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Cuba's First Venture in Africa: Algeria, 1961–1965 *

  • Piero Gleijeses (a1)
Abstract

It was in Algeria that Cuba's involvement in Africa began. Until the overthrow of President Ben Bella in 1965, Algeria was Cuba's closest friend on the continent. Cuba provided both military and civilian assistance not only to the Algerian republic but also, before their victory, to the rebels of the Algerian National Liberation Front. Using Cuban documents, as well as US documents and interviews with protagonists, this article examines Cuba's relationship with Algeria in 1961–5. It is a relationship that clashes with the image of Cuban foreign policy – cynical ploys of a client state – that prevails not only in the United States but also in many European capitals.

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1 I went to Cuba five times from November 1993 to July 1993 for a total of 5 months to research Cuban policy toward Africa from the early 1960s to 1978. I interviewed 50 Cuban protagonists, and I had access to the archives of the Central Committee, the Instituto de Historia de Cuba, the Centro de Información de la Defensa de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, and the Ministerio para la Inversión Extranjera y la Colaboración Económica, and to documents from private collections. I have photocopies of all Cuban documents cited in this essay.

2 The only two studies of Cuba's relations with Algeria worth citing are Durch, William, ‘The Cuban Military in Africa and the Middle East: From Algeria to Angola’, Studies in Comparative Communism, Spring/Summer 1978, pp. 45–6 and, above all, the pioneering work of Blanco, Gisela García, ha misión internacionalista de Cuba en Argelia (1963–1964) (Havana, 1990).

3 Masetti, Jorge Ricardo, Los que luchan y los que lloran (Buenos Aires, 1958).

4 Granma (Havana), 7 Sep. 1968, p. 7. See also Masetti, Jorge, La Loi des Corsaires (Paris, 1993), pp. 130–2. Also useful were interviews with Victor Dreke (a senior military officer) and Alberto Castellanos (an aide of Che Guevara, who joined Masetti's guerrilla group in Argentina in 1963).

5 Hiram Prats, Oral History (hereafter OH), nd, Pt. 1, p. 1 quoted and Pt. 2, pp. 6–7, Archivos del Instituto de Historia de Cuba, Havana (hereafter AIHC). Prats accompanied Masetti in Dec. 1961 to supervise the operation. See also Pedro Labrador Pino, OH, 29 Aug. 1985, p. 1, AIHC and Jorge Serguera Riveri, OH, 6 Mar. 1985, pp. 1 and 33, AIHC.

In 1985, the Centro de Estudios de Historia Militar, a branch of the Ministry of Armed Forces (MINFAR), conducted a series of interviews with Cubans who had been involved in Algeria. These interviews are in the archives of the Instituto de Historia de Cuba.

6 Revolución (Havana), 14 Feb. 1962, p. 10 and 20 Feb. 1962, Suplemento, pp. 2–3 (quoted). See also Prats, OH, Pt. 2, p. 2.

7 Gómez, Roberto González, letter to Gleijeses, Piero, Havana, 7 07 1994. In the first 7 months of 1957 there were four major articles about Algeria in Bohemia (‘Lo que no dijo Jacques Soustelle’, 3 Feb. 1957, pp. 67, 81–2; ‘Lágrimas, terror y sangre en Argelia’, 14 Apr. 1957, pp. 68, 91–3; ‘Sin piedad y sin salida’, 23 June 1957, pp. 110–12 ‘i Así es la guerra en Argelia!’ 7 July 1957, pp. 8–9, 128–31). In addition, there was on average one shorter article every two weeks in the international section of the magazine. This pattern holds true until the fall of Batista.

8 Silvino Sorhegui to the Cuban embassies abroad, circular cable no. 1893, 28 June 1961, archives of the Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX) and Pervillé, Guy, ‘L'insertion internationale du FLN algérien (1954–1962)’ Relations Internationales, Fall 1982, pp. 381, 385. For an indication of press coverage, see the weekly Verde Olivo (Havana) in the last year of the war: ‘De nuevo Argelia’ 19 Mar. 1961, p. 80; ‘Los monopolios contra la paz’ 16 Apr. 1961, pp. 24–6; ‘Argelia, 1961’ 8 Oct. 1961, pp. 61–6; ‘¿Y mañana qué?’ 15 Oct. 1961, pp. 50–5; ‘Argelia Heroica’ 5 Nov. 1961, pp. 36–7; ‘Habla Henri Alleg’ 21 Jan. 1962, pp. 54–5; ‘El papel dirigente del partido comunista francés en la lucha contra la guerra de Argelia y el fascismo’ 25 Feb. 1962, pp. 47–9; ‘Argelia. El fin de la guerra inicia la batalla por la paz’ 1 Apr. 1962, pp. 32–4. (This list includes only the major articles.)

9 Interview with Jorge Risquet.

10 Bella, Ben, quoted in Merle, Robert, Ahmed Ben Bella (Paris, 1965), pp. 153–6. See also Mohammed el Hadi Hadj-Smaïne, who accompanied Ben Bella to Cuba, quoted in ‘La seule erreur de Ben Bella’ Jeune Afrique, 28 June 1978, p. 49.

11 Revolución, 17 Oct. 1962, p. 6.

12 Revolución, 17 Oct. 1962, p. 7. For the text of the communiqué, see Revolución, 18 Oct. 1962, p. 4.

13 Mrs I. J. Overman to the President, 18 Oct. 1962, White House Central File, box 41, John F. Kennedy Library (hereafter JFKL). For more, see ibid.

14 Schlesinger, Arthur Jr, One Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston, 1965), P. 565.

15 Christian Science Monitor (hereafter CSM), 18 Oct. 1962, p. 1.

16 Discussion of Strategy and Action Plan for Algeria' 2 Feb. 1963, p. 3, National Security File, Meetings and Memoranda, box 34, JFKL. See also Robert W. Komer to McGeorge Bundy, 12 Dec. 1962 and Komer to the President, 12 Dec. 1962, both enclosed in National Security Action Memorandum no. 211, 14 Dec. 1962, ibid. box 33; John Root (Algiers) to SecState, 6 Feb. 1963, Mennen William Papers, box 24, RG 59, National Archives (hereafter MWP and box number); Department of State (hereafter DOS), MemoConv (Ben Bella, Mennen Williams et al.), 4 Feb. 1963, enclosed in Root to DOS, 12 Feb. 1963, ibid.

17 Revolución, 17 Oct. 1962, pp. 6–7.

18 Revolución, 18 Oct. 1962, p. 8. Of 2,500 doctors in Algeria in Jan. 1962, only 600 remained 6 months later, when the country became independent. Of these, 285 were Algerian; many of the others were ‘volunteers who had come for a short period’ (Le Peuple [Algiers], 20 Aug. 1963, p. 3 quoted and 21 Aug. 1963, p. 3. See also Bennoune, Mahfoud, The Making of Contemporary Algeria, 1830–1897 (New York, 1988), p. 245).

19 Interview with Sara Perelló. ‘My husband and I volunteered because we wanted to serve the [Cuban] revolution’ remarks Verena Ulloa Cruz. ‘It was enough that Fidel ask, and we were the first in line, what with the stoicism and romanticism of those times’ (Interview with Verena Ulloa Cruz).

20 Interviews with Manuel Cedeño, Angela Morejón, and Perelló. On Fidel's planned visit to Algiers (which did not take place because of time constraints), see La Dépêche d'Algérie (Algiers), 22 Apr. 1963, p. 1 and 24 May 1963, p. 8; Le Monde, 24 May 1963, p. 2.

21 Revolución, 20 May 1963, p. 1 and 24 May 1963, p. 3.

22 For the members of mission, see Revolución, 22 May 1963, p. 2. See also Revolución, 18 May 1963, p. 1; 20 May 1963, p. 1; 24 May 1963, p. 4.

23 Molina, Gabriel ‘La asistencia médica de Cuba a Argelia’ Revolución, 23 06 1964, p. 5.

24 Cuba's foreign aid programme had begun in i960 with the granting of scholarships to a group of students from the Republic of Guinea. Over the next years, small groups of African students continued coming to Cuba, (See ‘Inicio y desarrollo de la colaboración’, archives of the Ministerio para la Inversión Extanjera y la Colaboración Económica [hereafter MIECE]. See also CIA, Office of Current Intelligence [hereafter OCI], ‘Cuban Training and Support for African Nationalists’, 31 Jan 1964, p. 3, National Security File Country File [hereafter NSFCF]: Cuba, box 24, Lyndon B. Johnson Library [hereafter LBJL].)

25 José Ramón Machado Ventura, note to Piero Gleijeses, Havana, 12 July 1995, p. 1. In 1959 Cuba had about 6,000 doctors, of whom some 1,500 had left the country by late 1962, ‘and an equal number had asked to leave the country and the most we could do was to delay their departure for a while’ (Ibid. See also ‘En Síntesis’ Colaboración [Havana], Apr. 1980, p. 37).

26 Interview with Dr Pablo Resik Habib by Edelberto López Blanch. I would like to thank Mr López Blanch, one of Cuba's foremost investigative journalists, for sharing his notes with me.

27 Interview with Cedeño. ‘A comrade from the MINREX gave us a lecture about Algeria. This is all the preparation that we received’ (Interview with Perelló). ‘It was a terrible lecture. Nothing they said had anything to do with what we found’ (Interview with Morejón).

28 Interviews with Cedeño, and Perelló, (quoted). On the arrival of the mission and its first days in Algiers, see also Alger Républicain, 25 05 1963, p. 1;27 May 1963, p. 5; 28 May 1963, p. 3; 31 May 1963, p. 1; Le Peuple, 25 May 1963, p. 1 and 28 May 1963, p. 3; La Dépêche d'Algérie, 25 May 1963, p. 8.

Machado Ventura spent several days in each of the towns where the members of the medical mission had been living with them. (Machado Ventura, note to Gleijeses, p. 2.) He believed that, as Minister of Public Health, he had a duty to see for himself where his doctors were sent. In late September 1965, he appeared, unannounced, in eastern Zaïre, where some 120 Cubans, led by Che Guevara, were fighting side by side with the Zaïrean rebels. The previous August, during a visit to Havana, rebel leaders ‘had extracted [from Fidel Castro] the promise that Cuba would send fifty doctors [to the rebel area] and Machadito was coming to check on the conditions’ explained Guevara in his diary. (Che Guevara, ‘Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria (Congo)’ p. 85. Private collection, Havana.)

29 Interview with Cedeño. ‘We were three months without stipend’ (Interview with Morejón).

30 Interview with Cedeño.

31 Interview with Cedeño. On Che's visit to Algeria, see Revolución, 2, 4–6, 8, 10–16, 24 July.

‘We went 2–3 months without receiving the stipend – without anything – until Che came’, remarks Perelló, confirming Cedeño's account. (Interview with Perelló.)

32 Root to DOS, 14 Jan. 1964, NSFCF: Cuba, box 16, LBJL.

33 The report exaggerated Cuban doctors' salaries. In 1963 there were two salary scales: one applied to those doctors who had been practising medicine before 1959, and ranged from 400 to 618 pesos; the other scale was for those doctors who had graduated since 1959 and went from 198 to 400 pesos. I would like to thank Professor Gloria León Rojas of the University of Havana who researched this matter for me.

34 ‘Our policy has always been to give the same stipend to all civilian internationalists, irrespective of their qualifications’ (Interview with Noemí Benítez de Mendoza, deputy minister of the MIECE). This was true for the first medical mission to Algeria (interviews with Perelló, Morejón and Cedeño), and it was true 15 years later (the end of the period covered by my research). ‘We give everyone the same lodging, food and stipend, whether he is a highly qualified specialist or a skilled worker’ a senior Cuban official told his Angolan hosts in late 1977 (Levy Farah, 23 Oct. 1977, quoted in ‘Informe al Comité Central sobre colaboración civil con Angola’ 1979, pp. 55–6, archives of the Comité Central, Havana).

35 Quotations from Le Peuple, 28 May 1965, p. 3 and from the interview with Resik by López Blanch.

Havana paid for everything until 1978: travel expenses, salary in Cuba, stipend in Algeria. The Algerians took over payment in 1978, and the terms were finally codified in 1980. (‘Protocolo que rige las condiciones de empleo, trabajo y remuneración de los expertos cubanos en los servicios argelinos de salud’ 30 Mar. 1980, archives of the MIECE, and interview with Beníez de Mendoza.)

36 Quotations from interview with Perelló and Sarusky, Jaime ‘Los médicos cubanos en Argelia’ Revolución, Suplemento, 16 12 1963, p. 11. The press rarely covered the Cuban medical missions in Algeria. The articles by Molina and Sarusky cited above are the most informative, but see also Martínez, Caridad ‘Una experiencia para toda la vida’ Colaboración, 07/09 1983, pp. 1112; Luna, Moreno ‘Les Médecins Cubains en Algérie’ Le Peuple, 25 12. 1964, p. 5.

37 Interview with Perelló.

38 Interviews with Perelló (quoted), Cedeño, Morejón, and with two doctors and a nurse who were in Algeria with later medical missions: José Lara Tuñón (1971–3), Verena Cruz Ulloa (1965–6), María del Carmen Amaro (1969–70).

39 Revolución, 12 June 1964, p. 1. On the first mission's warm reception in Cuba, see Revolución, 1 July 1964, p. 1; 9 July 1964, p. 1; 9 July 1964, p. 4; 10 July 1964, p. 3; 11 July 1964, p. 1.

40 Interview with Resik by López Blanch. The medical missions in Algeria ended in 1992. This was due, in part, to economic considerations: there had been a dramatic devaluation of the dinar – from 4.77 dinars per $1 in 1985 to 24.42 dinars per $1 in 1992 (International Financial Statistics, June 1992, pp. 70–1). ‘Since the payment was calculated in dinars, this meant that we were receiving almost nothing.’ Furthermore, the turmoil in Algeria created very serious concerns for the security of the Cuban personnel. (Interview with Benítez de Mendoza.)

41 ‘Ben Bella: Pour une solidarité agissante’ Révolution Africaine (Algiers), 1 June 1963, p. 9.

42 Lacouture, Jean ‘L'Aide aux mouvements nationalistes africains a dominé la fin de la conférence’ Le Monde, 26 05 1963, p. 1.

43 ‘The Addis Ababa Conference’, nd, p. 4, enclosed in Brubeck to McGeorge Bundy, 27 May 1963, FOIA 1976/169E.

44 On Ben Bella's commitment to African liberation, see the excellent overview in Grimaud, Nicole, La politique extérieure del l' Algérie (Paris, 1984), pp. 263–79; David, and Ottaway, Marina, Algeria: The Politics of a Socialist Revolution (Berkeley, 1970), pp. 144–8, 162–229; Mortimer, Robert ‘Foreign Policy and Its Role in Nation-Building in Algeria’ Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1968, pp. 229–78; and, for background, Chick, Slimane ‘L'Algérie et l'Afrique (1954–1962)’ Revue algérienne des sciences juridiques, économiques et politiques, 09. 1968, pp. 700–46.

45 Thomas Hughes (INR) to Acting Secretary, ‘Algeria's Ben Bella: An Interpretation and Estimate’ 28 May 1964, p. 1, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL.

46 On the Ben Bella administration, see Quandt, William, Revolution and Political leadership: Algeria, 1954–1968 (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), pp. 204–35; Chaliand, Gérard and Minces, Juliette, L'Algérie indépendante (Bilan d'une révolution nationale) (Paris, 1972), pp. 2385; Ottaway and Ottaway, Algeria, pp. 1–195.

47 Quotations from NYT, 16 Aug. 1963, p. 2 and Hughes to SecState, ‘Polarization in North Africa: Implications for the US’ 6 Jan. 1965, p. 4, FOIA 1978/205C.

48 See Reyner, Anthony ‘Morocco's International Boundaries: A Factual Background’ Journal of Modern African Studies, 09. 1963, pp. 313–26 and Trout, Frank, Morocco's Saharan Frontiers (Geneva, 1969).

49 Quotations from Le Petit Marocain (Casablanca), 2 Oct. 1963, p. 3 and 7 Oct. 1963, pp. 1 and 3. For the Moroccan occupation of Hassi-Beida and Tindjoub, see Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Annuaire de l'Afrique du Nord. II: 1963 (Paris, 1964), p. 312.

50 New York Times (hereafter NYT), 20 Oct. 1963, p. 17.

51 There is no comprehensive study of the 1963 border war. The best press coverage is in Le Monde and the New York Times. The most detailed chronology is Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Annuaire de l'Afrique du Nord. II: 1963.

52 NYT, 19 Oct. 1963, p. 4.

53 Quotations from CIA, OCI, ‘Consequences of Algerian Coup’ 19 June 1965, p. 2, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL and NYT, 2 Aug. 1964, p. 5.

54 González, Reinerio Placencia, in ‘Entrevista realizada a un grupo de compañeros de la misión internacionalista en Argelia’ 29 11 1985, p. 12, AIHC.

55 Quotations from London Times, 28 Oct. 1963, p. 10 and NYT, 19 Oct. 1963, p. 4. On the Algerian and Moroccan armed forces, see also DOS, Policy Planning Council, ‘North Africa in the Mediterranean Littoral’ 23 Sep. 1963, pp. 12–13, 24–5, NSF, box 3, JFKL; Hughes to SecState, ‘Soviet Military Aid to Algeria’ 6 Aug. 1964, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL; NYT, 30 June 1963, IV: 10 and 16 Apr. 1964, p. 28; Kitchen, Helen (ed.), A Handbook of African Affairs (New York, 1964), pp. 189–90 and 211–13. ‘Hassan II has more Soviet planes, more Soviet tanks and more Soviet artillery than we do’ a senior Algerian official pointed out (Le Peupk, 29 Oct. 1963, p. 3).

56 Le Petit Marocain, 11 Oct. 1963, p. 4.

57 Verde Olivo, 13 Oct. 1963, p. 51.

58 Quotations from Verde Olivo, 10 Nov. 1963, p. 51 and Flavio Bravo to Raúl Castro, Algiers, 21 Oct. 1963, p. 1, archives of the Centro de Información de la Defensa de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (hereafter CID-FAR).

59 Revolución, 2 Nov. 1963, p. 2.

60 Serguera, OH, 6 Mar. 1985, p. 8.

61 Gabriel Molina, OH, nd, p. 3, AIHC. Molina was the director of Prensa Latina in Algeria.

62 Serguera, OH, 6 Mar. 1985, pp. 8–9. Molina confirms Serguera (Molina, OH, pp. 3–4).

Serguera could have contacted Havana by secure telex, but the telephone was faster. ‘Furthermore’ claims Serguera, ‘I never trusted coded messages’ (Interview with Serguera). In fact, in the days that followed, Serguera began sending indiscreet cables, earning a reprimand from Raúl Castro: ‘Our ambassador must report all matters pertaining to the Grupo Especial de Instrucción only to the Ministry of the Armed Forces… I will then relay all the relevant information to our Minister of Foreign Affairs [Raúl Roa]. While we have full confidence in Roa, we do not know how many hands reports sent to the Foreign Ministry pass through. In one of Serguera's last reports to Roa, he spoke of the “aid”, of the “cars” we were going to send, etc. This is improper. It must not happen again’ (Raúl Castro to Flavio Bravo and Jorge Serguera, Havana, 20 Oct. 1963, p. 3, CID-FAR).

63 See James Blake to Fredericks, 12 Dec. 1963, FOIA 1993/146.

64 Interview with Serguera.

65 CIA, Special National Intelligence Estimate, ‘The Effects of Hurricane Flora on Cuba’ 15 Nov. 1963, p. 3, FOIA, 1987/1210.

66 Pedro Labrador Pino, OH, 29 Aug. 1985, pp. 2–8, AIHC. The following interviews conducted by members of the Centro de Estudios de Historia Militar were also particularly useful for Cuba's aid during the 1963 war: ‘Entrevista colectiva sobre la misión internacionalista en Argelia’ (hereafter ‘Entrevista colectiva’) 30 Oct. 1985; ‘Entrevista realizada a un grupo de compañeros de la misión internacionalista en Argelia’ (hereafter ‘Entrevista’) 29 Nov. 1985; Lt. Col. Melquiades González, OH, 16 Dec. 1985. (All located in the AIHC.) Also very useful is the ‘Diario del Instructor Revolucionario Pedro Rodríguez Delgado’ (hereafter ‘Diario’), which covers 13 Oct. 1963–1 April 1964. Private collection, Havana.

67 Labrador Pino, OH, pp. 9–10.

68 Labrador Pino, OH, p. 11.

69 Díaz, Luis Francisco in ‘Entrevista’ 29 11. 1985, p. 109.

70 González, Reinerio Placencia in ‘Entrevista’ 29 11. 1985, pp. 121–3. See also Jesús Díaz, ibid., pp. 75–6 and Melquiades González, OH, pp. 3–4.

71 Fonseca, Pedro Rodríguez, in ‘Entrevista colectiva’, 30 10 1985, pp. 34.

72 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 14 10 1963.

73 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 16 10 1963. See also [no first name] , Velázquez, in ‘Entrevista colectiva’, 30 10 1965, pp. 34–5; Eloy Cruz in ibid. pp. 42–4; Jose Luis Rodríguez Rivero in ibid. pp. 46–8.

74 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 17 10 1963.

75 See ‘Relatión del personal del Grupo Especial de Instructión’, AIHC and Flavio Bravo to Raúl Castro, Algiers, 21 Oct. 1963, p. 1, CID-FAR.

76 See Le Peuple, 1 Nov. 1963, p. 1 and 5 Nov. 1963, p. 1.

77 Interview with Efigenio Ameijeiras.

78 Raúl Castro to Flavio Bravo and Jorge Serguera, Havana, 20 Oct. 1963, pp. 3–5, CID-FAR.

79 Delgado, Pedro Rodríguez, ‘Entrevista colectiva’, 30 10 1985, p. 19. See also Melquiades Gonzalez, OH, p. 8 and Díaz, Jesús, ‘Entrevista’, 29 11 1985, p. 78.

80 Labrador Pino, OH, p. 13.

81 Interview with Ameijeiras. Th e experience of the González hints was similar. (See Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entries of 29 and 30 10 1963 and Velázquez, ‘Entrevista colectiva’, 30 Oct. 1985, p. 39.)

82 Interview with Ameijeiras. For press reports, see Daily Telegraph, 26 Oct. 1963, p. 16; NYT, 27 Oct. 1963, p. 1 and 30 Oct. 1963, p. 3; Le Petit Marocain, 28 Oct. 1963, p. 3, Le Monde, 30 Oct. 1963, p. 2; 31 Oct. 1963, p. 6; 1 Nov. 1963, p. 2; London Times, 28 Oct. 1963, p. 10 and 30 Oct. 1963, p. 7. See also McGeorge Bundy to Kennedy, ‘Weekend reading, November 2–3, 1963’, NSF, box 318, JFKL; Hughes, to SecState, , ‘Soviet Military Aid to Algeria’, 6 08 1964, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL.

83 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 11 11 1963.

84 Velázquez, , ‘Entrevista colectiva’, 30 10 1985, p. 39.

85 Quotations from Flavio Bravo to Raúl Castro, Algiers, 31 Oct. 1963, p. 1, CID-FAR and Melquiades González, OH, pp. 20–1. On Operación Dignidad, see ibid. pp. 49–52; Flavio Bravo to Raúl Castro, Algiers, 21 Oct. 1963, p. 3, CID-FAR; García Blanco, La misión internacionalista, pp. 27–8, 34; Serguera, , OH, 6 03 1985, p. 12; Serguera, , OH, 13 09 1985, pp. 13.

86 Interview with Ameijeiras.

87 See Wild, Patricia Berko, ‘The Organization of African Unity and the Algerian-Moroccan Border Conflict’, International Organization, Winter 1966, pp. 1836, and Touval, Saadia, The Boundary Politics of Independent Africa (Cambridge, Mass., 1972), pp. 255–62.

88 See, for example, Williams to John Ferguson, 25 Oct. 1963, pp. 1–2, MWP, box 11 and Williams to Ferguson, 29 Oct. 1963, ibid.

89 Interview with Ameijeiras.

90 Quotation from London Times, 22 Oct. 1963, p. 8. Cuba and Egypt were the only countries that sent troops. The first Egyptian soldiers did not reach Algeria until the end of October. ‘Even though we came from much farther away, we were the first to arrive’, remarks Ameijeiras. (Interview with Ameijeiras. See also CIA, Office of National Estimates, ‘Nasser's Policy and Prospects in Black Africa’, 9 01 1964, p. 13, FOI A 1977/20E; Le Petit Marocain, 28 Oct. 1963, p. 3; 6 Nov. 1963, p. 3 and 12 Nov. 1963, p. 1; London Times, 30 Oct. 1963, p. 7 and 2 Nov. 1963, p. 7; he Monde, 30 Oct. 1963, p. 2 and 3 Nov. 1963, p. 11; NYT, 27 Oct. 1963, p. 1 and 30 Oct. 1963, p. 1.)

91 Hughes, to SecState, , ‘Polarization in North Africa: Implications for the US’, 6 01 1965, p. 4, FOIA, 1978/205c.

92 Foreign Minister Bouteflika, Abdelaziz, Le Peuple, 23 11 1963, p. 3. See also Wauthier, Claude, Quatre présidents et I'Afrique. De Gaulle, Pompidou, Giscard d'Estaing, Mitterand (Paris, 1995), pp. 156–7.

93 Williams to John Ferguson, 25 Oct. 1963, pp. 1–2, MWP, box n. See also Williams to Ferguson, 29 Oct. 1963, ibid.; Gallagher, Charles, ‘Morocco and the United States’, American Universities Field Staff, 1967, p. 9; Berramdane, Abdelkhaleq, Le Maroc et I'Occident {1800–1974) (Paris, 1987), pp. 264–8; testimony of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Newsom, David in United States Congress, Senate, Hearings before the Subcommittee on United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, 91 Cong., 2d sess., vol. II, Parts 5–11, pp. 1969–70, 1977 (Washington DC, 1971).

94 Interview with Ameijeiras.

95 London Times, 28 Oct. 1963, p. 10 (quoted) and 30 Oct. 1963, p. 7. See also Le Petit Marocain, 28 Oct. 1963, p. 3 and 31 Oct. 1963, p. 3; CSM, 29 Oct. 1963, p. 2; Le Monde, 1 Nov. 1963, p. 2; NYT, 30 Oct. 1963, p. 3; Hughes, to SecState, , ‘Soviet Military Aid to Algeria’, 6 08 1964, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL.

96 NYT, 28 Oct. 1963, p. 10.

97 Boumedienne to Raúl Castro, Algiers, 20 Nov. 1963, CID-FAR.

98 Interview with Ameijeiras.

99 Toro, Ulises Rosales del to Castro, Raul, ‘Informe resumen’, Bedeau, 30 03 1964, pp. 1011, CID-FAR.

100 Fonseca, Rodríguez, in ‘Entrevista colectiva’, 30 10 1985, p. 11.

101 Fonseca, Rodríguez, in ‘Entrevista colectiva’, 30 10 1985, p. 11; interview with Perelló.

102 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 5 03 1964.

103 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entries of 27, 29, and 30 11 1963; of 5 Dec. 1963; of 19, 21, and 28 Feb. 1964.

104 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 22 11 1963.

105 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 8 12 1963.

106 Interviews with Ulises Estrada, Oscar Cárdenas and Enrique Montero, all of whom were intelligence officers who had been involved with this process.

107 Toro, Ulises Rosales del to Castro, Raúl, ‘Informe resumen’, Bedeau, 30 03 1964, p. 10, CID-FAR.

108 Quotations from Hughes, to SecState, , ‘Soviet Military Aid to Algeria’, 6 08 1964, p. 2, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJ L and interview with Ameijeiras.

109 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, entry of 12 03 1964.

110 Delgado, Rodríguez, ‘Diario’, quotations from entries of 29 Mar., 30 Mar. and 1 04 1964.

111 Blake, James to Fredericks, 12 Dec. 1963, FOIA 1993/146;le Petit Marocain 1 11. 1963, p.4 quoted.

112 le Petit Marocain, 14 Jan. 1964, p. 1; see also le Monde, 23., Dec. 1963, p. 6; Revolutión: 27 Feb. 1964, p. 1 and 11 Mar. 1964, p. 2.

Threatened with the termination of US aid, Rabat bowed to the US demand not to trade with Cuba in Moroccan vessels. Nevertheless, following the conclusion of a new sugar agreement in Feb. 1965, Mennen Williams cabled Washington that he had lectured King Hassan about the ‘problem caused by Moroccan sugar agreement with Cuba, saying that congressional, political, and economic considerations applied.…King said in reply that he understood our preoccupations. Had decided, however, that GOM had to assure itself of sugar through arrangement which posed minimum strain of foreign exchange. Said he had taken decision to hold contract to two years rather than five, which econ min had proposed, because of his understanding our position.’ (Williams to SecState, 26 Feb. 196;, p. 3, MWP, box 26. See also Revolutión, 20 Feb. 1965, p. 1; NYT, 19 Feb. 1964, p. 1; 21 Feb. 1964, p. 2; 5 Mar. 1964, p. 3.)

113 Hughes, to Acting Secretary, ‘Algeria's Ben Bella: An Interpretation and Estimate’, 28 05 1964, p. 3, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL.

114 ‘Allocution d'ouverture prononcée par le président Ben Bella’, Le Peuple, 23 Feb. 1965, p. 3.

115 Le Peuple, 14 Oct. 1964, p. 3.

116 Quotations from CIA, OCI, ‘Ben Bella's Relations with the Soviet Bloc’, 3 June 1964, p. 4, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL and Hughes to SecState, 19 Apr. 1965, p. 6, NSFCF: Cuba, box 20, LBJL.

117 Interviews with Estrada and Cárdenas, who were both intelligence officers. According to the CIA, between 1961 and early 1965, 100 to 200 Africans received military training in Cuba (CIA, OCI, ‘Weekly Cuban Summary’, 5 May 1965, p. 8, FOIA 1995; see also CIA, OCI, ‘Cuban Training and Support for African Nationalists’, 31 Jan. 1964, NSFCF: Cuba, box 24, LBJL and Hughes to SecState, ‘Cuba and Africa’, 5 Jan.1965;, ibid.)

118 Interviews with Estrada (quoted) and Cardenas. For claims that there were Cuban military instructors in Ghana, see Lang, Nicolas, ‘Les cubains en Afrique Noire’, Est et Ouest, 1 06 1967, p. 23 and Durch, ‘The Cuban Military’, p. 43.

119 Interviews with Darío Urra (quoted) and Estrada. The ambassador in Cairo, the late Luis García Guitart, was a prominent university professor who lacked ties with the Cuban leadership. Armando Entralgo, who represented Cuba in Accra, was a young MINREX official. He has since become one of Cuba's foremost Africanists.

120 Interviews with Urra (quoted), Estrada and Cárdenas. The Directión 5, which covered Africa and Asia, was created in 1965. (Estrada was its first director, and Cárdenas became a section chief.)

121 If Algeria was to be Cuba's headquarters in Africa, then the choice of Serguera as ambassador was unfortunate. Intelligent and physically brave, the mercurial Serguera lacked both the sensitivity to understand Africa and the humility to realise how much he needed to learn. His advice during Che Guevara's visit to Africa in early 1965 contributed to Havana's overestimation of the revolutionary potential of the region.

122 Interviews with Urra and Estrada.

123 Le Peuple, 4 Aug.1963, p. 1.

124 Interview with Urra. Venezuela broke diplomatic relations with Cuba on 11 Nov. 1961; Argentina on 8 Feb. 1962; Brazil on 12 May 1964.

125 , Serguera, OH, 6 03. 1985;, pp. 22–4. Drawn to conspiratorial activities, Serguera neglected less exciting work like attending to the needs of the Cuban medical mission. In early 1964 Oscar Oramas, a young MINREX officer who had no ties to M, was appointed deputy chief of mission and took over the routine business of the embassy.

126 Interviews with Estrada and Dreke.

127 Interview with Urra.

128 Interviews with Estrada and Urra.

129 Granma, 7 Sep.1968, p. 7 quoted. O n the Masetti guerrilla uprising, see Gott, Richard, Guerrilla Movements in Latin America (Garden City, NY, 1970), pp. 398400 and Molina's, GabrielJorge Ricardo Masetti, periodista y guerrillero (Havana, 1968). For a swashbuckling account, see Rojo, Ricardo, My Friend Che (New York, 1968), pp. 152–62. I benefited from an interview with Alberto Castellanos, one of the two Cubans in Argentina with Masetti. When Masetti left the base camp in Feb. 1964 with several men, Castellanos was among those who remained behind. He was captured on 4 Mar., tortured, and sentenced to five years. He was freed in Dec. 1967. Throughout his ordeal, he maintained his cover as a Peruvian student. The other Cuban, Hermes Peña, was killed in a skirmish.

130 Interview with Urra.

131 Hughes, to SecState, ‘Cuba and Africa’, 5 01 1965, p. 3, NSFCF: Cuba, box 24, LBJL.

132 Interviews with Estrada and Urra.

133 Interview with Oramas.

134 Hughes to SecState, ‘Che Guevara's African Venture’, NSFCF: Cuba, box 20, LBJL.

135 ‘Ayuda brindada por la República de Cuba al Partido Africano por la Independencia de Guinea y las Islas de Cabo Verde (PAIGC)’, p. 10, CID-FAR. Interviews with Oramas and Urra.

136 When Urra arrived at Brazzaville, the Algerian diplomats greeted him, along with Congolese officials. ‘The Algerians loaned us a car, a driver, they helped us in every way they could’. For four to five months, Urra and his staff lived in a residence of the Algerian ambassador, rent free (Interview with Urra).

137 See Serguera, , OH, 6 03 1985, p. 23.

138 Interview with Estrada who was in charge of the operation and on the Uvero. See also the two folders on the ‘Operatión Triángulo’, archives of the Central Committee.

139 Quotations from Ottaway and Ottaway, Algeria, p. 231 and from Bundy, , ‘Memorandum to the President’, 5 01 1965, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL. For key documents, see RWK [Komer], Memorandum for the Record, 15 Jan. 1964, ibid.; Porter to SecState, 11 May 1964, FOIA 1978/258A; CIA, OCI, ‘Ben Bella's Relations with the Soviet Bloc’, 3 June 1964, NSFCF: Africa, box 79, LBJL; Root to DOS, 29 June 1964, ibid.; Hughes, to SecState, ‘Ben Bella Heading into Stormy Seas’, 10 09 1964, FOIA 1978/259A; Komer, Memorandum for Record, 19 Nov. 1964, NSF, Name File, box 6, LBJL; DOS, MemoConv (Rusk, Guellal, Newsom, Stoltzfus), 16 Apr. 1965, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL; Porter to SecState, 12 May 1965, ibid. The most comprehensive overview of US relations with Ben Bella's Algeria is Rahmani, Seghir, ‘Algerian-American Relations (1962–1985)’, 2 vols., Ph.D. dissertation, Georgetown University, 1986, I: 188261.

140 Le Monde, 8 Nov. 1963, p. 1.

141 NYT, 21 June 1965, p. 3.

142 Revolución, 28 July 1965, pp. 4–5. Until this speech, the only public references in Cuba to Cuban aid to Algeria in the Desert War had been an article mentioning that the members of the Medical Mission had volunteered to fight and another that stated that Cuba had sent 4, 744 tons of sugar to Algeria (Revolución, 17 Oct. 1963, p. 1 and 5 Nov. 1963, p. 1).

143 Interview with Oramas, the chargé.

144 Revolución, 1 July 1965, p. 1 and 5 July 1965, p. 1.

145 Flavio Bravo to Raúl Castro, Algiers, 21 Oct. 1963, pp. 2–3, CID-FAR.

146 See Hughes, to SecState, ‘Soviet Military Aid to Algeria’, 6 08 1964, NSFCF: Algeria, box 79, LBJL.

147 ‘Texto del discurso pronunciado por el comandante Ali Hamlat, en el acto central organizado por el MINFAR, con motivo del primero de Noviembre/1984’, p. 9, AIHC.

148 Interview with Estrada.

149 Interviews with Estrada and Cárdenas.

150 Shevchenko, Arkady, Breaking With Moscow (New York, 1985), pp. 271–2. The Cubans sent their troops ‘on their own initiative and without consulting us’, Dobrynin, Anatoly, former Soviet ambassador to the United States, confirms (In Confidence: Moscow's Ambassador to America's Six Cold War Presidents (New York, 1995), p. 362).

151 Interview with Manuel Agramonte.

* I would like to thank the Social Science Research Council and the Department of Latin American Studies of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies for helping to support this research.

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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
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