The Bay of Pigs Crystallizes Popular Support for the Cuban Revolution
At the same time that Castro was consolidating and radicalizing the Cuban revolution on the homefront, the Central Intelligence Agency was organizing Cuban exiles in the US for an invasion of the island. An easy victory was expected. However:
when the Cuban exiles of the 2506 Brigade — many of whom were members of the upper class — stormed ashore at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, they were not greeted with roses, but by determined militias and troops armed with Soviet howitzers. Fidel Castro rode into battle on a Soviet tank, President Kennedy, fearing a counterstroke in Berlin, refused to intervene, and the exiles were defeated.
The attractiveness of Castro’s reforms to those Cubans remaining on the island had not been fully understood either in Miami or Washington.
The invasion played into the hands of the revolutionary government, reinforcing nationalism, creating a new set of heroes, and helping to crystallize popular support for the regime.
Most importantly, the victory assured that the revolution would survive.
The Cuban missile crisis soon followed.
The United States had long suspected that Soviet agents were on the island, creating an enemy stronghold “ninety miles from home.”
When Khrushchev (convinced that President Kennedy “lacked the necessary nerve to act decisively”) began to pour military equipment into Cuba, a crisis was guaranteed.
Negotiations between Kennedy and the Kremlin led to removal of the offending missiles. However, the bargain was concluded without consulting Castro who emerged feeling angry and betrayed.
He began to defend a belligerent, almost anti-Soviet, Marxist line, implying that there were to be no peaceful roads to socialism, no compromises with imperialism.
Castro was able to benefit, though, when, as a part of the agreement, the US promised not to invade the island.
This action assured the survival of the revolution since the regime was now strong internally and protected from external threat.