The second woman was Virginia Betancourt, a housewife whose husband had been captured and who found herself as the only woman female member of the Miami brach of the families committee. She ended up typing up the final agreement signed by Castro sealing the release of the brigade members.
When people talk about the Bay of Pigs invasion, Betancourt said, they focus on the defeat on the beach. They havent really heard about what came afterward, how we had to negotiate for the release of these men.
Today, those who negotiated say Castros intention was to force the U.S. to pay millions as punishment for the invasion.
He did everything he could to humiliate the brigade members and make fun of the Americans, Andreu said.
The Kennedy administration, which at first denied involvement in the Bay of Pigs, now found itself in a precarious situation how to win the freedom of the men without openly negotiating for them.
The first effort was the creation of the Tractors for Prisoners Committee which came up with the idea that the U.S. would give Cuba heavy farm tractors in exchange for the prisoners.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt led the committee, but the idea hit a snag in Congress when members said giving Castros new farm equipment that could be turned into war material was a bad idea.
The Roosevelt committee disbanded and others formed and also disbanded.
By late March 1962, relatives were growing desperate. In Havana, Barreto decided to take matters into her own hands and she had a trump card. Her husband had dated Castros secretary, Conchita Fernandez. She implored him to call her and float the idea that exiles in Miami could raise the millions, her son recalls.
Conchita made my mother write a proposal which she reworded and promised to give to Castros right-hand woman, Celia Sanchez, Perez-Cisneros Barreto said.
At 3 a.m., the phone rang at the Barreto home in Havana; it was Castro. He wanted to know if Barreto could really get him millions for the men.
My mother said she could find a way to get the money. At that time, she had no idea how they would do it, Perez-Cisneros Barreto said.
She contacted members of the Miami family committee and reported her promising talk with Castro; committee member contacted the U.S. government. Enter, James Donovan, a high-powered New York attorney and star negotiator fresh from dealing with the Soviets for the release of captured U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. Donovan agreed to help the committee pro bono.
In her memoirs, called The Bay of Pigs: A Long & Hard Road to Freedom, Betancourt said the group began making trips to Havana to negotiate. The locale was Barretos home, where Castro would show up to fight over terms with Donovan.
Castro first demanded millions in cash and Donovan who frequently reported back to U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy refused. Betancourt, who now lives in Las Vegas, remembers Donovan and Castro in heated talks, even arguing about religion. The negotiations were disrupted by the Cuban Missile Crisis but then picked up. Later, she said she found out there had been a plot by opponents in the island to kill Castro at the Barreto home during one of the sessions.
After months of back and forth, Donovan persuaded Castro to accept $52 million in medicine and food supplies which the U.S. government scurried to get pharmaceutical companies to donate. Plans feverishly were begun to make the trade before Christmas 1962.