Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 'The Bay of Pigs and the CIA'

IssueDecember 2000 - February 2001
Review by Sarah Irving

The opening page of this book reads like an unpleasant army thriller, full of mystery and gung-ho action. However repellent this may be, don't let it put you off, because it's not characteristic of most of the rest of Rodriguez's volume.

This is actually a detailed and often fascinating account of the runup to the attempted invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro forces backed by the US. The extent of this backing, and the depth of US hatred of any attempts at independence by states within its orbit, is seen in the speedy reaction to the Cuban revolution. Far from waiting until the

Castro regime became openly communist, as is often claimed, Cuban exiles were being trained by the CIA in Guatemala within a year of Batista's fall. CIA documents cited in this book also emphasise the preparedness of the US government to swear ignorance of its actions, despite reports of the CIA training camps being widely circulated in the pre-Giron Central American press.

As well as details of the US operations prior to Playa Giron, Rodriguez gives depth to his account by placing it in the context of counter-revolutionary activity in Cuba between 1959 and 1961, and the changes brought about by the revolution in areas such as the Zapata Swamp (where Playa Giron is situated). Both support for and opposition to the attempted invasion are therefore seen in terms of socio-political conditions as well as military strategy. Especially impressive are the detailed accounts of the counter-revolutionary groups, which draw on reports by Cuban double agents; these give a complexity to the situation often missing from English-language versions.

As with many Cuban-origin titles, some parts of this book are marred by rather sycophantic accounts of Castro's personal role. Nonetheless, this volume is a fascinating contribution to readable English-language literature on the early period of the Cuban revolution, and on one of the most dangerous incidents in post WWII international relations.

Topics: Empire, Global South
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