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Operation Peter Pan

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Operation Peter Pan (Operación Peter Pan or Operación Pedro Pan), was an operation coordinated by the United States government (in particular the U.S. Department of State and Central Intelligence Agency), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami, and certain Cubans. Between 1960 and 1962, over 14,000 children were sent from Cuba to Miami by their parents. The operation was designed to transport the children of parents who opposed the revolutionary government, and was later expanded to include children of parents concerned by rumors that their children would be shipped to Soviet work camps. With the help of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami and Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, the children were placed with friends, relatives and group homes in 35 states.

Controversy

The origins and purpose of Operation Peter Pan have been hotly contested by both the Cuban revolutionary government and the Cuban exile community in the United States. According to some reports, Cuban radio fostered – or even invented – fears that the revolutionary government would abduct children from their parents to indoctrinate them; one such broadcast in 1960 is remembered as proclaiming, "Cuban mothers, don't let them take your children away! The Revolutionary Government will take them away from you when they turn five and will keep them until they are 18." One "Peter Pan child", Maria de los Angeles Torres, now a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, believes that the CIA initiated the visa waiver program and deliberately spread the rumors that Cuban children would be taken from their parents by the Cuban government. She has repeatedly requested that 1,500 relevant documents be declassified, but even some 50 years later the U.S. government refuses to do so. Her assertion is confirmed by Fidel Castro, who has recently explained that Cuban people's "Revolution had not placed any obstacles whatsoever to prevent those who wanted to leave the country from doing so. The work of the Revolution had to be voluntarily made by a free people. The imperialist response, among many other serious aggressions, was Operation Peter Pan." He further argues that the CIA, in its early counterrevolutionary efforts before progressing to the more aggressive Bay of Pigs invasion and later Cuban Missile Crisis, was attempting to use Operation Peter Pan to spread fear and doubt among the Cuban people, especially lower middle-class families (the source of most of the Peter Pan children). Without declassifying any documents as evidence, the CIA has nonetheless denied these assertions.

In 1962, the US government commissioned a documentary film created for the children who came to Miami, called The Lost Apple. The film named Cuban premier Fidel Castro as being responsible for the parents' non-appearance. According to Torres, then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy approved making the documentary as part of the US government’s campaign against Communism.

Legacy

An effort to bring orphans of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the United States, has been dubbed (in reference to Haiti's francophone heritage) Operation Pierre Pan.

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