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Kennedy: U.S. Won't Negotiate for Cuban Prisoners

Apr. 11, 1962 - President Kennedy said today that the U.S. Government would not negotiate with Cuba to ransom the rebel prisoners (pictured) sentenced last week to 30-year prison terms. The 1,179 prisoners seized in 1961’s unsuccessful invasion were found guilty of treason, but the regime of Premier Fidel Castro indicated that the freedom of individual captives could be purchased for amounts ranging from $500,000 for each of the three invasion leaders to $25,000 for rank-and-file soldiers. At his news conference, the President said: “I think that Mr. Castro knows that the U.S. Government cannot engage in a negotiation like that, and he knows very well that the families cannot raise millions of dollars.” Although the Administration has not set forth its final views on the subject, it was assumed that it would not hinder exchanges if money could be raised privately for any of the captives seized in the invasion. In his comments on the proposed transaction, President Kennedy remarked that “all of us had hoped that the day when the men were put on the block had long ago passed from this hemisphere.” “It had in every country,” he added, “until very recently in Cuba.”

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