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Linton Gordon | Fidel Castro - Africa's amigo

Published:Wednesday | November 30, 2016 | 11:00 AM

Cuban President Fidel Castro has gone the way that we will all be going. He lived a long and colourful life of 90 years. His life has been celebrated by some, while others have condemned him as a brutal dictator.

No one can deny how much advancement the Cuban people have made under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Cuba has a public medical system that is the envy of several countries, including some of the most advanced countries in the world. Their education system is second to none, and to a great extent, Jamaicans are benefiting tremendously from Cuba's advances in medicine in that several of our doctors, some of whom are leading practitioners, were trained in Cuba.

However, there is an aspect of Castro's leadership that we Jamaicans must never ever overlook, and that is the hand of support and friendship that Castro extended to Africa and, in particular, Angola in 1975. Up to 1975, Angola was a colony of Portugal, and the European country was experiencing a rapid decline in its power and was granting independence to a number of its colonies, including Angola.

There were three national groups in Angola contending for power: The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The South African Defence Form, which had unlawfully invaded Namibia to the south of Angola, crossed the border into Angola and joined forces with FNLA in a war against the MPLA.

At the same time, the forces of UNITA coming from the north and backed by President Mabutu, the reactionary president of Zaire, were waging a deadly war against the MPLA. UNITA was heavily backed by the United States and the United Kingdom. The MPLA forces were in a desperate situation as the South African Defence Force and the FNLA forces had reached the outskirts of Luanda, the capital of Angola, on November 4, 1975.

 

Combat uniform

 

The leadership of MPLA, led by Agostinho Neto, pleaded with Castro for help. Castro launched Operation Carlota, named after Black Carlota, the leader of a slave rebellion. Castro dispatched 100 highly trained special forces to Luanda. These elite troops landed at the airport at Luanda on November 7, 1975, and while the plane was taxiing to a halt, they were changing into combat uniform and equipping themselves.

When they exited the plane, they could hear hostile firing in the distance. These 100 elite troops hit the ground fighting. They were able to hold and protect the airport and kept it safe for planes to bring in additional troops. Castro deployed additional troops to Angola and they were available to defeat the South African Defence Force, the FNLA and UNITA.

The CIA and the British Intelligence Forces arranged for several mercenaries to join with UNITA in the fight against MPLA. Several of them were captured and placed on public trial, much to the humiliation of the Americans and the British.

The defeat of the previously thought invincible South African Defence Force conveyed to the liberation fighters throughout Africa that with proper training, equipment and leadership, they could defeat any force they are up against.

Castro saved Angola from being taken over by South Africa and the other colonial forces, mainly the United States and the United Kingdom. He dealt a deadly blow to the apartheid regime in South Africa and to the racist governments of the United States and the United Kingdom which wanted to see a South African-type government in Angola and in Namibia.

We in Jamaica celebrated the victory of the Cubans and the MPLA over the forces of colonialism and evil in the music of Tapper Zukie, who produced the song MPLA, which became very popular in Jamaica.

Therefore, in remembering Fidel Castro, we must always bear in mind his very important and outstanding contribution in protecting our brothers in Africa from the evil acts and intentions of racist colonists who in the '70s were still bent on maintaining racism and apartheid.

• Linton P. Gordon is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.