Cuba's Renewed Support of
Violence in Latin America
[Special Report No. 90, Cuba's Renewed Support of Violence in Latin America, December 14, 1981,
United States Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.]
Following is the text of research paper presented to the Subcommittee by the Department of State, December 11, 1981.
III. CASE STUDIES
Nicaragua .. El Salvador .. Guatemala .. Costa Rica .. Honduras
Jamaica .. Guyana .. Grenada .. Dominican Republic
Colombia .. Chile .. Argentina .. Uruguay
IV. POSTSCRIPT [footnotes]
Any formulation of U.S. foreign policy for Latin America and the
Caribbean would be incomplete without in-depth analysis of Cuba's role
in the region. Some of Cuba's international activities have received
publicity and attention, but much has taken place out of the public
view. While understanding the full range of Cuba's activities abroad is
obviously essential for governments engaged in foreign policy planning,
the general public is often uninformed about the nature and extent of
Cuba's involvement in other countries. This study of Cuban activities
in Latin America and the Caribbean is being issued in the interest of
contributing to better public understanding of U.S. foreign policy and
developments in the region.
The focus of this study is Cuba's activities in the Americas. It does
not attempt to give a description of conditions in the countries in
which Cuba is active or to analyze why violent groups develop, but
instead examines the degree to which Cuba is directly engaged in
efforts to destabilized its neighbors by promoting armed opposition
movements. Cuba is clearly no the sole source of violence and
instability in the region, but Cuban activities militarize and
internationalize what would otherwise be local conflicts. In a region
whose primary needs are for economic development, social equity, and
greater democracy, Cuba is compounding existing problems by encouraging
This report describes Cuban activities that are either publicly known
or can be revealed without jeopardizing intelligence sources and
methods. Cuban involvement is not limited to the examples contained in
A country-by-country examination of Cuba's activities in Latin America
and the Caribbean makes clear that Cuba has renewed its campaign of the
1960s to promote armed insurgencies. In particular, Cuba has stepped up
efforts to stimulate violence and destabilize its neighbors, turning
away from its earlier policy of strengthening normal diplomatic
relations in the hemisphere.
Since 1978, Cuba has:
· Worked to unite traditionally splintered radical groups behind
a commitment to armed struggle with Cuban advice and material
· Trained ideologically committed cadres in urban and rural guerrilla warfare;
· Supplied or arranged for the supply of weapons to support the Cuban trained cadres' efforts to assume power by force;
· Encouraged terrorism in the hope of provoking indiscriminate
violence and repression, in order to weaken government legitimacy and
attract new converts to armed struggle; and
· Used military aid and advisors to gain influence over
guerrilla fronts and radical governments through armed pro Cuban
Unlike Che Guevara's attempts during the 1960s, Cuban subversion today
is backed by an extensive secret intelligence and training apparatus,
modern military forces, and a large and sophisticated propaganda
network. Utilizing agents and contract nurtured over more than 20
years, the Castro government is providing ideological and military
training and material and propaganda support to numerous violent
groups, often several in one country.
Cuba is most active in Central America, where its immediate goals are
to exploit and control the revolution in Nicaragua and to induce the
overthrow of the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala. At the same
time, Cuba is working to destabilize governments elsewhere in the
hemisphere. Cuba provides advise, safehaven, communications, training,
and some financial support to several violent South American
organizations. In the Caribbean, Cuban interference in the
post-election period has been blunted in Jamaica, but Grenada has
become a virtual Cuban client.
Cuba's new drive to promote armed insurgency does not discriminate
between democracy and dictatorships. And attempts by Cuba to
destabilize governments occur in spite of the existence of diplomatic
This long-range campaign is directed by the Cuban Communist Party,
which oversees far-flung operations that include secret training camps
in Cuba, intelligence officers abroad, and propaganda support. Cuba's
enormous investment of energy, money, and agents in the campaign would
not be possible without Soviet help. Soviet assistance, now totaling
over $8 million a day, enable Cuba to maintain the best equipped and
largest per capita military forces in Latin America and to channel
substantial resources abroad. In return, Cuba usually is careful not to
jeopardize ongoing government relationships in Latin America important
to the Soviet Union.
· In Nicaragua, Cuba has quietly increased its presence to 5,000
personnel, including more than 1,500 security and military advisers.
· In El Salvador, Cuba's key role in arming the Salvadoran guerrillas was exposed and Castro admitted supplying arms.
· In Costa Rica, a Special Legislative Commission documented
Cuba's role in establishing an arms supply network during the
Nicaraguan civil war and found the network was later used to supply
· In Colombia, Cuba was discovered to have trained guerrillas attempting to establish a "people's army."
Cuba's new policies abroad and its reaction to emigration pressures at
home have reversed the trend in Latin America toward normalization of
relations with Cuba. During the last 2 years, Colombia, Costa Rica, and
Jamaica suspended or broke relations with Cuba. Venezuela, Peru, and
Ecuador withdrew their ambassadors from Havana.
Cuban intervention is, of course, not the sole source of instability.
The origins of occasional violent conflict in Latin America lie in
historical social and economical inequalities which have generated
frustration among a number of people. Sustained economic growth over
the past 20 years and resilient national institutions, however, have
limited appeal of radical groups. But in some countries, particularly
the small nations of Central America, dislocations resulting from rapid
growth compounded existing tensions, leading to the emergence in
several countries of radical movements, which often originated with
frustrated elements of the middle class. Subsequent economic reversals
have subjected already weak institutions to additional stress, making
these countries more vulnerable to the appeals of radical groups backed
Cuba is quick to exploit legitimate grievances for its own ends. But
its strategy of armed struggle is not based on appeals to the "people."
Instead, Cuba concentrates on developing self-proclaimed "vanguards"
committed to violent action. Revolutions, according to this approach,
are made by armed revolutionaries.
Cuba's readiness to train, equip, and advise those who opt for violent
solutions impose obstacles to economic progress, democratic
development, and self-determination in countries faced with growing
economic difficulties. The spiraling cycle of violence and
counter-violence which is central to Cuba's policy only exacerbates the
suffering of ordinary people and makes necessary adjustments more
Cuba's renewed campaign of violence is of great concern to many
countries, including the United States. Cuba should not escape
responsibility for its actions. Exposing Cuba's efforts to promote
armed struggle will increase the costs to Cuba of its intervention.
When it first came to power, the Castro regime had its own theory of
how to spread revolution: to reproduce elsewhere the rural-based
guerrilla warfare experience of Castro's 26th of July Movement in Cuba.
In Che Guevara's words, the Andes would become the Sierra Maestra of
Initial attempts to repeat Cuba's revolution elsewhere failed
decisively. During the late 1960s, the Castro regime gradually reined
in its zealots. Without abandoning its ideology or its ties to radical
states and movements, Cuba began to pursue normal
government-to-government relations in the hemisphere. By the mid-1970s
Cuba's isolation in the Americas eased, and full diplomatic or consular
relations were reestablished with a number of countries.
But diplomacy proved unable to satisfy the Castro government's
ambitions. First in Africa and now in Latin America and the
Caribbean, Cuba's policy has again shifted to reemphasize intervention.
On July 26, 1980, Fidel Castro declared that the experiences of
Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, and Bolivia teach us that there is no
other way than revolution, that there is no other "formula" than
"revolutionary armed struggle." Castro's statement was an attempt to
justify publicly what Cuban agents had been doing secretly since 1978:
stepping up support for armed insurgency in neighboring countries.
This study traces the development of this latest phase in Cuba's foreign policy.
Early Failures. The original Cuban theory held that a continental
Marxist revolution could be achieved by establishing armed focal points
(focos) in several countries. Operating in rural areas, small bands of
guerrillas could initiate struggles that would spread throughout the
In 1959, Castro aided armed expeditions against Panama, the Dominican
Republic, and Haiti. During the early and mid-1960s, Guatemala,
Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia all faced serious Cuban-baked
attempts to develop guerrilla focos.
In seeking indigenous groups with which to cooperate, the Cubans
rejected orthodox Latin American Communist parties, which they regarded
as ineffectual. Instead, they lent their support to more militant
groups dedicated to armed violence even when their Marxism was not
The Soviet Union was suspicious of Cuba's policy of inciting armed
violence, preferring to work through established Moscow-line Communist
parties. Disagreement over this issue was a serious point of friction
for several years. Cuba denounced the Soviet policy of "peaceful
coexistence" as a fraud, arguing that it implicitly undercut the
legitimacy of aiding "national liberation" struggles. At the 1966
Tricontinental Conference, Cuba sought to enlist North Vietnam and
North Korea and create a more aggressive revolutionary internationalism.
None of the Latin American insurgencies fomented by Havana, however,
aroused much popular support. The most sever blow to Cuba's policy
during this period came in Bolivia in 1967, when Che Guevera's
guerrilla band was opposed by both the peasantry and the Bolivian
After this maverick approach failed to establish a continental
revolution, Cuban foreign policy moved into closer conformity with that
of the Soviet Union. Castro endorsed the 1968 Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia and accepted Soviet views on East-West relations. Within
the hemisphere, Cuba generally conformed to the Soviet approach of
fostering state-to-state relations with several Latin
The Turn to Africa. In the mid-1970s, Cuba renewed its penchant for direct intervention, not in Latin America but in Africa.(1
· In Angola, 20,000 Cuban troops, supported by Soviet logistics
and materiel, assured the supremacy of the Popular Movement for the
Liberation of Angola, which had the strongest ties to Moscow of the
three movements competing for power after Portugal's withdraw.
· In Ethiopia, the integration of Soviet and Cuban operations
was even more complete, with the Soviets providing overall command and
control, materiel, and transportation for 13-15,000 Cuban troops
fighting against Somali forces.
The Moscow-Havana Axis. These African operations gave evidence of
Cuba's military value to the Soviet Union. In areas of the Third World
where the Soviets were under constraints not binding on Cuba, Havana
could portray its actions as an outgrowth of its own foreign policy of
support for "national liberation movements."
Cuba's extensive and costly activities overseas would have been
impossible, however, without Soviet aid. The Cuban armed forces, some
225,000 strong, with new sophisticated weaponry from the Soviet Union,
became a formidable offensive military machine. Soviet aid and
subsidies to the Cuban economy have climbed to more than $3 billion
annually of about one-fourth of Cuba's gross national product. In
December 1979, at a time when Soviet oil deliveries to Eastern Europe
were being cut back and prices raised, Castro announced that the Soviet
Union had guaranteed Cuba's oil needs through 1985 [1975?] at a price
roughly one-third that of the world market. The Soviet Union also pays
up to four and five times the world price for Cuban sugar.(2
In return, Cuba champions the notion of a "natural alliance" between
the Soviet bloc and the Third World in the nonaligned movement. At the
Cuban Communist Party Congress in December 1980, Castro explicitly
endorsed the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and defended the Soviet
"right" to intervene in Poland. He also reiterated that Cuba is
irrevocably committed to communism and to supporting "national
liberation" struggles around the world.
Cuba's policies abroad are thus linked to its relationship to the
Soviet Union. By intervening in Latin America, Cuba injects East-West
dimensions into local conflicts.
Even when pursuing an open policy in the 1970s of establishing normal
diplomatic relations with a number of Latin American countries, Cuba
retained its clandestine ties with remnants of the insurgents and other
pro-Cuban elements in Latin America, providing asylum, propaganda, some
training, and other support. Between 1970 and 1973, Cuba's security
services moved arms and agents into Chile. At the same time, Cubans
helped organize President Allende's personal security and trained many
leaders of the Chilean Movement of the Revolutionary Left.
Cuba's renewed campaign to promote insurgencies draws on these contacts and experiences and combines several different elements.
Sophisticated Strategy. Learning from Che Guevara's failure in Bolivia,
Cuban doctrine now emphasizes the need to enlist support for armed
struggle through advanced training of local guerrilla cadres, sustained
aid and advice, and extensive propaganda activities. The foco approach
of the 1960s -- when a Cuban-sponsored team in the field was considered
enough to spark insurrection -- has given way to a more sophisticated
strategy involving extensive commitments and risks.
Soviet Support. A major difference from the 1960s is that, instead of
throwing up obstacles, the Soviet Union generally has backed Cuban
efforts to incorporate nondoctrinaire groups into broad
political-military fronts dedicated to armed struggle. Particularly in
Central America, Soviet ties to local Communist parties and bloc
relationships have been used to favor insurrectionary violence. For
example, a senior Soviet Communist Party functionary traveled to Panama
in August 1981 to discuss strategy for Central America with Cuban
officials and leaders of Central American Communist parties. The Soviet
Union has also used its extensive propaganda network to discredit
governments and build support for armed opposition groups.
Allowing Havana to take the lead in the hemisphere enables Moscow to
maintain a low profile and cultivate state-to-state relations and
economic ties with major countries like Brazil and Argentina.
Cuba, in turn, is generally cautious not to undercut the Soviet Union
where the Soviets have established valued relationships. In Peru, for
example, Cuba has been careful to exercise restraint to avoid
prejudicing the status of the 300 Soviet officials there of
jeopardizing the Soviet Union's arms supply arrangement.
Central Control. Most of the covert operations in support of this
strategy are planned and coordinated by the America Department of the
Cuban Communist Party, headed by Manuel Piñeiro Losada. The
American Department emerged in 1974 to centralized operational control
of Cuba's covert activities. The department brings together the
expertise of the Cuban military and the General Directorate of
Intelligence into a far flung operation that includes secret training
camps in Cuba, networks for covert movement of personnel and materiel
between Cuba and abroad, and sophisticated propaganda support.
Agents of the America Department are present in every Cuban diplomatic
mission in Latin America and the Caribbean -- in at least five recent
instances in the person of the ambassador or charge d'affaires.
American Department officials frequently serve as employees of Cuba's
official press agency, Prensa Latina, of Cuban Airlines, the Cuban
Institute of Friendship with People, and other apparently benign
organizations. When too great an identification with Cuba proves
counterproductive, Cuban intelligence officers work through front
groups, preferably those with non-Cuban leadership.(3
Cuban military intelligence personnel selected for clandestine
operations in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East go through an
elaborate training program conducted by Cuban, Soviet, East German, and
Czech instructors in Havana, with special sessions in surrounding
cities. In addition to the language and customs of the area to which
they are assigned, and typical intelligence operation such as
infiltration procedures and photograph techniques, the Cubans are
instructed in handling explosives. To disguise their true occupation,
the intelligence agents are also instructed in civilian skills such as
automotive mechanics, carpentry, and heavy equipment operation.
Armed Struggle. The new Cuban offensive relies heavily on violence. In outline, Cuba's strategy is to:
· Unite traditionally splintered radical groups behind a
commitment to armed struggle with Cuban advice and material assistance;
· Train idelogically committed cadres in urban and rural guerrilla warfare;
· Supply or arrange for the supply of weapons to support the Cuban-trained cadres' efforts to assume power by force;
· Encourage terrorism in the hope of provoking indiscriminate
violence and repression and generalized legitimacy and attract new
converts to armed struggle; and
· Use military aid and advisers to gain influence over guerrilla
fronts and radical governments through armed pro-Cuban Marxists.
The application of this strategy is demonstrated in detail in the case
studies that follow. It should be noted, however, that Cuba sometimes
emphasizes certain tactics over others. In pursuing its long-term
strategy, Cuba concentrates initially on building a network of loyal
cadres. When local extremist groups are not capable of or committed to
armed struggle, Cuba generally draws on them in support of active
insurgencies elsewhere while developing their capacity and willingness
for agitation in their homeland. In addition, foreign policy concerns
may deter Cuba from promoting armed struggle in a particular country.
For example, Cuba attempts to avoid activities which could jeopardize
its relations with the Mexican Government since Castro seeks Mexico's
support to avoid isolation in the hemisphere.(4
Propaganda. Cuba's extensive cultural exchange and propaganda
activities are tailored to support covert operation and elicit support
for armed struggle.(5
) For example, during the past
year, Cuban have used Mexico as a base of insurgents in El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Colombia. Radio Havana and other Cuban media recently
have publicized statements by Chilean Communist Party leaders urging
unity of the Chilean left and calling for armed action to topple
Chile's government. Radio Havana has directed broadcasts to Paraguay
urging the overthrow of the Paraguayan Government.
Sports competitions, youth and culture festivals, and special
scholarships to Cuba provide channels to identify potential agents for
intelligence and propaganda operations. In Ecuador, Cuban Embassy
officers in Quito used their ties with Ecuadoran students to try to
orchestrate pro-Cuba demonstrations when the Government of Ecuador
threatened to suspend relations after Cuba's forcible and unauthorized
occupation in February 1981 of the Ecuadoran Embassy in Havana,
following its seizure by a group of Cubans seeking to leave Cuba.
Military Training. Witnesses and former trainees have described several
camps in Cuba dedicated specifically to military training, including
one in Pinar del Rio Province and another near Guanabo, east of Havana.
The camps can accommodate several hundred trainees. Groups from El
Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia,
Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Chile, and Uruguay
have been trained in these facilities during the past 2 years.(6
Recruits are normally provided false documentation (sometimes Cuban
passports) by Cuban agents in third countries and are flown to Cuba on
civil aircraft under cover as "students" or other occupations. Panama
has been used as a regular transit point for Central and South
Americans to and from military training in Cuba.(7
Once in Cuba, trainees generally are taken immediately to the guerrilla
training camps where they usually are grouped according to nationality
and the organization for which they are being trained in order to
promote a sense of cohesiveness and esprit de corps.
Training normally last 3-6 months and consists of instruction by Cuban
cadres in sabotage, explosives, military tactics, and weapon use.
Although military training is frequently tied closely to operational
requirements -- the M-19 guerrillas who landed in Colombia in early
1981 did so immediately upon completion of their military instruction
in Cuba -- witnesses report that political indoctrination is
also included in the curriculum.
Many Cuban instructors are active military officers and veterans of
Cuban expeditionary forces in Africa. Soviet personnel have been
reported at these camps, but they apparently do not participate
directly in the guerrilla training.
Political Training. Each year Cuba offers hundreds of scholarships to
foreign students. All Cuban mass organizations operate schools in
organizational work and indoctrination open to carefully selected
) In addition, some 11,000
non-Cuban secondary school students, mostly teenagers, were enrolled in
1980 in 15 schools on the Isle of Youth alone. Cuba does not publicize
complete foreign enrollment statistics nor does it release the names of
those trained. From the eastern Caribbean alone, close to 300 students
are currently in Cuba studying technical and academic subjects. The
study of Marxism-Leninism is compulsory in many courses, and military
affairs is compulsory in some. When governments have turned down Cuban
scholarship offers, as occurred recently in Belize and Dominica, Cuba
has gone ahead and concluded private agreements. Local Marxist-Leninist
groups with ties to Cuba play a major role in selecting those students
who receive scholarships.
In sum, the infrastructure for Cuba's intensified revolutionary
agitation in Latin America is a multifaceted yet carefully coordinated
mechanism. The Cuban Communist Party, through its American Department,
provides cohesion and direction to a complex network that consists of
intelligence officers, elements of Cuba's foreign ministry, armed
forces, mass organizations, commercial and cultural entities, and front
This extensive apparatus is designed to support one objective: a systematic, long-range campaign to destabilize governments.
III. CASE STUDIES
The Cuban activities described in the case studies which follow must be
considered to understand developments within the countries in question.
However, the focus of the case studies is Cuban involvement in each
country. Readers should, therefore, guard against assuming that the
cases below provide a comprehensive picture of the general situation in
the country where the events described have
In July 1979, internal and external factors converged to bring about
the triumph of the anti-Somoza insurrection and the subsequent
domination of the new Nicaraguan Government by the Cuban-trained
leadership of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). These
events provided a key test for Cuba's new mechanism and strategy for
promoting armed pro-Cuban movements in this hemisphere.
Opposition to Somoza's authoritarian rule in the late 1970s was
widespread. The 1978 killing of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, publisher of
Nicaragua's most respected newspaper, La Prensa, converted many
Nicaraguans to the armed opposition of which the FSLN was the core;
FSLN assurances on democracy and pluralism were accepted by newly albed
political moderates and private businessmen. International, sympathy
for the struggle against Somoza led Venezuela, Panama, and Costa Rica
to aid the insurgents, while Somoza stood practically without friends.
This environment enabled Cuba to disguise the extent of its support for
the FSLN and avoid disrupting the fragile alliances between FSLN and
other opponents of Somoza. Behind the scenes, Cuba played an active
role in organizing the FSLN and in training and equipping its military.
Cuba had provided some training and arms to the FSLN in the early
1960s. Until late 1977, however, Cuban support consisted mainly of
propaganda and safehaven.
In 1977 and early 1978, a high-ranking America Department official, Armando Ulises Estrada,(9
made numerous secret trips to facilitate the uprising by working to
unify the three major factions of the FSLN. Stepped-up Cuban support to
the Sandinistas was conditional on effective unity. During the XI World
Youth Festival in Havana in late July 1978, the Cubans announced that
the unification of the three factions had been achieved and urged Latin
American radicals present at the meeting to demonstrate solidarity with
the FSLN by staging operations in their own countries.
At the same time, Estrada concentrated on building a supply network for
channeling arms and other supplies to guerrilla forces. International
sympathy for the struggle against Somoza provided a convenient facade
for Cuban operations. In preparation for the first FSLN offensive in
the fall 1978, arms were flown from Cuba to Panama, transshipped to
Costa Rica on smaller planes, and supplied to
Nicaraguan guerrillas based in northern Costa Rica. To monitor and
assist the flow, the America Department established a secret operations
center in San Jose. By the End of 1978, Cuban advisers were dispatched
to northern Costa Rica to train and equip the FSLN forces with arms
which began to arrive direct from Cuba. FSLN guerrillas trained in
Cuba, however, continued to return to Nicaragua via Panama.
In early 1979, Cuba helped organize, arm, and transport an
"internationalist brigade" to fight alongside FSLN guerrillas. Members
were drawn from several Central and South American extremist groups,
many of them experienced in terrorist activities. Castro also
dispatched Cuban military specialist to the field to help coordinate
the war efforts. Factionalism threatened Sandinista unity agin in early
1979, and Castro met personally with leaders of three FSLN factions to
hammer out a renewed unity pact.
When the insurgents' final offensive was launched in mid-1979, Cuban
military advisers from the Department of Special Operations, a special
military unit, were with FSLN columns and maintained direct radio
communications to Havana. A number of Cuban advisers were wounded in
combat and were evacuated to Cuba via Panama.
The operations center run by the America Department in San Jose was the
focal point for coordination of Cuba's support. After the triumph of
the anti-Somoza forces in July 1979, the chief of the center, Julian
Lopez Diaz, became Cuban Ambassador to Nicaragua. One of this America
Department assistants in San Jose, Andres Barahona, was redocumented as
a Nicaraguan citizen and became a top official of the Nicaraguan
Castro has counseled the Sandinistas to protect their Western ties to
keep the country afloat economically. But to insure that the FSLN could
move to dominate the Nicaraguan Government, Cuba acted quickly to build
up Sandinista military and security forces.
Since July 1979, Cuba has provided substantial military, technical, and
political assistance. Some 5,000 Cuban advisers, teachers,
and medical personnel work at all levels of the military
and civilian infrastructures.(10
) Of this number,
more than 1,500 military and security advisers are actively providing
military instruction and combat training; instruction in intelligence
activities; instruction on security protection for the FSLN leadership;
and advice on organization of a Nicaraguan police force. In addition,
Nicaragua has received within the past year approximately $28 million
worth of military equipment from the U.S.S.R., Eastern Europe, and
Cuba. This has included tanks, light aircraft, helicopters, heavy
artillery, surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft weapons, hundreds of
military transport vehicles, as well as tons of small arms and
Cuba presently is using Nicaraguan territory to provide training and
other facilities to guerrillas active in neighboring countries. The
Cuban Ambassador to Nicaragua and other America Department officials
frequently meet with Central American guerrillas in Managua to advise
them on tactics and strategy. Individual Sandinista leaders have
participated in such meetings and have met independently with
Guatemalan and Salvadoran insurgents. The FSLN also has cooperated in a
joint effort by Cuba and Palestine groups to provide military training
in the Mideast to selected Latin American extremists. Some Sandinistas
were themselves trained by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which
maintains an embassy in Nicaragua.
Between October 1980 and February 1981, Nicaragua was the staging site
for a massive Cuban-directed flow of arms to Salvadoran guerrillas.
Arms destined for Salvadoran and Guatemalan guerrillas continue to pass
. Before 1979, Cuban support to
Salvadoran radicals involved training small numbers of guerrillas,
providing modest financial aid, and serving as a political conduit
between Salvadoran extremists and Communists outside the hemisphere.
During the Nicaraguan civil war, Cuba concentrated on support for the
FSLN. After the fall of Somoza, Cuba began intense efforts to help
pro-Cuban guerrillas come to power in El Salvador. When a
reform-minded, civil-military government was established in October
1979, Cuba's first priority was to tighten the political organization
and unity of El Salvador's fragments violent left. At first, arms
shipments and other aid from Cuba were kept low as the Cubans insisted
on a unified strategy as the price of increased material support. To
forge unity, Cuba sponsored a December 1979 meeting in Havana that
resulted in an initial unity agreement among the Armed Forces of
National Resistence (FARN), the Popular Liberation Forces (FPL), and
the Communist Party of El Salvador (PCES),
which had itself formed an armed wing at Cuban and Soviet insistence.
In late May 1980, after more negotiations in Havana, the Popular
Revolutionary Army (ERP) was admitted into the guerrilla coalition.
The new combined military command assumed the named of the Unified
Revolutionary Directorate (DRU). During this period, Cuba also
coordinated the development of clandestine support networks in
Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, sometimes using arms supply
mechanisms established during the Nicaraguan civil war.
With unified tactics and operations now possible, Cuba began to assist
the guerrillas in formulating military strategy. Cuban specialists
helped the DRU devise initial war plans in the summer of 1980. The
Cubans influenced the guerrillas to launch a general offensive in
January 1981. After the offensive failed, guerrilla leaders traveled to
Havana in February 1981 to finalize a strategy to "improve our internal
military situation" by engaging in a "negotiating maneuver" to gain
time to regroup.(11
Cuba provided few weapons and ammunition to Salvadoran guerrillas from
its own resources but played a key role in coordinating the acquisition
and delivery of arms from Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Eastern Europe through
) After the unmasking of this network,
Cuba and Nicaragua reduced the flow in March and early April. Prior to
a guerrilla offensive in August an upswing in deliveries occurred. The
arms flow continues via clandestine surface and air routes. In
addition, the Cubans over the past year have established a network of
small ships to deliver arms to Salvadoran insurgent groups.
Cuba also assists the Salvadoran guerrillas in contacts with Arab
radical states and movements to arrange military training and financing
for arms acquisition. In September 1980, Cuba laundered $500,000 in
Iraqi funds for the Salvadoran insurgents. In March 1981, the
Salvadoran Communist Party Secretary General, Shafik Handal, visited
Lebanon and Syria to meet with Palestine leaders. Cuba also coordinated
the training of a relatively small number of Salvadoran guerrillas in
Palestinian camps in the Mideast.
Cuban training of Salvadoran guerrillas increased sharply in 1980 as
Cuba concentrated on building a trained army able to mount major
offensives. A typical 3-month training program included guerrilla
tactics; marksmanship and weapons use; field engineering; demolition;
fortification construction; land navigation; use of artillery and
mines. One observer reported seeing groups up to battalion size
(250-500 men) under instruction, suggesting that some guerrillas
trained as integral units.(13
Cuba has provided selected guerrillas more intensive training on
specialized subjects. A former FPL guerrilla who defected in fall 1981
reported that during 1980 he had received 7 months of military training
in Cuba, including instruction in scuba diving and underwater
demolition. Soviet scuba equipment was used. The group trained as
frogmen called themselves "combat swimmers" and were told that their
mission was to destroy dams, bridges, port facilities, and boats.
Cuba also gives political, organizational, and propaganda support to
the guerrillas. Cuban diplomatic facilities worldwide help guerrilla
front groups with travel arrangements and contacts. The Cuban press
agency, Prensa Latina, has handled communications for guerrilla
representatives abroad. Cuba and the Soviet Union have pressed
Communist parties and radical groups to support insurgency directly,
and through solidarity organizations with propaganda and facilities (office space, equipment, etc.).
The Salvadoran insurgents have publicly stressed the importance of
solidarity groups. A member of the FPL, Oscar Bonilla, who attended the
Fourth Consultative Meeting in Havana of the Continental Organization
of Latin American Students (OCLAE), a Cuban front group, told Radio
Havana in August 1981 that OCLAE "has been the most important means of
solidarity of all the peoples and has gotten us ready to form an
anti-interventionist student front in El Salvador, Central America and
the Caribbean.... We believe that it is good to carry out immediate
plans for actions which will permit us to stop an imperialist
intervention in El Salvador. In this respect, the students of Latin
America will have to confront and attack U.S. interests so that the
United States will see how the Latin American and Caribbean student
movement responds to an aggression by imperialism in El Salvador."
With Soviet assistance, Cuba has orchestrated propaganda to distort the
realities of the Salvadoran conflict. Unattributed foreign media
placements and efforts to organize protest against the Salvadoran
Government and the U.S. policy, which have accompanied official
propaganda, stress the theme of U.S. intent to intervene militarily in
Unfounded claims and accusations originated by the Salvadoran
guerrillas are routinely replayed to a regional and world audience by
Cuba's Radio Havana or Prensa Latina, then echoed by the official
Soviet Press Agency TASS, Radio Moscow, and the Eastern European media.
For example, a false report of a U.S. soldier killed in El Salvador
that resounded widely in Cuban/Soviet propaganda during 1980 was traced
finally to the Salvadoran Communist Party. This rumor was to support an
even bigger lie: that hundreds of U.S. soldier were in El Salvador,
building U.S. bases, and herding peasants into Vietnam-style strategic
. Castro has stepped up Cuba's support to Guatemalan guerrillas whom he has aided with arms and training since he came to power.
As elsewhere, Cuba has influenced divided extremist groups to unite and
has conditioned increased Cuban aid on a commitment to armed struggle
and a unified strategy. During 1980, discussions about a unity
agreement were held among leaders of the Guerrilla Army of the Poor
(EGP), the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), the Organization of People in Arms
(ORPA), and the dissident faction of the Guatemalan Communist Party
(PGT/D). At the invitation of Sandinista leaders, representatives of
the four groups met in Managua under strict security to continue
discussions. In November 1980, the four organizations signed a unity
agreement in Managua to establish the National Revolutionary Union
(with a revolutionary directorate called the General Revolutionary
Command - CGR). Manuel Piñeiro Losada, Chief of the America
Department, represented Fidel Castro at the signing ceremony. Following
the signing of the unity agreement, representatives of the CGR traveled
to Havana to present the document to Castro. ORPA publicized the
agreement in a communique issued November 18, 1980. All parties agreed
it was significant that the unity agreement was the first such document
signed on Central American soil.
After this unity agreement was concluded, Cuba agreed to increased
military training and assistance. A large number of the 2,000 or more
guerrillas now active have trained in Cuba. Recent military training
programs have included instruction in the use of heavy weapons.
During the past year, arms have been smuggled to Guatemala from
Nicaragua passing over land through Honduras. The guerrilla arsenal now
includes 50mm mortars, submachine guns, rocket launchers, and other
weapons. Captured M-16 rifles have been traced to U.S. forces in
Vietnam. On June 26, 1981, Paulino Castillo, a 28-year-old guerrilla
with ORPA, told newsmen in Guatemala that he was part of a 23-man group
of Guatemalans that underwent 7 months of training in Cuba, beginning
around February 1980. His group was divided into sections for urban and
rural combat training in explosives and firearms use. To get to Cuba,
Castillo traveled to Costa Rica from Guatemala by public bus. In Costa
Rica, a go-between obtained a Panamanian passport for Castillo to enter
Panama. In Panama, other contacts equipped him with a Cuban passport
and he continued on to Cuba. Castillo returned to Guatemala via
Nicaragua to rejoin the guerrillas. He later surrendered to a Guatemalan army patrol.
Guatemalan guerrillas have collaborated with Salvadoran guerrillas. In
January 1981, the EGP, ORPA, FAR, and PGT/D circulated a joint bulletin
announcing the intensification of their activities in support of the
general offensive in El Salvador. The Salvadorans in turn have provided
the Guatemalans with small quantities of arms.
Unity has not been fully achieved, as the four groups have not yet
carried out plans to establish a political front group. The joint
military strategy, however, is being implemented. The guerrillas have
stepped up terrorist actions to provoke repression and destabilize the
government. For example, the EGP took responsibility for placing a bomb
in one of the pieces of luggage that was to have been loaded onto a
U.S. Eastern Airlines plane on July 2. The bomb exploded before being
loaded, killing a Guatemalan airport employee.
Cuba took advantage of Costa Rica's strong popular and governmental
opposition to Somoza's authoritarian government and of Costa Rica's
open democratic system to establish and coordinate a covert support
network for guerrilla operations elsewhere in Central America. The
apparatus was established during the course of the Nicaraguan civil was
and maintained clandestinely thereafter. Costa Rica was well disposed
toward groups that opposed Somoza, including the Sandinista guerrillas.
Aid provided by Panama and Venezuela was openly funneled through Costa
Rica to the Nicaragua rebels. Cuba, however, kept its role largely
A Special Legislative Commission established in June 1980 by the Costa
Rican legislature revealed Cuba's extensive role in arming the
Nicaraguan guerrillas. The commission determined that there were at
least 21 flights carrying war materiel between Cuba And Llano Grande
and Juan Santamaria Airports in Costa Rica.(15
Costa Rican pilots who made these flights reported the Cubans
frequently accompanied the shipments. Although Cubans were stationed at
Llano Grande, their main operations center for coordinating logistics
and contacts with the Sandinistas was set up secretly in San Jose and
run by America Department official Lopez Diaz. The Special Legislative
Commission estimated that a minimum of 1 million pounds of arms moved
to Costa Rica from Cuba and elsewhere during the Nicaraguan civil war,
including anti-aircraft machine-guns, rocket launchers, bazookas,
and mortars. The commission also estimated that a substantial quantity
of these weapons remained in Costa Rica after the fall of Somoza in
The Special Legislative Commission concluded that after the Nicaraguan
civil war had ended, "arms trafficking [began], originating in Costa
Rica, of through Costa Rican territory, toward El Salvador, indirectly
of using Honduras as a bridge." Through 1980 and in to 1981 traffic
flowed intermittently through Costa Rica to El Salvador, directed
clandestinely by the Cubans.
In the summer of 1979, the Cubans and their paid agent, Fernando
Carrasco Illanes, a Chilean national residing in Costa Rica, along with
several Costa Ricans previously involved in the logistics effort for
the FSLN, agreed to continue smuggling arms to Salvadoran guerrillas.
The Cuban arranged for acquisition of some of the arms and ammunition
remaining in Costa Rica from the Nicaraguan airlift to supply the
This new Cuban operation was coordinated from San Jose, first from
their secret operations center, then later directly from the Cuban
Consulate. The major coordinator, until his expulsion from Costa Rica
in May 1981 following the break in consular relations between Costa
Rica and Cuba, was Fernando Pascual Comas Perez of the America
Department. Comas worked directly for Manuel Piñeiro and had the
cover title of Cuban Vise Consul in San Jose. Cuban agents made
arrangements to store arms for transshipment to El Salvador and to help
hundreds of Salvadoran guerrillas pass through Costa Rica in small
groups on their way to training in Cuba. Cuban operations have been
facilitated by Costa Rica's three Marxist-Leninist partied, which have
provided funds, safehaven, transportation,
and false documents.(16
Terrorism had been virtually unknown in Costa Rica until March 1981
except for scattered incidents of largely foreign origin. The first
Costa Rican terrorist made their appearance in March when they blew up
a vehicle carrying a Costa Rican chauffeur and three Marine security
guards from the U.S. embassy in San Jose. In April, four terrorists
from the same group were captured after machine-gunning a police
vehicle. In June, the group murdered three policemen and a taxi driver.
Costa Rican authorities have arrested some 20 accused terrorists and
are continuing to investigate lead linking them to South American
terrorist groups such as the Argentine Montoneros, the Uruguayan
Tupamaros, and Colombia's M-19, and to Cuba itself. Two of the accused
terrorists are known to have received training in the Soviet Union.
Director of the Judicial Investigation Organization Eduardo Aguilar
Bloise told a press conference August 12 that captured terrorist
documents indicated that two Costa Rican peasants had been given
"ideological/military training" in Cuba and returned to work in the
Atlantic coastal zone of Costa Rica. The documents indicate that the
two were in Cuba from 8 to 12 months - possibly in 1978 - and
were financed by the terrorist group known popularly in Costa Rica as
"the family." Aguilar said he did not discount the possibility that
other had been trained in Cuba.
Although most of Costa Rica's Marxist-Leninist parties have advocated a
peaceful line in respect to Costa Rica, one group with close ties to
Cuba - the Revolutionary Movement of the People (MRP) - while
disavowing responsibility for terrorist acts, has spoken of them as
"well intentioned." Some of the arrested terrorists are known to have
belonged to the MRP at one time. On November 5, the Office of National
Security announced the discovery of a terrorist cell clearly connected
with the MRP. Among the Arms and terrorist paraphernalia confiscated
was an Uzi submachinegun with silencer. Earlier, the authorities had
confiscated a "plan for Guanacaste" from an MRP official which noted
such objectives as "prevent the electoral process from developing in a
festive atmosphere" and "the taking of power by the armed people." The
head of the MRP has traveled many times to Cuba, and Cuba has given
training to other MRP leaders.
Cuba provided para-military training to a small number of Hondurans in
the early 1960s, but relations with Honduran radicals were strained
until the late 1970s. Cuba then resumed military training for members
of the Honduran Communist Party (PCH) and integrated them into the
"internationalist brigade" fighting in the Nicaraguan civil war. After
the war, PCH members returned to
Cuba for additional training.
Since then Cuba has concentrated primarily on developing Honduras as a
conduit for arms and other aid to guerrillas active elsewhere in
Central American. In January 1981, Honduran officials discovered a
large cache of concealed arms intended for Salvadoran guerrillas, which
included M-16 rifles traced to Vietnam. Smuggled arms have continued to
While considering Honduras a useful support base for insurgencies
elsewhere, Cuba is also working to develop the capacity for
insurrection within Honduras. In the normal pattern, Havana has urged
splintered extremist groups in Honduras to unify and embrace armed
struggle. While holding back from levels of support given to Salvadoran
and Guatemalan guerrillas, Cuba has increased its training of Honduran
extremists in political organizations and military operations. Cuba has
also promised to provide Honduran guerillas their own arms, including
submachineguns and rifles.
On November 27, Honduran authorities discovered a guerrilla safehouse
on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Two guerrillas were killed in the
resulting shootout, including an Uruguayan citizen. Nicaraguans as well
as Honduran were captured at the house, where a substantial arsenal of
automatic weapons and explosives was seized. Incriminating documents,
including notebooks which indicate recent attendance in training course
in Cuba, were also confiscated. One of those arrested, Jorge Pinel
Betancourt, a 22-year-old Honduran, told reporters the group was headed
for El Salvador to join El Salvadoran guerrillas. Two additional
guerrilla safehouses located in La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula were raided
on November 29, and authorities seized sizable arms caches, explosives,
and communications equipment. These arms may have been destined for use
In the late 1970s, Jamaica became a special target for Cuba. Fidel
Castro and other Cuban officials developed close relations with
important members of the People's National Party, which governed
Jamaica from 1973 until 1980. Cuban security personnel trained Jamaican
security officers in Cuba and Jamaica, including members of the
security force of the office of the Prime Minister. Cuba also trained
about 1,400 Jamaican youths in Cuba as construction workers through a
"brigadista" program. Political indoctrination in Cuba formed part of
this group's curriculum. A considerable number of these Jamaican youths
received military training while in Cuba, including instruction in
revolutionary tactics and use of arms.
During this same period, the Cuban diplomatic mission in Jamaica grew.
Most of the embassy staff, including former Ambassador Ulises Estrada,
were Cuban intelligence agents. Ulises Estrada, who served as a deputy
head of the America Department for 5 years, had a long history of
involvement in political action activities and intelligence operations
and went to Jamaica in July 1979, after playing a major role in Cuba's
involvement in the Nicaraguan civil war.
Cuba was instrumental in smuggling arms and ammunition into Jamaica. A
Cuban front corporation (Moonex International, registered in
Lichenstein, with subsidiaries in Panama and Jamaica) was discovered in
May 1980 to be the designated recipient of a shipment of 200,000
shotgun shells and .38 caliber pistol ammunition shipped illegally to
Jamaica from Miami. Jamaican authorities apprehended
the local manager of the corporation, accompanied by the Jamaican
Minister of National Security and Cuban Ambassador Estrada, as the
manager was attempting to leave the country, in defiance of police
instructions, on a private plane. The manager subsequently paid a fine
of U.S. $300,000 set by a Jamaican court.
In 1980, weapons were reported stockpiled in the Cuban embassy for
possible use during the election campaign. M-16 rifles than appeared in
Jamaica for the first time and were used in attacks against supporters
of the opposition Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) and the security forces.
Over 70 of these weapons have been found by Jamaican authorities. Some
of the M-16s found in Jamaica have serial numbers in the same numerical
series as captured M-16s shipped to Salvadoran guerrillas from Vietnam.
Ambassador Ulises Estrada was withdrawn from his post in November 1980,
at the request of the newly elected JLP government. In January 1981,
the Jamaican Government terminated the "brigadista" program and
recalled Jamaican students remaining in Cuba under this program. The
government decided to maintain diplomatic relations but warned Cuba to
stop its interferences in Jamaican affairs. Cuba continued to maintain
diplomatic relations but warned Cuba to stop its interference in
Jamaican affairs. Cuba continued to maintain some 15 intelligence
agents at the Cuban Embassy in Kingston. On October 29, the government
broke diplomatic relations with Cuba, citing Cuba's failure to return
three Jamaican fugitive criminals as the immediate cause for this
action. On November 17, the government publicly detailed Cuba's role in
providing covert military training under the curtailed "brigadista"
In 1978, as many as 200 Cuban technicians, advisers, and medical
personnel were stationed in Guyana. However, while claiming fraternal
relations with Guyana's Government, Cuba maintained contact with
radical opposition groups. Guyanese authorities suspected the Cubans of
involvement in a crippling sugar strike. In August 1978, five Cuban
diplomats were expelled for involvement in illegal activities.
Cuban military advisers have provided guerrilla training outside Guyana
to members of a small radical Guyanese opposition group, the Working
People's Alliance. Five of the seven members of the Cuban Embassy are
known or suspected intelligence agents.
. Cuban influence in Grenada mushroomed almost immediately
after the March 1979 coup led by the New Jewel Movement of Maurice
Bishop. Bishop and his closest colleagues were Western-educated Marxist
radicals, and they turned for help to Fidel Castro, who proved willing
to provide assistance.
To allow close Cuban supervision of Grenadian programs, a senior
intelligence officer from the America Department, Julian Torres Rizo,
was sent to Grenada as ambassador. Torres Rizo has maintained intimate
relations with Bishop and other People's Revolutionary Government
ministers, such as Bernard Coard.
The Grenadian Government has followed a pro-Soviet foreign policy line.
Cuban and Grenadian voting records in international organizations have
been nearly identical, so much so that they alone of all Western
Hemisphere nations have voted against U.N. resolutions condemning the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Cuban aid to Grenada has been most extensive in those areas which
affect the security of its client government and the island's strategic
usefulness to Cuba. Cuba has advisers on the island offering military,
technical, security, and propaganda assistance to the Bishop
government. Many Grenadians have been sent to Cuba for training in
these areas. Last year journalists observed Cuban officials
directing and giving orders to Grenadian soldiers marching in ceremonies in St. George's.
Cuba is aiding the construction of a 75-kilowatt transmitter for Radio
Free Granada. Grenada's state-controlled press, enjoying a government
enforced monopoly, currently hews to a strict "revolutionary" line.
Indications are that the new transmitter will continue this emphasis
while providing facilities for beaming Cuban and Soviet-supplied
propaganda into the Caribbean and South America.
Cuba's largest project in Grenada is the construction of a major
airfield at Point Salines on the southern tip of the island. Cuba has
provided hundreds of construction workers and Soviet equipment to build
the airfield. This airfield, according to Grenadian Government
statements, is required to bring tourism to its full economic potential
and will be used as a civilian airport only. Many questions have been
raised, however, about the economic justification for the project. The
Grenadian Government has ignored requests for a standard project
analysis of economic benefits. The planned 9,800-foot Point Salines
runway, moreover, has clear military potential. Such an airfield will
allow operations of every aircraft in the Soviet/Cuban inventory.
Cuba's MiG aircraft and troop transports will enjoy a greater radius of
operation. The airport will give Cuba a guaranteed refueling stop for
military flights to Africa.
Bishop himself has given an implicit endorsement of future military use
of the airfield. A March 31, 1980 Newsweek report quoted Bishop's
comments to a U.S. reporter: "Suppose there's a war next door in
Trinidad, where the forces of Fascism are about to take control, and
the Trinidadians need external assistance, why should we oppose anybody
passing through Grenada to assist them?"
With its renewed commitment to armed struggle, Cuba's interest in the
Dominican Republic has revived. Since early 1980, the Cubans have been
encouraging radicals in the Dominican Republic to unite and prepare for
armed actions. Cuban intelligence officials, like Omar Cordoba Rivas,
chief of the Dominican Republic desk of the America Department, make
to the island.
The Soviet Union, Cuba, and other Communist countries have mounted
extensive training programs for Dominican students. In July 1981, the
Moscow-line Dominican Communist Party (PCD) for the first time
publicized the Soviet scholarship program. Some 700 Dominican students
are currently studying at Soviet universities, principally Patrice
Lumumba university, with 75 other in five other Communist states
(Bulgaria, Cuba, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, and Romania).
The PCD itself selects the more than 100 students who begin the Soviet
program each year.
At the same time, the Soviet Union has been pressuring the PCD to unite
with other extreme left organizations. The PCD and the pro-Cuban
Dominican Liberation Party receive funds from both Cuba ns the Soviet
union and send significant numbers of their members and potential
sympathizers for academic and political schooling as well as military
training in the Communist countries. Cuba also has given military
instruction to many members of small extremist splinter groups like the
Social Workers Movement and the Socialist Party.
Since the 1960s, Cuba has nurtured contacts with violent extremist
groups in democratic Colombia. During the 1970s, Cuba established full
diplomatic relations with Colombia; Cuban involvement with Colombian
revolutionaries was fairly limited, although Cuban provided some
training to guerrilla leadership. Many leaders of the April 19 Movement
(M-19), including the founder, Jamie Bateman - who also attended a
Communist cadre school in Moscow - were trained in Cuba. Leaders of the
National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Moscow-oriented Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) also received Cuban instruction.
Cuban assistance to Colombian guerrillas was stepped up after the
February 1980 seizure of the Dominican Republic Embassy in Bogota. A
number of diplomats, including the U.S. Ambassador, were taken hostage
by M-19 terrorists. As part of a negotiated settlement, the terrorist
were flown on April 17, 1980 to Cuba, where the remaining hostages were
released and the terrorists were given asylum.
During mid-1980, Cuban intelligence officers arranged a meeting of
Colombian extremists, attended by representatives from the M-19, FARC,
ELN, and other Colombian radical groups, to discuss a common strategy
and tactics. The M-19 had previously held talks with the Nicaraguan
FSLN on ways to achieve unity of action among guerrilla groups in Latin
America. Although the meeting did not result in agreement by Colombian
guerrillas on a unified strategy, practical cooperation among the
guerrilla organizations increased.
In late 1980, the M-19 set in motion a large-scale operation in
Colombia with Cuban help. In November, the M-19 sent guerrillas to Cuba
via Panama to begin training for the operation. The group included new
recruits as well as members who had received no prior political or
military training. In Cuba the guerrillas were given 3 months of
military instruction from Cuban army instructors, including training in
the use of explosives, automatic weapons, hand-to-hand combat, military
tactics, and communication. A course in politics and ideology was
taught as well. Members of the M-19 group given asylum in Cuba after
the takeover of the Dominican Republic Embassy also participated in the
In February 1981, some 100-200 armed M-19 guerrillas reinfiltrated into
Colombia from Panama by boat along the Pacific coast. The guerrillas'
mission to establish a "people's army" failed. The M-19 members proved
to be poorly equipped for the difficult countryside, and the
Cuba-organized operation was soon dismantled by Colombian authorities.
Among those captured was Rosenberg Pabon Pabon, the M-19 leader who had
directed the Dominican Republic Embassy takeover and then fled to Cuba.
Cuba denied any involvement with the M-19 landings but did not deny
training the guerrillas.(17
Cuba's propaganda support for Colombian terrorist was impossible to deny. When a group of
dissidents kidnaped an American working for a private religious
institute, Cuba implicitly supported the terrorists' action through
Radio Havana broadcasts beamed to Colombia in February 1981, which
denounced the institute workers as "U.S. spies." Radio Moscow picked up
the unfounded accusation to use in its Spanish broadcasts to Latin
America. The American was later murdered by the kidnappers.(18
Colombia suspended relations with Cuba on March 23, in view of the
clear evidence of Cuba's role in training M-19 guerrillas. President
Turbay commented in an August 13 New York Times interview: "...When we
found that Cuba, a country with which we had diplomatic relations, was
using those diplomatic relations to prepare a group of guerrillas to
come and fight against the government, it
was a kind of Pearl Harbor of us. It was like sending ministers to
Washington at the same time you are about to bomb ships in Hawaii."
After Allende's fall in 1973, Castro promised Chilean radicals "all the
aid in Cuba's power to provide." Although Cuban officials maintained
regular contact with many Chilean exiles, divisions among the exiles
inhibited major operations. The Moscow-line Chilean Communist Party
(PCCH), holding the position that revolutionary change could be
accomplished by non-violent means, was critical of
"left-wing forces" like the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) with which Cuba had close relations.
Throughout the 1970s, members of the MIR received training in Cuba and
in some cases instructed other Latin American revolutionaries. This
training ranged from political indoctrination and instruction in small
arms use to sophisticated courses in document fabrication, explosives,
code writing, photography, and disguise. In addition, Cuban instruction
trained MIR activists in the Mideast and Africa.
With its renewed commitment to armed struggle, Cuba increased its
training of Chileans beginning in 1979. By mid-1979, the MIR had
recruited several hundred Chilean exiles and sent them to Cuba for
training and eventual infiltration into Chile. At the same time,
members of the MIR who had been living and working in Cuba since
Allende's overthrown began to receive training in urban guerrilla
warfare techniques. The training in some cases lasted as long as 7
months and included organization and political strategy, small unit
tactics, security, and communications.
Once training was completed, Cuba helped the terrorist return to Chile,
providing false passports and false identification documents. By late
1980, at least 100 highly trained MIR terrorists had reentered Chile
and the MIR had claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and
bank robberies. Cuba's official newspaper, Granma, wrote in February
1981 that the "Chilean Resistance:" forces had successfully conducted
more than 100 "armed actions" in Chile in 1980.
By late 1979, the PCCH was reevaluating its position in light of events
in Nicaragua, where the fragmented Nicaraguan Communist Party emerged
from the civil war subservient to the FSLN. In December 1980, PCCH
leader Luis Corvalan held talks in Cuba with Fidel Castro, who urged
Corvalan to establish a unified Chilean opposition. During the Cuban
Party Congress that month, Corvalan delivered a speech which sketched a
new party line calling for armed struggle to overthrown the Chilean
Government and for coordination of efforts by all parties, including
the violent left. In January 1981, Corvalan commended MIR terrorist
acts as "helpful" and stated that the PCCH was willing not only to talk
with MIR representatives but also to sign agreements with the group.
Several days after this offer, Corvalan signed a unity agreement with
several Chilean extremist groups, including MIR.
Until January 1981, when the new PCCH policy evidently had been ironed
out and validated by the agreement for a broad opposition coalition,
Corvalan's statements were issued from such places as Czechoslovakia,
East Germany, Cuba, and Peru - but never from Moscow. Within two weeks
of the agreement, however, Moscow showed its implicit approval of the
policy change and began broadcasting in Spanish to Latin America - and
to Chile in particular - PCCH explanations of the new policy and calls
for mass resistance and acts of terrorism to overthrow the Chilean
Terrorist activities by MIR commandos operating in Chile have increase
substantially during the past year. These have included increased
efforts by MIR activities to establish clandestine bases for rural
insurgency, killings of policemen, and a number of assassination
attempts against high government officials.
The Cubans have a long history of association with, encouragement of,
and active backing for terrorism in Argentina. The Cubans were linked
to the two groups responsible for unleashing the wave of leftist
terrorism that swept Argentina in the early and mid-1970s, the
Montoneros and the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP). Cuba backed these
organizations with advice on tactics and
instructions on recruiting operations and with training in Cuba in
urban and rural guerrilla techniques. During the height of Argentine
terrorism, the Cubans used their embassy in Buenos Aires to maintain
direct liaison with Argentine terrorists.
The Argentine terrorists were virtually defeated by 1978. In that year,
Castro permitted the Montonero national leadership to relocate its
headquarters to Cuba. Today, the Montonero top command, its labor
organization, and its intelligence organization, among other units, are
all located in Cuba. The Cuban facilitate the travel and communications
of Montoneros, supplying them with false documentation and access to
Cuban diplomatic pouches. Montoneros have been among the Latin American
guerrillas trained in guerrilla warfare over the past year in the
Mideast as part of a cooperative effort between Palestinian groups and
Following the move of their high command to Havana, the Montoneros made
repeated attempts to reinfiltrate Argentina. In late 1979, small groups
of infiltrators eluded detection and were able to carry out several
terrorist actions, including four murders. Subsequent attempts by the
Montoneros to infiltrate terrorists in early 1980 proved unsuccessful.
With Cuban support, Montoneros are active outside Argentina.
Cuban-trained Montoneros were among members of the "internationalist
brigade" that Cuba supported in Nicaragua in 1979. This connection was
highlighted when Montonero leader Mario Firmenich attended the first
anniversary of the July 1979 victory, wearing the uniform of a
Sandinista commander. Montoneros have been active elsewhere as well.
Montoneros largely staffed and administrated Radio Noticias del
Continente, which broadcast Cuban propaganda to Central and South
America from San Jose until it was closed by the Costa Rican Government
in 1981, after war material was discovered on its installations.
After the failure of the urban insurgent organized in the early 1970s
by the National Liberation Movement (MLN-Tupamaros), several hundred
Tupamaros went to Cuba. During the mid-1970s, Cuba provided some of
them with training in military and terrorist tactics, weapons, and
intelligence. Several of these former Tupamaros subsequently assisted
Cuba in running intelligence operations in Europe and Latin America.
Some participated in the Cuban-organized "internationalist brigade"
that fought in the Nicaraguan civil war.
Cuba continues to provide propaganda support for the Tupamaros and the
Uruguayan Communist Party. Radio Havana reported on June 30, 1981 that
the leader of the Communist Party of Uruguay attended a ceremony "in
solidarity with the Uruguayan people's struggle" at the headquarters of
the Cuban State Committee for Material and Technical Supply in Havana.
Pro-Cuban Uruguayan leaders are given red carpet treatment when the
visit Havana and are usually received by at least a member of the Cuban
Cuba's renewed campaign of violence has had a negative impact on Cuba's
relations with its neighbors. Cuba's policies abroad and its reaction
to emigration pressures at home have reversed the trend in Latin
America toward normalization of relations. Although the Castro
government has developed close ties to Nicaragua and Grenada, Cuba
finds itself increasingly isolated throughout the Americas.
Peru nearly broke relations and removed its ambassador in April 1980, when the Cuban Government encouraged Cubans eager to leave
the island to occupy the Peruvian Embassy. After more than 10,000
Cubans crowded into the embassy compound, Castro thwarted efforts by
concerned governments to develop an orderly departure program and
opened the port of Mariel to emigration, also expelling many criminals
and the mentally ill, and ultimately allowing more than 125,000 people
to leave under perilous conditions. But Cuba still refuses to still
refuses to issue safe conduct passes to the 14 Cubans who remain
cloistered in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana today.
Cuba's neighbors were further shocked when Cuban MiG 21s sank the
Bahamian patrol boat "Flamingo" on May 10, 1980 in an unprovoked attack
in Bahamian costal waters. Subsequently four Bahamian seamen were
machinegunned while trying to save themselves after their vessel sank.
Their bodies were never recovered. U.S. Coast Guard aircraft were
harassed by Cuban MiGs while searching for the survivors at the request
of the Bahamian Government.
Relations between Venezuela and Cuba deteriorated badly in 1980,
principally over the asylum issue, to the degree that Venezuela removed
its ambassador from Havana. In November 1980, Jamaica expelled the
Cuban Ambassador for interference in Jamaica's internal affairs and in
October 1981 broke diplomatic relations. Colombia suspended relations
in March 1981over Cuba's training of M-19 guerrillas. Cuba's handling
of an incident in which a group of Cubans demanding asylum forcibly
occupied Ecuador's Embassy in Havana prompted Ecuador to remove its
ambassador from Cuba in May 1981. Also in May, Costa Rica severed its
existing consular ties with Cuba, expelling Cuban officials active in
coordinating support networks for Central American insurgents.
Today, outside the English-speaking Caribbean, only Argentina, Panama,
Mexico and Nicaragua conduct relatively normal relations through
resident ambassadors in Havana. Use of Panama as a transit point for
Colombian guerrillas, however, led Panama to reassess its relations
with Cuba and resulted in sharp public criticism of Cuba's "manifest
disregard for international standards of political co-existence" by a
high Panamanian Government official.
1. Cuba's military and political activities in
Africa are intense and wide ranging. Cuba still maintains expeditionary
forces of at least 15-19,000 in Angola and 11-15,000 in Ethiopia. Cuba
has military and security advisers contingents in a number of other
African countries and South Yemen.
2. According to the World Bank, Cuba's per capita
annual growth rate averaged minus 1.2% during the period 1960-78. Cuban
economic performance ranked in the lowest 5% worldwide and was the
worst of all socialist countries. Only massive infusions of Soviet aid
have kept consumption levels from plummeting. Cuba today depends more
heavily on sugar than before 1959. The industrial sector has been
plagued by mismanagement, absenteeism, and serious shortages in capital
goods and foreign exchange. The economic picture is so bleak that in
1979, and again in October 1981, the Cuban leadership had to warn that
10-20 more years of sacrifice lie ahead.
3. Cuba maintain some front organizations set up in
the 1960s. One of these, the Continental Organization of Latin American
Students, still holds irregular congresses of student leaders from
Latin America to the Caribbean (the most recent in Havana in August
1981) and publishes a monthly journal distributed by the Cuban
4. Although Cuba is not involved in action directly
threatening to Mexican internal stability, Cuba has taken advantage of
Mexico's open society and its extensive presence there -- Cuba's
Embassy in Mexico City is its largest diplomatic mission in the
hemisphere -- to carry out support activities for insurgencies in other
countries. Mexico is a principal base for Cuban contacts with
represntatives of several armed Latin American groups on guerrilla
strategy, logistical support, and international activities.
5. Prensa Latina, the press agency of the Cuban
Government, had field offices in 35 countries, including 11 Latin
American and Caribbean countries, and combines news gathering and
propaganda dissemination with intelligence operations. Radio Havana,
Cuba's shortwave broadcasting service, transmits more than 350 program
hours per week in eight languages to all points of the world. Cuba also
transmits nightly medium wave Spanish-language broadcasts over "La Voz
de Cuba," a network of high-powered transmitters located in different
parts of Cuba. In the Caribbean alone, Radio Havana's weekly broadcasts
include 14 hours in Creole to Haiti; 60 hours in English; 3 hours in
French; and 125 hours in Spanish. Prensa Latina and Radio Havana, in
close coordination with TASS and Radio Moscow, regularly use
disinformation to distort news reports transmitted to the region,
especially those concerning places
where Cuban covert activities are most intense.
6. Latin Americans are not the only trainees. In a
May 1978 Reuters interview published in Beruit, Abu Khalaf, a leader of
the military branch of Al Fatah, confirmed that Palestine agents have
received training in Cuba since the late 1960s. Palestine
organizations, with Cuban assistance, have reciprocated by training
various Latin American groups in the Middle East. Libya, which boasted
a meeting of Latin American "liberation movements" January 25 -
February 1, 1979, also has trained some Latin American extremists.
7. Public exposure in March 1981 of the use of
Panama as a transit point for Colombian guerrillas trained in Cuba led
to sharp criticism of Cuba by the Panamanian Government. Panama imposed
greater controls on activities of exiled Central and South Americans,
and the transit of guerrillas through Panama appears to have ceased, at
8. Courses in agitation and propaganda open to
foreigners include the Central Union of Cuban Workers' Lazaro Pena
Trade Union Cadre School and similar courses run by the Union of Young
Communists, the Cuban Women's Federation, the National Association of
Small Farmers, and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.
Even the Cuban Communist Party offers special courses for non-Cubans in
party provincial schools and in the Ñico Lopez National Training
School, its highest educational institution. The Cuban press reported
graduation ceremonies July 17, 1981, for this year's 70 Cuban graduates
and announced that 69 foreigners had also attended advanced courses at
the Ñico Lopez school. Foreign students represented political
organizations from Venezuela, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Colombia,
Ecuador, Nicaragua, Chile, Grenada, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Sao
Tome y Principe, and South Yemen. Official Cuban Communist Party
newspaper Granma labeled their presence "a beautiful example of
proletarian internationalism." Courses of instruction at the
Ñico Lopez school, which is chaired by senior party leaders,
include "political training for journalists," "political training for
propagandists," economics, and ideology.
9. Ulises Estrada was given his first ambassadorial
post in Jamaica following the July 1979 victory of anti-Somoza forces
(see Jamaica case study). He is currently Cuba's ambassador to South
10. The very quantity of Cuban advisers has caused
resentment among nationalist Nicaraguans, leading to sporadic outbursts
of anti-Cuban feelings. On June 3, 1981, the FSLN announced that 2,000
Cuban primary school teachers presently in Cuba would return to Cuba in
July, at the mid-point of Nicaragua's academic year. The Nicaraguan
Education Minister announced on June 18 that 800 of those departing
would return in September after vacations in Cuba, while Cuba would
replace the other 1,200 teachers in February. By November 1981,
however, all 2,000 Cuban teachers had returned to Nicaragua.
11. A guerrilla document outlining this strategy
was found in Nicaragua in February 1981. Guerrilla representatives
later confirmed its authenticity to Western Europeans with the
disclaimer that the strategy elaborately in the paper had been rejected.
12. The Cuban role as arms broker to the DRU since
1979 has been documented in the Department of State's Special Report
No. 80, Communist Inferences in El Salvador, February 23, 1981. In
April 1981, when Socialist International representative Wischnewski
confronted Castro with the evidence in the report, Castro admitted to
him that Cuba had shipped arms to the guerrillas. In discussions with
several Inter-Parliamentary Union delegations at the September 1981 IPU
conference in Havana, Castro again conceded that Cuba had supplied arms.
13. Cuban Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez
tactically admitted that Cuba was providing military training to
in an interview published in Der Spiegal on September 28, 1981.
14. At the time these reports first appeared, the
United States was providing neither arms nor ammunition to El Salvador.
In January 1981, the United States responded to the Cuban-orchestrated
general offensive by sending some military assistance and later sent
American military trainers, whose number never exceeded 55. There are
no U.S. combatants, bases, or strategic hamlets in El Salvador. TASS
continues to report falsely that "hundreds" of U.S. military personnel
are in El Salvador and participate in combat.
15. The commission's report was issued May 14, 1981.
16. In a recorded interview broadcast by Radio
Havana on June 16, 1981, Eduardo Mora, Deputy Secretary General of
Costa Rica's Popular Vanguard Party (the Moscow-line traditional
Communist party, the least disposed to violence of the country's
several Marxist partied and splinter groups) explained his party's
position: "We establish ties with all revolutionary organizations in
Central America. We have close ties and are willing to give all the aid
we possibly can in accordance with the principles of proletarian
internationalism because we believe that the struggle of the Central
American people is the struggle of our own people."
17. Cuban Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez
explained in an interview published in Der Spiegel on September 28,
1981 why Cuba had not denied training the M-19 guerillas: "We did not
deny this because in the past few years many people came to our country
for various reasons to ask for training. We did not deny this desire.
If a revolutionary for Latin America wished to learn the
technique of resistance for his own self-defense, we cannot refuse in
view of the brutal oppression. This also holds true for Salvadorans."
18. The U.S. citizen killed, Chester Allen
Bitterman, was working for the Summer Institute of Linguistics, a
religious group which develops written forms of indigenous languages.
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