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US Releases Documents on Botched 1961 US Invasion of Cuba

The United States has made public documents on the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, describing U.S. negotiations with some other regional governments on support for the botched mission.

The documents were released this week by George Washington University's National Security Archive. In April, the Archive filed a lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency to secure the declassification of five volumes of the official history of the invasion. One volume remains classified.

The documents detail U.S. efforts to maintain Guatemala's cooperation for the mission. The CIA used Guatemala to train Cuban exiles for the invasion, which was aimed at toppling then-Cuban President Fidel Castro. Two years ago, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom apologized to Cuba for his country's involvement in the invasion.

The Archive also says the documents detail information regarding CIA negotiations with Nicaragua and Panama for the invasion. They describe the agency's efforts to obtain a Nicaraguan air base and port facility from which to launch the anti-Castro strike force against Cuba. The documents also say Panama was involved marginally in the anti-Castro effort.

On April 17, 1961, about 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed on Cuba's southern coast in hopes of sparking an uprising. Mr. Castro was warned of the pending invasion and had ample time to prepare his forces. Most of the exiles were arrested and spent time in prison on the island.

Then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy took responsibility for the disastrous invasion. Many Cuban exiles blamed the botched operation on President Kennedy, saying he did not provide enough support.

Separately, the newly-released documents describe how in 1960, the government of then-Guatemalan President Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes faced a series of attacks from Guatemalan rebel forces and asked the United States for napalm to wipe out the rebels. The request was refused for technical reasons, but the U.S. provided flyovers to help quell the unrest.

Guatemala was mired in a civil war from 1960 until 1996.