane dropping leaflets. My parents in the living room were listening to short wave radio and getting phone calls that something was happening in a place called Giron, where the men eventually landed.
Second, there are stories that Raúl Castro is dying of cancer. He will be 90 soon, and stories about his alcoholism and bad health have been around for a while. In other words, his deteriorating health is probably driving him out. I hear from friends in Cuba that Raúl's medical condition makes it impossible to be in public view for any period of time.
Third, we remember that President Nixon died on this day in 1994. Our family was on the way to a baseball game when we heard the news on the radio. You may remember that Mr. Nixon suffered a stroke earlier in the week, and Mrs. Nixon had died the year before. He was never the same after she died, or so I hear from those around him.
Cuba, the Castro brothers, and Nixon will always be a part of my childhood, from leaving Cuba to growing up in the U.S.
In 1959, then–vice president Nixon met the recently appointed Prime Minister Fidel Castro in Washington, D.C. It did not take V.P. Nixon long to figure out the Cuban visitor.
This is an account of the visit from Andrew Glass:
During his stay, Castro placed a wreath on George Washington's grave, toured the Bronx Zoo, ate hot dogs and hamburgers at Yankee Stadium and generally made a big media splash. Wherever he went, the 33-year-old bearded Cuban leader invariably wore his trademark rumpled green fatigues.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower snubbed him, although the Cuban leader did meet with Vice President Richard Nixon and acting Secretary of State Christian Herter. Nixon later said he came away from the meeting with the conclusion that Castro was "either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline — my guess is the former." On the other hand, after meeting with Castro, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson called him "the first democrat of Latin America."
With all due respect to the late Secretary Acheson, it was V.P. Nixon who got it right that day.
In 1968, Mr. Nixon was elected and then re-elected in 1972. As we know, he resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal.
On the subject of Cuba, Nixon was right. I think the Bay of Pigs would have turned out differently with Mr. Nixon in the Oval Office.
PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk).
Image: National Archives / public domain, via Pingnews.com, Flickr.
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