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Operation Carlota: Infinite heroism

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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 21 Dec 2004, 23:53
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Philosophized
Post 22 Nov 2010, 20:15
Quote:
Operation Carlota: Infinite heroism

Alberto Núñez Betancourt

THEY pass us by on any street in Cuba. Their faces and their skin still evidence the passage of time, but their heroism remains intact, infinite, silent. No boasting; rather the subject has to be put to them to have them talk about the many nights and daybreaks of the thunder of enemy artillery, the decisive response of our troops, their movements endangered by convoys, minefields, low flying aircraft…..

It began in November 1975. The Alvor Agreement, intended to foster the decolonization process in Angola, was incapacitated from the outset by the pretensions of the reactionary forces in the service of apartheid to take this African territory.

At that crucial point, in a sovereign act, the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba promptly responded to the request of Agostinho Neto, leader of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a genuine representative of his people, for the assistance of our internationalist combatants to guarantee and preserve the independence supposed by the withdrawal of the Portuguese.

The operation was named Carlota, in honor of the African slave who, in 1843, leading a group of other women slaves from the Triumvirato sugar mill in the Matanzas area of Cuba, had risen up with her machete in hand and was killed in the rebellion against the Spanish colonizers.

It was an unparalleled symbolism that, more than one century later, thousands upon thousands of Cuba’s sons and daughters showed a similar courage in crossing the Atlantic and the 14,000 kilometers of distance between our archipelago and the African nation.

That first mission to prevent the advance of the invaders to Luanda lasted for 15 years and six months, and it did not conclude until May 25, 1991, when our last internationalists returned home.

Over and above the 300,000 Cuban women and men who stepped on Angolan soil, the epic feat involved millions because, from our land, every family assumed with fortitude the departure of their loved ones, the sacrifices and the pain only compensated by the definitive victory, the preservation of Angola’s sovereignty, the conquest of Namibian independence, the end of apartheid.

It was a long and honorable mission which recorded many heroic episodes in countless places: Quinfangondo, Quibala, Sumbe, Cabinda, Cangamba, Luena, Huambo, Tchipa, Cuito Cuanavale, Calueque...

The words of Nelson Mandela during his visit to Cuba in the summer of 1991 will resonate forever: "Cuito Cuanavale marks an important step in the struggle to free the continent and our country from the scourge of apartheid."

The days of Cuito Cuanavale precisely made themselves memorable. A destroyed and uninhabited town. Even the ants had left, leaving behind as a trace their anthills, which turned into ovens for baking delicious bread, with which our cooks laughed in the face of danger. Good humor is the best weapon; it can do more than the rockets from G-5 and G-6 cannons. And, as if that was not enough, there were our BM-21s to respond effectively.

Nothing could be more incredible than the gratitude of the Angolan people and their armed forces, the FAPLA. That multitude which filled the streets of Luanda in January 1989, to bid farewell, amidst cheers and sobs, to the internationalist combatants who were returning to their homeland was not there by chance. In another gesture of humility, Cuba anticipated its withdrawal.

So many things to remember! How can we forget the visits of Comandante Fidel Castro in the very midst of battle, his accurate direction of the war in the crucial moments. How can we not believe that Comandante Domingos Da Silva, Raúl Díaz Argüelles to us, would call for a new struggle if our homeland required it. Undoubtedly the doctors, the teachers, the construction workers… live on in the minds of Joao, Gabriel, María, Iacopo, Walter... and of Francisco, the child who survived the Kassinga Massacre in 1978, and immediately joined the Cuban troops to have a life devoid of childhood.

The final days of the Cuban Military Mission in Angola (MMCA) close this chapter of decorum. Tremendous hustle and bustle in the port of Luanda. The maintenance and evacuation battalion of the MMCA put its technical capacity to the test for its re-embarkation to Cuba.

One major responsibility was borne by the bridge sentry units who, fighting off sleep, protected up until the last minute the access roads to the city, despite the mosquitoes – very contented between the water and the mangrove – and the solitary sparrows.

And as a symbol of Cuban-Angolan friendship, a monument of that name has been built on one of Luanda’s central avenues. It is the work of the deceased Cuban sculptor José Delarra, who was also a combatant in the land of Neto.

Cuban internationalism in Angola raised the prestige and authority of our country and its respect in the international arena. Announcing the victorious conclusion of Operation Carlota at the ceremony which took place in El Cacahual, the final resting place of the great Cuban independence fighter General Antonio Maceo, on May 27, 1991, President Raúl Castro Ruz, who was then minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), affirmed: "The supreme glory and merit belong to the Cuban people, the real protagonists of this epic feat which its befalls history to judge in its most profound and lasting significane."
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"By what standard of morality can the violence used by a slave to break his chains be considered the same as the violence of a slave master?" - Walter Rodney
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Sep 2010, 04:15
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Post 24 Nov 2010, 00:12
Admirable for Cuba to help out, the strongest expression of solidarity. Unlike a certain nation in the same conflict.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
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Post 24 Nov 2010, 05:09
Thanks for the article RR. It's good to remember Cuban heroism here, and in other African struggles, including Mozambique, Ethiopia, and many other countries, which made it one of the strongest proponents of of global revolutionary socialism.


Red Commissar wrote:
Admirable for Cuba to help out, the strongest expression of solidarity. Unlike a certain nation in the same conflict.


Who? China?
Last edited by soviet78 on 24 Nov 2010, 05:15, edited 1 time in total.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 12 May 2010, 07:43
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Post 24 Nov 2010, 05:15
Maybe that was a swipe at the USSR & the PRC for their lack of support, but then "in the same conflict" doesn't seem to make sense.
“Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals” - Mark Twain
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
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Post 24 Nov 2010, 05:18
But the USSR did support Angola tremendously as well. It provided the transport capacity to ferry the Cubans over to the country in the heady days of late 1975. It didn't have combat forces there but did provide military advisors, some of whom also died in the conflict. The USSR didn't play nearly as tremendous a role as Cuba -especially considering the latter's relative size, but it played an important role nonetheless. That's why I'm hoping RC didn't mean the USSR.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Sep 2010, 04:15
Pioneer
Post 24 Nov 2010, 05:39
I was referring to China's support for the UNITA and the NLFA, an example of what the Three Worlds Theory meant for revolutionaries in Africa if they got caught up in an area that China opposed the Soviets in.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Sep 2011, 17:03
Pioneer
Post 07 Sep 2011, 11:48
I am from Namibia and I don't feel the same way about Cuban internationalism. The Cuban presence in Angola prolonged the war in Angola and it strengthened the resolve of the racist South African government to keep control of Namibia.

The Angolan civil war lasted until 2002, By then the Cubans were long gone. Interesting to note that some people think that the Cuban officers, that were mainly white were just as racist as the racist South Africans.

Major Igor Zhdarkin fought in Angola as a Soviet adviser. He was at Cuito Cuenevale. He wrote a book, "We did not see it even in Afghanistan".
A quote from his book :

"I don’t want to say anything bad about the South Africans because they fought well and competently, because they were whites, because I myself am white and because South Africans related to us as whites to whites. Strangest of all, the white Cubans would say –
«We, as they say, are ready to shake hands with the white South Africans». This could have been ascribed also to racism."
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Nov 2003, 13:17
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Post 07 Sep 2011, 14:09
So SWAPO you do not appreciate Cuba's assistance to Angola?
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 16 Nov 2005, 17:55
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Post 07 Sep 2011, 14:36
Ultimately, it's a matter of perspective.

True, Cuban presence prolonged the war in Angola. However, before Cuba had arrived in the picture in the form of troops on the ground, the apartheid South African government already had a presence in Angola pre-independence; Cuban involvement prevented the collapse of MPLA, and gave them a fighting chance, therefore prolonging the war and preventing a quick UNITA victory.

I do agree that South Africa's presence in Namibia might have been prolonged as a result of the continuing war in Angola, because South Africa needed to use Namibia as a base of operations to preserve its dominance over Angolan affairs, which Cuba was sabotaging through their presence. Ultimately, the Cuban mission offered to withdraw in 1988-1991 contingent on Namibian independence, administered by SWAPO. I wouldn't expect Castro to settle for Namibia to become "independent" under a neo-colonial quisling who would continue American and South African intrigues.

In both cases, Cuba's presence prevented Angola and Namibia from becoming puppet states of racist South Africa and the US (which made them supporters of true liberation and not just nominal liberation).

Of course, as pointed out, Angola's civil war continued into 2002, precipitated by continuing US aid to UNITA insurgents and controversies over the first elections conducted after the 1991 peace accords and Cuban withdrawal. Of course, by that time Cuban internationalism had to take a backseat, as Cuba lost close to half its GDP during that period; you can't blame Cuba for not being able to counter the US in the 1990s, but at least earlier Cuban support gave dos Santos and the MPLA a stronger footing to able to handle the new phase of the civil war.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
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Post 07 Sep 2011, 18:50
Marshal Konev has already eloquently explained virtually everything that I would have wanted to. I would only add that it is not the fault of the Cubans (or any other progressive forces fighting in Angola) that their opponents waged such a long, dirty and destructive campaign (planting landmines in croplands and bombing industry and infrastructure). As for South Africa's stability, the revolutions and wars throughout southern Africa only worked to destabilize the Apartheid Regime, and my own view is that if the USSR did not withdraw from conflicts around the world (and Cuba, East Germany, and others with her), it would only be a matter of time before the White regime was overthrown to be replaced by a leftist government.

As for Mr. Zhdarkin, I've taken a look at his Russian language memoirs, and my translation of the Russian version of the memoirs goes like this:

"I do not want to say anything bad about the South African soldiers, because they fought well and competently, they were white, and we were treated by them as whites to whites (I had already talked about the ultimatum). The funny thing is that the white Cubans said "we, as the saying goes, are ready to shake hands with the white South Africans." Maybe this is racism. But even the blacks from both sides treated each other the same way. Among other things, we were soldiers and were all carrying out our duties."

That is a direct translation (I don't know who carried out the English-language one). As you can see this version changes the meaning of the passage somewhat. However, even if it does indicate some racism on the part of Zhdarkin or some white Cubans, it was the action of progressive nations, not the views of a few perhaps foolish individuals, which ultimately counted. The Soviets and the Cubans fought on the side of black liberation struggle against racist and imperialist injustice -this is a historical fact.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Sep 2011, 17:03
Pioneer
Post 08 Sep 2011, 14:21
Quote:
In both cases, Cuba's presence prevented Angola and Namibia from becoming puppet states of racist South Africa and the US (which made them supporters of true liberation and not just nominal liberation).

I don't fully agree with this statement. Cuban presence would never have prevented South Africa from retaining close ties with South Africa. Large
groups of both countries' population share a common history and culture (to some extent). Not even 20 years of SWAPO rule could change that.
I stand firm to say that it only hardened Pretoria's resolve to keep control of Namibia. The only reason why the Apartheid government remained in power for so long, was the white minorities fear of socialism.

Unlike popular believe, the US never really had much influence over Namibian and South African politics or way of thinking. (Their poisonous cultural influence through mass media is another matter.)

Quote:
Of course, as pointed out, Angola's civil war continued into 2002, precipitated by continuing US aid to UNITA insurgents and controversies over the first elections conducted after the 1991 peace accords and Cuban withdrawal. Of course, by that time Cuban internationalism had to take a backseat, as Cuba lost close to half its GDP during that period; you can't blame Cuba for not being able to counter the US in the 1990s, but at least earlier Cuban support gave dos Santos and the MPLA a stronger footing to able to handle the new phase of the civil war.


How much of Cuban internationalism is not really aimed at countering American Imperialism ? This to me is a reactive rather than a proactive gesture, which lacks sincerity. I would also like to have Cuba's presence in Ethiopia in the 60's explained to me.

I have to point this very ironic fact out. The MPLA's later successes against UNITA can be ascribed, to a lesser extent, to the presence of ex-SADF mercenaries that fought on the side of the MPLA against UNITA. After the fall of Apartheid there was no place fore some of the SADF veterans in the new SADF.

I am of the opinion that 1) Africans must solve Africa's problems. Foreign involvement in Africa did more harm than good. Why is it that foreign assistance always comes in the form of military hardware and advise ?
2) Victory could only be achieved by the political will of the people, not through military might. Yet it is always the useless military actions that are glorified.

Southern Africa (Namibia and South Africa) gained their independence and freedom through peacful means, not through war.

soviet78 wrote:
But the USSR did support Angola tremendously as well. It provided the transport capacity to ferry the Cubans over to the country in the heady days of late 1975. It didn't have combat forces there but did provide military advisors, some of whom also died in the conflict. The USSR didn't play nearly as tremendous a role as Cuba -especially considering the latter's relative size, but it played an important role nonetheless. That's why I'm hoping RC didn't mean the USSR.


This is true. Soviet advisers were actively involved in the FAPLA campaign of 1987.

Quote:
As for South Africa's stability, the revolutions and wars throughout southern Africa only worked to destabilize the Apartheid Regime, and my own view is that if the USSR did not withdraw from conflicts around the world (and Cuba, East Germany, and others with her), it would only be a matter of time before the White regime was overthrown to be replaced by a leftist government.


I do not agree with this. I am of the opinion that it served the interest of the Apartheid Government to have wars in their neighbouring countries. Unstable neighbours enabled Pretoria to strike at guerilla bases without much hindrance. There are numeroud reports of South African Agents that attacked guerilla bases in Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe. This would not have been possible if these countries had not been tavaged by civil wars.

It gave them an excuse to maintain a strong military and "justified" some of their oppresive laws. The Apartheid system isolated the regime from the
Western world. The presence of Cuba and the USSR in Angola (as example) allowed them limited support in the rest of the World, otherwise sanctions would have forced them to their knees.

Quote:
That is a direct translation (I don't know who carried out the English-language one). As you can see this version changes the meaning of the passage somewhat. However, even if it does indicate some racism on the part of Zhdarkin or some white Cubans, it was the action of progressive nations, not the views of a few perhaps foolish individuals, which ultimately counted. The Soviets and the Cubans fought on the side of black liberation struggle against racist and imperialist injustice -this is a historical fact.


I thank you for giving the correct translation. In my defence I was not responsible for the translation. It was done for my by a friend that knows a bit of Russian. I do apologise on his behalf for getting this wrong. I still feel that this points to some racism, that still places some question marks on the Cuba's internationalism claim.

I do have to point out that most of the PLAN fighters speak with fondness of their Cuban comrades, most did find it strange that most of the Cuban oficers were white, while the soldiers were black.

Please forgive my harsh opinions, but this is Africa. Each country has numerous tribes and cultures. Most of the logic, politics and arguements will be influenced by this.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 17 Jul 2006, 00:10
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Post 08 Sep 2011, 17:27
Welcome to SE, SWAPO! Your posts are very interesting but I'll have to ask you to avoid double posting. Try putting everything in one post so we can avoid having too many posts in one topic. No problem however, you're new here, keep up the good work!
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Sep 2011, 17:03
Pioneer
Post 08 Sep 2011, 18:24
Thanks for the welcome. I will try to stop the double posting.

I would like to emphasise that I respect the opinion of others. The fact that I disagree and share alternate views should not be seen as disrespect.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 17 Jul 2006, 00:10
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Post 08 Sep 2011, 18:40
have no fear, i wont be deleting your posts because you disagree with others. i'm only here to ensure civil debate, not censoring others opinions. however, if i may, i would politely ask you to make a post in introduction forum. i'm sure many people would like to know more about you since we dont get many people from africa. of course this is not necessary, but it is recommended. that is all, have fun and enjoy!
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Jugoslavija je bleda slika
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zato je njeno ljudstvo navajeno trpeti
zato je njeno ljudstvo pripravljeno umreti.

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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 16 Nov 2005, 17:55
Party Bureaucrat
Post 09 Sep 2011, 13:20
Quote:
How much of Cuban internationalism is not really aimed at countering American Imperialism ? This to me is a reactive rather than a proactive gesture, which lacks sincerity. I would also like to have Cuba's presence in Ethiopia in the 60's explained to me.


I would consider "resistance to imperialism" a component of internationalism and solidarity; Cuba was helping Angola preserve its hard-won, fragile independence against a desperate attempt by South Africa and the United States to retain real neo-colonial control over Angolan affairs following Portugal's departure. After all, that has been the modus operandi of the dominant western powers in Africa, as Kwame Nkrumah had identified in 1965.

Generally, most countries act out of self-interest, but in spite of that, I tend to think there was some degree of sincerity in Cuba's actions. If we are talking about the US, USSR, South Africa, or any other regional or global power getting involved in Angola, then economic self-interest would be an obvious motive. However, for Cuba, a small country of limited resources that was regionally isolated, to reach out to the MPLA the way it did and not demand or gain much in return suggests to me an honest effort to help a friend (Agostinho Neto, in this case), while temporarily earning some extra good will around the world.

Quote:
I don't fully agree with this statement. Cuban presence would never have prevented South Africa from retaining close ties with South Africa.


I did not say that. What I was saying was that Cuba prevented Angola and Namibia from being puppet states of South Africa. Obviously, those nations would have close ties, but it's the nature of these ties that was in consideration.

Quote:
The Apartheid system isolated the regime from the
Western world. The presence of Cuba and the USSR in Angola (as example) allowed them limited support in the rest of the World, otherwise sanctions would have forced them to their knees.


Not necessarily true because
1. Without Cuban and USSR support in Angola and other parts of Africa, you would have most Western puppets doing business with South Africa (such as Angola) out of practicality.
2. Countries like the US and Britain only nominally supported these sanctions. In reality, there were several US and British companies in South Africa with lucrative mining contracts (like Anglo American PLC, for example), sponsored by a business-friendly, albeit apartheid, government. Regardless of Cold War geopolitics, the economic interest that the powerful mining sector had in South Africa would have been enough to render these sanctions useless.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 24 Oct 2011, 20:22
New Comrade (Say hi & be nice to me!)
Post 26 Oct 2011, 15:09
Has any of you called Marxists know the suffering, hunger, blood, and missery that the cuban people had to endure in order for Castro to gain a leader recognition in the world? Does any of you know the billions of dollars invested in Castro's image that could so well have been used in taking Cuba out of the ridiculous economic and social situation in which it stands today?
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 16 Nov 2005, 17:55
Party Bureaucrat
Post 26 Oct 2011, 16:55
If you have objective details and statistics, it would be interesting to know further.
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"History is a set of lies agreed upon."
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