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Playa Giron’s victory in Cuba: a feat for today and forever

Havana (Prensa Latina) On April 17, 1961, after midnight, we, the militiamen from the Prensa Latina battalion who were on duty at the time, witnessed a series of events that are totally indelible in the memory of those of us who experienced them.

By Jose Bodes Gomez, Prensa Latina contributor

First came the news sent by New York Correspondent Francisco V. Portela, who was reproducing broadcasts from local radio stations, which were already announcing the landing and first combats of an armed brigade opposed to the Cuban Government, at a point in Cuba called Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron), on the south-central coast.

The militiamen on duty at the main entrance door to the Medical Insurance building, on the fifth floor of which the main newsroom and other offices of Prensa Latina were located, never imagined that on that historic dawn, Argentinean journalist Jorge Ricardo Masetti, who until days before had been the general director of the news agency, would arrive, wearing the uniform of the National Revolutionary Militias.

“President Dorticos has informed me that in view of the emergency situation the country is going through, it is necessary that I assume the leadership of Prensa Latina again,” he said.

And with that assignment, no further explanation was needed. In turn, the interim director called us through the building’s intercom so that Masetti would go up to the fifth floor to take charge of the news agency.

One of the first measures taken by the returned chief was the selection of the journalists who would leave for Playa Giron on a mission as war correspondents, whom he instructed on the most important aspects that they had to report from the combat zone.

Leading that group was Jose M. Ortiz, Pepin, as we all called him, who at the time was a member of the agency’s newsroom and years later would be the director of Prensa Latina.

Masetti, far from limiting himself to his return to command of the news agency, got ready to leave for Playa Giron, accompanied by photographer Miguel Viñas, with the obvious purpose of repeating the journalistic feat he accomplished on the occasion of the explosion of the ship “La Coubre” in the Port of Havana, where he did not hesitate in the face of danger.

As the first war correspondents traveled to south Santa Clara province (Matanzas at present), the atmosphere was one of total alertness in the main office in Havana, as described by journalist and writer Angel Augier.

“We were tense, awaiting news from the combat front, which we received mainly from our outstanding comrades as war correspondents, a task to which they devoted themselves with the same heroic impetus as the combatants themselves.

On the night of April 19, Augier continues, there was already certainty of victory over the invading brigade.

Around three in the morning on Thursday, April 20, since I couldn’t fall asleep, I decided to walk along the corridors of the fifth floor. As I passed the office of the director general, I was surprised to see Masetti, who had returned recently from Giron, but with no signs of fatigue, euphorically showing the text of Communiqué Number 4 from the Commander in Chief, where he announced to the world the first military defeat of imperialism in the Americas.

The historic document was transmitted, before any other media outlet, by Prensa Latina’s teletypes, on which Masetti himself worked personally.


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