296. Editorial Note

On April 25, a boatload of about 90 armed people, mostly Cubans, landed on the isthmus of Panama and began a march through the jungle toward Colon. The Council of the Organization of American States met in emergency session in Washington and decided to send an investigating committee to Panama, consisting of representatives from Brazil, the United States, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Paraguay. The committee held discussions with representatives of the invading group and secured their unconditional surrender on May 1. In a broadcast on April 28 from Trinidad, where he was en route to Buenos Aires, Castro denounced the invasion as irresponsible. The leaders of the group subsequently said that they had surrendered so as not to embarrass Castro. Documentation on the invasion attempt is scheduled for publication in volume V.

In a memorandum of May 5 to Snow, John Dreier, U.S. Representative to the Organization of American States and a member of the OAS investigating committee sent to Panama, described his impressions of the invasion leaders:

“In talking with these people, I gained the impression that their outstanding motivation was an instinctive desire to join in any revolutionary activity that they encountered—much as Castro’s own record would indicate that he had done. Several people were veterans of the Cayo Confites expedition against the Dominican Republic of 10 years ago in which Castro participated. The people we talked to seemed genuinely enthused over their revolutionary mission. Most of them were uneducated and had no ideas of what a democracy was and had been given to believe that the Panamanian people were suffering under a Batista-like dictatorship and would rise and overthrow the government with their help. On their arrival in Panama, they found this to be far from the case”.

The memorandum continued:

“This revolutionary enthusiasm was centered about a fantastic idealization of Fidel Castro. On more than one occasion they said that their fundamental credo was ‘After God—Fidel Castro.’ The reason [Page 491] they decided to give up was unquestionably that Fidel Castro told them to—the OAS giving them an additional dignified way out and some implied assurances of decent treatment by Panama. However, the leaders had no illusions as to the trouble they might get into when they returned to Cuba in view of Castro’s remarks”. (Department of State, ARA Deputy Assistant Secretary Files: Lot 61 D 411, Cuba 1959)