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   Vol. 70/No. 2           January 16, 2006  

30 Years Since ‘Operation Carlota,’ Cuba’s Internationalist Mission in Angola   

Africa: Cuba’s role decisive
in national liberation struggles
Fidel Castro speaks on 30th anniversary
of Cuban fighters’ arrival in Angola
We reprint below the third and last excerpt of a speech given by Cuban president Fidel Castro at a meeting held in Havana on Dec. 2, 2005, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Cuba’s internationalist mission in Angola.

This is part of a series of articles and documents the Militant is publishing to mark the 30th anniversary of Cuba’s internationalist response to Angola’s request for help in defeating the invading armed forces of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Between 1975, when Angola won independence from Portugal, and 1991, some 300,000 Cuban volunteers fought alongside Angolan soldiers to beat back assaults by the apartheid forces. This led to the defeat of the South African army in the 1987-88 battle of Cuito Cuanavale and contributed to the demise of the apartheid regime and the independence of Namibia, a South African colony. Cuba’s combat mission in Angola was named Operation Carlota, after the woman who led an 1843 slave revolt in Cuba.

The English translation of the speech is available at, the web site of the Cuban daily Granma. Subtitles, material in brackets, and minor translation and stylistic changes are by the Militant.


A great deal could be said about all the engagements and incidents in that campaign [at Cuito Cuanavale]. Here with us are Comrade Polo Cinta Frías, the bold commander of the Angola southern front at that time, and many comrades who took part in the actions of those glorious, unforgettable days.

The resounding victories in Cuito Cuanavale, especially the devastating advance by the powerful Cuban contingent in southwest Angola, spelled the end of foreign aggression.

The enemy had to set aside its usual arrogance and sit down at the negotiating table. The talks culminated in the Peace Accords for Southern Africa, signed by South Africa, Angola, and Cuba at the UN headquarters in December 1988.

The accords were designated as quadripartite, since the Angolans and the Cubans sat on one side of the table with the South Africans opposite; the United States occupied a third side, given its role as mediator. In reality, America was judge and party, an ally of the apartheid regime. Its rightful place was alongside the South Africans.

The head of the U.S. delegation, undersecretary Chester Crocker, for years opposed Cuba’s participation. But given the seriousness of the military situation for the South African aggressors, he had no choice but to accept our presence….

This Reagan administration spokesman was well aware that with Cuba at the negotiating table, dirty tricks, blackmail, intimidation and lies would not succeed.

There would be no repeat of what happened in Paris in 1898, when the Americans and the Spanish held peace talks without Cuban representation, the Liberation Army and the government of Cuba in arms….

The internationalist mission was fully accomplished. Our troops came back to the homeland with heads held high, taking with them only the friendship of the Angolan people, the weapons they had wielded with honor and bravery thousands of miles away from their homeland, the satisfaction of duty done and the glorious mortal remains of our fallen brothers and sisters.

Their contribution was decisive in consolidating Angola’s independence and achieving that of Namibia. It was also a significant contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe and the demise of South Africa’s repugnant apartheid regime.

Rarely in history has war, the most terrible, heartrending, and difficult of human actions, been accompanied by such humanism and humility on the part of the victors, despite the near-total absence of these values in the ranks of the vanquished. Firmness of principle and purity of aims explain the complete transparency of every campaign undertaken by our internationalist fighters.

Beyond doubt, a decisive ingredient is the tradition established by our freedom combatants in the epic struggles for independence, reinforced by rebels and fifth-column fighters during the War of National Liberation and carried on by the militia, by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior since the Revolution, against enemies abroad and at home.  
Full story has not yet been told
That heroic saga has never been told in full. On its 30th anniversary, American imperialism went out of its way to prevent any mention of Cuba even at the commemorative ceremonies. To cap it all, it tried to rewrite history: Cuba, it seems, never played any part at all in Angolan independence, Namibian independence or the defeat of the until-then invincible army of apartheid. In fact, Cuba doesn’t even exist; it’s a figment of people’s imagination. It is as if the U.S. government had absolutely nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of Angolan dead, the thousands of villages razed to the ground, the millions of land mines planted in Angolan territory, where they still take the lives of many children, women and other civilians….

Now, U.S. imperialism is extracting billions of dollars from Angola, plundering its natural resources and draining its oil and other non-renewable resources. Cuba has been true to the word of the famous anticolonial leader Amilcar Cabral [of Guinea-Bissau]: “Cuban fighters are ready to lay down their lives for the liberation of our countries, and in exchange for this aid to our freedom and the progress of our people, all they take from us are their comrades who fell fighting for freedom.”

The absurd attempt by the Americans to ignore the honorable role played by Cuba offends the African peoples. It is partly due to the fact that the full history of these events has not been recorded.

Prestigious researchers make great efforts in seeking information. Cuba, for its part, has never wanted to write it and avoids talking about what it did with such selflessness and spirit of solidarity. We are ready, however, to lend our modest aid, progressively releasing the relevant files and documents, to serious, reputable writers interested in giving a true account of those events.

The Angola achievement and the struggle for Namibia’s independence against the fascist apartheid regime are a source of much strength to our people. The countless acts of heroism, self-sacrifice and humanism performed by over 300,000 internationalist fighters and some 50,000 Cuban civilian collaborators, who on a totally voluntary basis participated in missions to Angola, are a treasure of immense value.

This noble tradition is now being carried on by tens of thousands of doctors and other professionals, as well as health workers, teachers, sports coaches and other specialists who express their solidarity often by working in difficult, including war zone, conditions, as in the case of the celebrated Henry Reeve Contingent.

The name of that operation is both symbolic of and homage to the thousands of slaves who perished in combat or were executed during the early uprisings.

Those brought to the fore women such as Carlota, a Lucumi African from the slaves at the Triunvirato refinery in Matanzas, who in 1843 led one of the many uprisings against the terrible stigma of slavery, losing her life in the attempt.

Independence fighters, rebels, clandestine fighters, combatants in Playa Girón [in 1961, at the Bay of Pigs], the October [1962 Missile] crisis and the campaign against bandits and internationalists, militiamen, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, all in all, the combative people, are the fruit of the productive tree that grew in this land from African and Spanish roots….  
We will always resist imperialism
Once again, we reaffirm an eternal commitment to our glorious dead, to carry forward the revolution and to be always worthy of their example; to the Cubans, past and present, ready to fight and die with honor in defense of justice; and to the men and women who, like Máximo Gómez, Henry Reeve, and Che Guevara, have done so much to show us, here in our homeland and throughout history, the immense value of solidarity.

Present and future generations of Cubans will continue to advance however difficult the road ahead, fighting restlessly to defend the Revolution, keeping it as impregnable politically as it is militarily and as it soon will be economically.

We shall redouble our efforts to remedy our shortcomings and correct our mistakes. The fight will go on. We shall always resist.

We shall continue to defeat every act of imperialist aggression, refute the lies of its propaganda and expose its political and diplomatic chicanery.

We shall continue to withstand the effects of the embargo, which will be defeated one day by the dignity of the Cuban people, the solidarity among the peoples, the near total opposition of the international community—as was demonstrated yet again by the voting at the United Nations—and by growing opposition on the part of the American public to an absurd policy that flagrantly violates their constitutional rights.

Just as the imperialists and their lackeys suffered in Angola the consequences of a Girón multiplied several times over, those who land here to wage war will face thousands of Quifangondos, Cabindas, Ebos, Meduna Morros, Cangambas, Ruacanas, Tchipas, Calueques and Cuito Cuanavales.

Our internationalists, like the rest of the Cuban fighters, which means the entire Cuban people, know that in the event of military aggression, we shall defeat the invader. And you, veterans of our homeland’s history, will be among the heroes of that victory!

Angola became stronghold for African liberation struggles
Fidel Castro speaks on 30th anniversary of Cuban fighters’ arrival in Angola
Related articles:
Anti-Cuba rightists caught with heavy weapons denied bail  
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