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   Vol. 70/No. 3           January 23, 2006  

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

How Cuba’s support for Angola’s
liberation struggle began
We reprint below excerpts from an article that appeared in the Oct. 31, 2005, issue of the Cuban daily Granma under the headline “Operation Carlota is born.” This is part of a series of articles and documents the Militant has been 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. Translation, subtitles, and material in brackets are by the Militant.

Our country’s support to the revolutionary movements of Black Africa, which were experiencing rapid growth, had begun in 1965, when Che Guevara “saw the need to lend his solidarity to prevent Zaire's recolonization and contribute to the armed struggle of the peoples of the Portuguese colonies. For him this was a starting point for the great final battle: the liberation of the South African people from the ignominious boot of apartheid and the independence of Namibia, occupied by the white racists of Pretoria.”

His initial idea was to support that revolutionary upsurge in Zaire, where the rebels—in spite of the assassination of their leader Patrice Lumumba on orders by the former Belgian colonialists—were continuing their armed resistance to overthrow the neocolonial Tshombe-Mobutu government and the white mercenaries recruited and paid for by the United States.

In early 1965, Che also met with the leadership of the MPLA in Congo-Brazzaville. “Out of that historic meeting came another commitment requested by the Angolan patriots: to help that guerrilla movement in its fight against Portuguese colonialism.”

That was how Che arrived in Africa in the company of more than 100 internationalists…. During the months they spent in Zaire, they fought in more than 50 engagements under extremely adverse conditions without being defeated by the enemy; however, the absence of a structured patriotic movement with which to collaborate led them to cut short the mission.

Trained with similar rigor, a second column marched to Congo-Brazzaville. This column, called the Patrice Lumumba Battalion, had several missions. It was, first of all, a reserve force for Che's column, and was to join them if necessary and at the appropriate time.

“It also had the task of helping the progressive government of the Congo, threatened with attack by the regime in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa).… No less important was the mission of participating with a group of Angolan advisor-combatants in the MPLA's Second Front in Cabinda, training Angolan combatants, equipping them, and helping them head toward the interior of Angola, toward the First Front north of Luanda. Comrades [Jorge] Risquet and [Rolando] Kindelán were in charge of this many-sided mission.”

A group of six of the battalion’s officers and soldiers trained Angolan guerrilla fighters in Cabinda province and fought together with them. In the meantime, other members of the battalion stationed in camps in Congo-Brazzaville organized, prepared, and armed three MPLA columns: the Camilo Cienfuegos (April-July 1966); the Kamy squadron (August-December 1966) and the Ferraz Bomboko unit (1967). Then-captain Rafael Moracén, who played a key role during military actions in Cabinda, was also commanding the instructors who were training the three columns.

This direct collaboration was provided during 1965-67, while the MPLA leadership and the Lumumba Battalion remained in Congo-Brazzaville.

From then on, until 1974, Cuba’s solidarity with the Angolan revolutionaries was expressed through their support to the patriotic struggle in important international forums such as the United Nations and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, as well as through training and scholarships to study in our country.

Africa: Cuba’s role decisive in national liberation struggles
Fidel Castro speaks on 30th anniversary of Cuban fighters’ arrival in Angola
Related articles:
‘La Gaceta’ takes up fight against racism in Cuba
Washington tries to force Cuban baseball team out of tournament
The role of women in Cuba’s revolutionary army  
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