Last Bay Of Pigs Soldier to be Returned From Cuba
MIAMI (AP) _ The last Bay of Pigs soldier held in a Cuban prison since that failed invasion 25 years ago arrived in Miami today for a reunion with his family.
As soon as he left the plane Ramon Conte Hernandez, 57, was expected to attend a brief reunion with his wife, Hilda, before talking with reporters later in the day.
Conte is the last of the nearly 1,200 soldiers captured in the failed 1961 invasion to be freed by Cuban President Fidel Castro. His release was arranged with the help of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
″The decision to release this great soldier marks the end of a long and tragic chapter in the history of relations between Cuba and the U.S.,″ Kennedy said announcing Conte’s release last week.
″He feels relatively good,″ said Conte’s nephew, George Balado of Miami. ″We expect to find him mentally and physically pretty good.″
Balado said Conte’s 82-year-old mother, Maria Hernadez Ojeda, who lives in Cuba, would accompany him to the United States.
In the past 25 years, Mrs. Conte, 56, has been in touch with nearly every international human rights group and numerous American legislators trying to arrange for the return of her husband.
Before Castro’s takeover in 1959, Conte worked as a union delegate for the Confederation of Cuban Workers, his wife said.
Mrs. Conte said they came to Miami during the 1959 revolution and were working in factories when Conte joined other exiles in training under CIA supervision for the Bay of Pigs invasion.
About 1,200 Cuban exiles met with disaster when they invaded the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961, a few months after John F. Kennedy became president.
All but nine of the captured exiles were returned to the United States for $53 million in food and medical supplies about 20 months after the invasion.
Of the nine prisoners who remained in Cuba, one died in prison and seven eventually were released. The latest freed was Ricardo Motero Duque, who was released in June after Sen. Kennedy wrote to Castro.
Conte escaped in 1969, but was recaptured two years later.
Kennedy’s office said Conte was apparently held longer than others for several reasons, including his service in the army of dictator Fulgencia Batista.