Bay Of Pigs Prisoner Released From Cuba After 25 Years
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) _ One of the last men imprisoned in Cuba for the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 said he was ″in a cloud″ as he embraced his parents and brothers following his release.
Ricardo Montero Duque, 60, was freed from the Combinado del Este prison outside Havana early Sunday and arrived five hours later in a privately chartered plane at Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami.
″I’m delighted to see my family,″ said Montero. ″I had not seen them in so many years. I’m in a cloud.″
He was greeted by his 80-year-old mother, Bernardina Duque de Montero, and his father, Ricardo Montero, both of Miami; and two brothers, Javier and Juvenal, also of Miami.
Montero’s wife, Ester, was ill and unable to travel from her home in Union City, N.J., to greet her husband, but the two spoke by telephone.
″She has always been waiting for him,″ said Montero’s mother. ″They’ve lived like Romeo and Juliet.″
Montero was freed with the help of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who on Wednesday sent an adviser to Havana to escort Montero from Cuba to the United States. Kennedy’s brother John was president when the ill-fated invasion took place.
″Sometimes there aren’t words to express how one feels,″ Montero said shortly after arriving. ″I’m very grateful to the people and the government of the United States. I’m very happy to be here.″
Montero was among 1,200 CIA-trained Cuban exiles taken prisoner when the 1,400-member rebel force failed in their invasion of the island in April 1961 in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. Montero was sentenced to a 30-year term in September 1961.
All but nine of the prisoners were released within 22 months of the invasion in exchange for $53 million in food and medical supplies. Of the other eight, one died in prison, six were freed earlier and one remains imprisoned.
Montero said he did not know why Castro released him five years before his sentence was to be completed. He did not elaborate on how he was treated in prison, except to say conditions improved recently.
Cuban officials sent word days ago that they were prepared to free Montero, said Kennedy aides. Kennedy also wrote to Cuban officials last week requesting the release of the other Bay of Pigs prisoner, Ramon Conte Hernandez. Montero said he had seen him and he was all right.
Montero reportedly was not released earlier because he had been a major in the army of dictator Fulgencio Batista, whom Castro overthrew in 1959; had refused to sign a confession; and would not wear a prison uniform, the aides said.
Montero said although he would not take part in another invasion, ″I will always maintain my combat against Communism and Castro.″
After an emotional reunion with his family, he called Kennedy, who was vacationing at the family retreat in Hyannis Port, Mass., to thank him for his efforts.
″I want to welcome you to freedom,″ Kennedy told Montero, according to Kennedy spokesman Bob Mann.″I greatly admire your personal courage.″
Mann said the senator would continue trying to gain release of all remaining political prisoners in Cuba, estimated at 140.
Montero was the first political prisoner to enter the United States from Cuba since May 20, 1985, when Castro suspended an immigration agreement after the U.S.-financed Radio Marti began broadcasting to Cuba. That agreement would have allowed 3,200 people to leave Cuba.