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Vol. 76/No. 3      January 23, 2012

Congo: U.S. mercenaries vs.
Cuban internationalists
MIAMI—The Miami Herald recently ran an article advertising a December reunion for a group of counterrevolutionary Cuban mercenary pilots who flew secret combat missions in the Congo in the mid-1960s. The article painted the brigade—the self-styled Makasi—as veterans in the fight for liberation in Africa. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The brigade consisted of more than 100 counterrevolutionaries who left Cuba after the victory of workers and farmers there over the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Many of them had taken part in the unsuccessful US-organized invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. They then were recruited by the CIA to fight a dirty war in the service of U.S. imperialism against another liberation struggle, this time in Africa.

The Congo was a Belgian colony that won independence in 1960. Patrice Lumumba, a popular leader of the independence movement, became prime minister and began to take steps to increase Congolese control of the country.

The imperialist rulers had big stakes in exploiting the people and mineral-rich resources of the Congo, including giant U.S.-British-Belgium-controlled mines that produced 60 percent of the uranium and 73 percent of the cobalt available to the European and American powers. Fearing the rise of a workers’ and peasants’ movement, the U.S. and Belgium governments organized under the flag of the United Nations a coup against Lumumba, who was assassinated in January 1961.

The Congolese masses launched a popular liberation movement in response. The European and U.S. governments recruited racist mercenaries from across Europe and apartheid-South Africa, and from among the rightist Cuban refugees, to fight alongside Belgian troops.

Supplied with U.S. planes, the Makasi pilots bombed and strafed villages of poorly armed or unarmed Congolese.

In 1965 Ernesto Che Guevara, an Argentine who was a central leader of the Cuban Revolution, led a team of Cuban volunteers to train liberation fighters in the Congo. For some eight months, Guevara and the Cuban forces fought side by side with Congolese fighters while the counterrevolutionary exiles bombed the country.

The imperialist forces overpowered the Congolese freedom fighters and installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, who upheld imperialist interests in the region from 1965-97.

Efforts by the Cuban Revolution to aid liberation struggles across Africa continued. From late 1975 to May 1991, 375,000 Cuban internationalist volunteer troops went to Angola in order to help the newly independent government repel repeated attempts by the South African regime to invade the country. Among them were three of the Cuban Five: Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González and René González. (See article on this page.) Some 2,000 Cubans gave their lives.

The Cuban forces played a decisive role in the final battle to defeat the apartheid army at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988. Nelson Mandela later said, “The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character.”
Related articles:
US gov’t reply to Cuban 5 motion backs frame-up of revolutionaries
‘Socialism and Man in Cuba’ by Che published in Greece  
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