“When we face new and unexpected challenges we will always be able to recall the epic of Angola with gratitude. Without Angola we would not be as strong as we are today.”
—RAÚL CASTRO, MAY 1991
Beginning in 1975 an epic battle was waged for the future of southern Africa. The Angolan people had just thrown off 500 years of Portuguese colonial brutality. Now South Africa’s white supremacist regime, spurred by Washington, had invaded Angola. Its goal: to impose a government beholden to Pretoria and imperialism.
Angola’s government appealed for help. The response of Cuba’s leadership was immediate and decisive. A hard-fought war for freedom ended in 1988 at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, with the crushing defeat of South Africa’s army by Angolan, Cuban, and Namibian combatants.
This is the story of Cuba’s unparalleled contribution to the fight to free Africa from the scourge of apartheid. And how, in the doing, Cuba’s socialist revolution also was strengthened.
Harry Villegas is a brigadier general of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces. He is known the world over as “Pombo,” the nom de guerre given him by Ernesto Che Guevara, at whose side he worked and fought in Cuba, the Congo, and Bolivia.