News Release

* CIA Fingered Mandela * Cuba Aided in South African Liberation

Share COCKBURN, amcockburn at
Co-author of several books on global affairs and covert operations, Cockburn wrote a New York Times op-ed in 1986 that noted Nelson Mandela’s “arrest came as a result of a tip-off from the Central Intelligence Agency to the authorities. According to recent reports in the Johannesburg Star and on CBS News, Mr. Mandela was traveling to meet a CIA officer who was working out of the United States Consulate in Durban, the capital of Natal. Instead of attending the meeting, the CIA man told the police exactly where and when the most hunted man in South Africa could be found.” See from FAIR: “CIA and Mandela: Can the Story Be Told Now? Agency’s Role in Mandela Capture Still Mostly Not News.”

Gleijeses is a professor of U.S. foreign policy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and author of several books including the just-released Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991.

Asked about the controversy regarding the handshake between Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, Gleijeses said this morning on “Democracy Now“: “I think it’s pathetic and reflects the ethics of the United States and the policy of the United States. President Obama, was received with applause in South Africa when he spoke because he is the first black president of the United States. But the role of the United States as a country, as a government, past governments, in the struggle for liberation of South Africa is a shameful role. In general, we were on the side of the apartheid government. And the role of Cuba is a splendid role in favor of the liberation.”

Gleijeses gives the relevant history: “Che Guevara was sent by Fidel Castro as his top representative to sub-Saharan Africa — it was the first visit by a top Cuban leader to sub-Saharan Africa — because the Cubans believed that there was a revolutionary situation in central Africa, and they wanted to help. And Che Guevara established relations with a number of revolutionary movements. One of them was the MPLA, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola. …”

“In 1975, you had the decolonization of Angola, a Portuguese colony slated to become independent on November 11, 1975. There is a civil war between three movements: one supported by the Cubans … the other two supported by South Africa and the United States. And the movement supported by the Cubans, the MPLA, which is in power in Angola today, having won free elections, was on the verge of winning the civil war.

“And in order to prevent their victory … in October 1975, urged by Washington, South Africa invaded. And the South African troops advanced on [Angolan capital] Luanda, and they would have taken Luanda and crushed the MPLA if Fidel Castro had not decided to intervene. And between November 1975 and April 1976, 36,000 Cuban soldiers poured into Angola and pushed the South Africans back into Namibia, which South Africa ruled at the time.”

In 1991, Nelson Mandela traveled to Cuba to thank Fidel Castro and the Cuban people for supporting the fight against apartheid and colonialism in southern Africa. “The decisive defeat of the aggressive apartheid forces [in Angola] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor,” Mandela said. “The defeat of the apartheid army served as an inspiration to the struggling people of South Africa. … When we wanted to take up arms, we approached numerous Western governments in search of help and we could only talk with the lowest level officials. When we visited Cuba we were received by the highest authorities who immediately offered anything we wanted and needed. That was our first experience with Cuban internationalism.”