Che 'made cocktail-party peace bid' to JFK

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The Independent Online
Miami (AP) - The Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara passed on an offer of peace with Washington over cocktail martinis, according to newly released documents.

But, stung by the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, President Kennedy snubbed him, condemning the two countries to decades of bitter emnity.

The offer was detailed in a memorandum written by a top White House adviser who described a remarkable encounter with Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine- born insurgent who became the second most powerful man in Cuba.

The Miami Herald reported yesterday that Richard Goodwin, Kennedy's assistant special counsel, was approached by Guevara at a cocktail party in Uruguay on 17 August 1961, four months after the failed US-backed invasion.

Guevara told Goodwin that the Castro government was prepared to forgo an alliance with the Soviet bloc, pay for confiscated American properties in trade and curb Cuban support for leftist insurgents in other countries. In return, the USwould cease hostile actions against Cuba.

"He thought we should put forth [a practical formula] because we had public opinion to worry about, whereas he could accept anything without worrying about public opinion," Goodwin wrote. The memo is among Eisenhower and Kennedy administration documents declassified last week.

Guevara's message bombed with Kennedy, who took Goodwin's advice to turn up the heat. In November 1961 Kennedy authorised Operation Mongoose, a secret plan to cause disruptions on the island, including blowing up power stations and planting US infiltrators. "My idea is to stir things up ... with espionage, sabotage, general disorder," wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who was tapped by his brother to oversee Mongoose.

Other notes tell of efforts to assassinate Castro. A State Department note says the CIA: "twice ... supplied lethal pills to US gambling syndicate members working on behalf of the CIA in a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro" in 1961 and 1962.