Trump Meets With Bay of Pigs Vets
Trump Meets With Bay of Pigs Vets
RACHEL LA CORTE
Nov. 15, 1999
MIAMI (AP) _ Donald Trump told veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion that to get rid of Fidel Castro's dictatorship, the United States must retain its economic embargo of Cuba.
``He's been a killer, he's a criminal, and I don't think you should reward people who have done what he's done,'' the potential presidential candidate told members of Assault Brigade 2506.
Trump spoke Monday at the brigade's museum and library dedicated to the failed attempt to overthrow Castro two years into his revolutionary rule. The veterans gave Trump a tour of the two-room museum, which includes walls of photos of men killed in the action, and presented him a plaque of the shoulder patch worn during the invasion.
The New York-based developer, accompanied by Slovenian model Melania Knauss and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., in whose district the Little Havana museum is located, shook hands and posed for pictures with the veterans.
More than 100 people, mostly reporters and photographers, crowded the museum, swamping the 20 to 30 veterans on hand for Trump's visit.
Trump has not said whether he will compete for the Reform Party nomination next year, but he is seeking attention and credibility for a potential presidential campaign in courting prospective voters like Cuban-Americans.
In a Nov. 5 letter to Ros-Lehtinen, Trump said the nature of his trip was not political but rather to ``focus on the issue of the Cuban embargo and the Cuban people's continuing fight for freedom.''
Trump recently condemned Castro, saying the dictator is ``absolutely a killer and should be treated as such.'' He also denounced Castro in a guest editorial published June 25 in The Miami Herald.
``The real cause of misery of the Cuban people is Castro's Marxist-Leninist economic system _ not the U.S. embargo,'' Trump wrote. ``Castro's Cuba is a brutal police state; Castro rules through terror, intimidation and brutality.''
Edward Ferrer, an air transport commander during the invasion and one of the veterans greeting Trump at the museum, said he made 5,000 copies of Trump's editorial to send to friends in Cuba.
``I like him a lot,'' said Ferrer, 69, who was held captive for nine months after the invasion. ``It's going to be very difficult for him to get the nomination. But if he does, I will vote for him.''
The economic embargo, which has banned U.S. firms from doing business in Cuba since the early 1960s, has strong support among most of South Florida's Cuban-Americans.
``This is someone who will be heard,'' said Ninoska Perez, spokeswoman for the Cuban American National Foundation, in anticipation of Trump's visit. ``We feel that every time someone raises the issue of Cuba, it brings that issue to a national level.''
But a recent New York Daily News/WNBC-TV poll indicated that 74 percent of Trump's fellow New Yorkers felt he is running simply ``to promote himself.''
Some Miami residents agree.
``He's just a billionaire,'' said Michael Morales, 18. ``I don't see what he can do for our political system.''
But others said they think that Trump's financial success is enough to make him a serious contender.
``Donald Trump is a business-savvy person,'' said 22-year-old Vicente Lago. ``He could probably run our country well _ financial-wise. But I don't know how he would handle being a president day in and day out.''