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Operation “Carlota”: A Cuban military saga

AngSoldadosOn 25 April nineteen seventy four, the Carnation Revolution took place in Portugal, ending one of the oldest dictatorships in Europe and accelerating the independence in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, one of them in Angola, where a liberation war had erupted back in nineteen sixty one.

The birth of freedom was complex, and dark forces threatened to drown it. Three forces were at that moment fighting independently in that African territory: The Popular Movement for the Independence of Angola, the EM PI EL EI, led by doctor Agostinho Neto; the National Front for the Liberation of Angola, EF EN EL EI, headed by Holden Roberto: and the National Union for the Independence of Angola, UNITA, for its acronym in Portuguese, led by Jonas Savimbi.Of the three of them, only the first one , the EM PI EL EI, had a truly progressive national project, and very soon the other two groups were seduced by the United States, South Africa and the Government headed by dictator Joseph Mobutu, in neighbouring Zaire.

At Washington’s behest, the latter two combined to launch an invasion on several fronts against the independence forces headed by the EM PI EL EI. Free Angola would have died before being born, but in such delicate circumstances President Agostiño Neto asked far away Cuba for help.

Cuba, a small island nation, blockaded by the strongest power in the world and almost ten thousand kilometers away, issued a prompt answer: Cuba’s return message to Angola changed the course of the war and of history in a vast area of Africa’s South Western corner.

On two November nineteen seventy five, in the town of Caporolo, a group of Cuban advisors faced opposing forces, and for the first time Cuban and Angolan blood was spilled together on African soil.

On November four, after learning of that battle, the Commander in Chief and Historic Leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, ordered the deployment of the first Cuban combat units by air and sea.

Thus began Operation Carlota, one of the most outstanding military feats in modern history.

The Cuban troops and the patriotic Angolan Forces commanded by the EM PI EL EI, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola, resoundly defeated the aggressors near Luanda, Angola’s capital, and in Cabinda, an Angolan enclave in Congolese territory.

The historic victory allowed Angolan leader Agostiño Neto to proclaim the full independence of Angola on eleven November nineteen seventy five.

But the Free Angolan history had just begun. The fury of the United States and of its ally, racist South Africa, promoter of apartheid, unleashed a war that ended with an impressive victory of the freedom forces—Angolan and Cuban—topped by the historic Cuito Canavale battle, between December nineteen eighty seven and March nineteen eighty eight, which broke the back bone of the South Africa racist regime.

The consolidation of the sovereignty of Angola, the independence of Namibia, coupled with the ousting of the racist regime in South Africa and the installation of a democratic government in that former aggressive nation, were direct results of that resounding military victory.

Some three hundred thousand Cubans participated in that historic saga, while two thousand lost their lives in battle.

When Cuba returned home from Africa after fulfilling this honourable internationalist mission it only brought back the honour of its gallant participation and the bodies of its fallen sons, who were
buried in their own soil.

The history written by Cuba and by its combatants in Angola will live as long as there remains a single free, dignified person that remembers it.

(By Guillermo Alvarado, Radio Habana Cuba)

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