Friday, February 13, 2009

The Cuban Revolution and the Liberation of Africa

The Cuban Revolution and the liberation of Africa

by Emile Schepers
People's Weekly World
Found at:

When the Cuban Revolution triumphed on Jan. 1 1959, its leaders openly declared their enmity for imperialism and colonialism, and began to organize material solidarity for revolutionary struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

One of the first African countries on which Cuba focused was the Congo, a Belgian colony until 1960. Though rich in minerals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (as it is now called) had been ruthlessly looted by Belgian, European and U.S. capitalists, who strove to make sure they could continue to do so unimpeded after the country became independent.

The CIA and Belgium connived with Congolese traitors to murder the left-wing prime minister, Patrice Lumumba and replace him with a corrupt military man, Joseph Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese-Seko). Lumumba’s supporters carried out guerilla war against Mobutu and an army of foreign mercenaries the CIA brought in to support him.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara, one of the main leaders and theoreticians of the Cuban Revolution, showed up in the Congo with a small but highly-trained group of mostly Afro-Cuban volunteers, and worked with Congolese guerilla forces, trying to impart some of the ideological and tactical lessons learned in Cuba in a new context. Unfortunately, even with Cuban help, the organizational and leadership level of the insurgent forces was no match for the Mobutu army and the white mercenaries. Thwarted, Che left Africa for Bolivia, where he met a heroic death.

Cuba helped Algeria resist a Moroccan invasion, and helped the Portuguese colonies in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Sao Tome-Principe) fight for independence. In 1974, the overthrow of the fascist regime in Portugal made possible the quick triumph of the independence struggles.

In central Angola, the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) formed a government, led by Marxist doctor Augustinho Neto, whom Che had met in Africa in 1965. However, two right-wing armed movements — the FLNA of Holden Roberto (Mobutu’s brother in law) and UNITA, led by a ruthless warlord, Jonas Savimbi — contested the MPLA’s power.

From the north, Roberto invaded with troops from Mobutu’s Congolese army, in an attempt to capture the Angolan capital, Luanda. South African apartheid troops, who had been fighting the SWAPO independence movement in Namibia, pushed north. Both these forces were fully aided by the CIA.

At this point, Cuba sent its own military forces to support the Angolan troops. It was not a matter of technical advisors, but of thousands of Cuban volunteers putting their lives on the line to defend the Angolan people’s freedom. Quickly, Cuban and Angolan troops defeated Holden Roberto’s forces, which ceased to be a factor in Angola, and then turned back the South African intervention.

In 1985, the South African army invaded Angola from Namibia once more, in coordination with Savimbi. Cuban President Fidel Castro quickly sent a force of 40,000 Cuban troops to help Neto (Fidel says eventually more than 300,000 Cuban soldiers and 50,000 technical helpers served in Angola — all of them volunteers).

From December 1987 to March 1988, Cuban and Angolan troops, with Soviet aid, defeated South Africa and UNITA in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, an Angolan military base which the South Africans and UNITA tried to capture with five unsuccessful ground assaults. Though South Africa claimed victory, there is no doubt it was for them not only a military but a huge political defeat. A short while later South African and Cuban troops were withdrawn from Angola and Namibia got its independence.

Most analysts consider that Cuito Cuanavale so rattled the South African regime that it led to the fall of hard-line racist prime minister P.W. Botha and his replacement by F.W. deKlerk, who convinced his colleagues in the ruling National Party that they must negotiate with the African National Congress. There followed Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the crumbling of the apartheid state.

Today, Angola remains poor despite continued Cuban help, oil wealth and the death of Savimbi. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has still not recovered from Mobutu’s long and larcenous reign. But all over Africa, the Cuban contribution is recognized and extolled.

Nelson Mandela put it best: “Hundreds of Cubans have given their lives, literally, in a struggle that was, first and foremost, not theirs but ours. As Southern Africans we salute them. We vow never to forget this unparalleled example of selfless internationalism.”

Declassified U.S. documents recall Cuba contacts

W. T. Whitney Jr.
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 02/09/09 23:56

George Washington University’s National Security Archives has released classified government documents shedding light on U.S. relations with Cuba. On the National Archives website (, Senior Analyst Peter Kornbluh notes, “This rich declassified record of the past provides a road map for the new administration to follow in the future.”

His message is that any Cuba negotiations undertaken by the Barack Obama administration will hardly occur in a vacuum. Precedents are in place from the Kennedy through Clinton administrations. And reasoning and rationale that informed leaders then carry weight now. Likely as not, their ideas on negotiation methods are still relevant.

The administration of George W. Bush was alone in shying away from contacts with Cuban leaders. He was the only president who used executive orders to intensify restrictions imposed under the U.S. blockade, in force since 1961.

The elder President Bush did sign the onerous Cuba Democracy Act of 1992, which barred foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba and blocked ships that visited Cuba from docking at U.S. ports for six months afterwards. President Clinton eased travel restrictions, but joined with Congress in 1996 to enact the Helms-Burton Law, which encouraged U.s. courts to target foreign business owners in Cuba and shifted responsibility for changing embargo rules from the Executive Branch to Congress.

The National Security Archives put eight documents relating to U.S.-Cuba relations on display on its web site on Jan. 22. A brief summary testifies to their significance.

In a secret memo, Kennedy aide Richard Goodwin reports on meeting with Che Guevara in Uruguay on Aug. 17, 1961. This first instance of talks between officials of both countries is remarkable for Guevara’s suggestion that negotiations should begin, and focus on secondary issues “as a cover for more serious conversation.” Responding later to a memo from the U.S. negotiator on releasing Bay of Pigs prisoners, Kennedy expressed interest in pursuing dialogue with Fidel Castro.

Two weeks before his assassination, recordings preserved a Kennedy conversation with McGeorge Bundy demonstrating active participation in deciding on methods to achieve secrecy during an upcoming visit to Cuba for talks by U.S. diplomat William Attwood.

In 1974, Henry Kissinger, then President Ford’s National Security Council head, is seen to approve a subordinate’s memo calling for openings toward Cuba. They were responding to Latin American demands for trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba. Kornbluh says Kissinger initiated secret contacts with the Cubans himself.

The next year, Kissinger aides met with Cuban representatives in a cafeteria at New York’s La Guardia Airport. One of them delivered a document approved by Kissinger that said, “We are meeting here to explore the possibilities for a more normal relationship between our two countries.”

Also in 1975, as Latin American nations were preparing to resume relations with Cuba, Harry Shlaudeman, a deputy assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, prepared a memo sketching out the process toward normal diplomatic relations. “Our interest is in getting the Cuba issue behind us, not in prolonging it indefinitely,” the memo states. It speaks of getting Cuba “off the domestic and inter-American agendas.”

On March 15, 1977, President Carter ordered normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba. The directive appearing on the Archives web site instructs Carter’s foreign policy experts to “set in motion a process which will lead to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.” U.S. pressure on Cuba to withdraw troops from Southern Africa derailed the effort.

President Obama has signaled his administration’s desire to restore the U.S. image before the world. The effect of its Cuba policies on world opinion surely weighs upon Obama no less than on his predecessors. Obama likely takes Latin American condemnation seriously, especially as the movement gains there for integration, mutual support and independence from U.S. hegemony.

The well-oiled device of approaching “secondary issues” first probably still makes sense, if only because there are so many of them. The agenda includes easing of travel restrictions, freeing the Cuban Five, dealing with immigration, firming up cooperative drug interdiction strategies, and facilitating agricultural sales to Cuba.

Pressures brought by powerful interests deflected assays by previous presidents — Jimmy Carter in particular — to shed the blockade against Cuba. Obama, fresh off a powerful electoral victory and enjoying remarkable public approval, is not lacking in strength of his own — enough, one assumes, to move beyond old ways on Cuba. In any event, he will not have invented openings to Cuba. “We don’t start from zero,” Danielle Bleitrach writes on .

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