Most Cubans who fought the leader of UNITA, Jonas Savimbi, had only a vague idea about the elusive enemy they never managed to catch.
In 1979, an exiled journalist managed to interview him. That Cuba Tomás Regalado is now the current mayor of Miami.
More than three decades later, the rare interview remains the most comprehensive reference Savimbi thinking about the confrontation with Cuban troops. I think it will be an interesting read for veterans of the war in Angola, and that's why I reproduce below.
What do you think? Did you give the story the reason the leader of UNITA in some of their approaches?
A Rebel with a Cause
By Tomas Regalado
World Exclusive IDEAL
It was January 1976, we knew we had reached several hundred Cubans to Angola, but not know they were already actively participating in combat. Our forces captured a young white man who spoke Spanish. He was born in Spain and had been hired by the Portuguese, we put in doubt. One of our friends had lived in Spain for years and had been in Cuba. We sent him to converse with the prisoner offered him a cigar and the boy said he did not know what was pure. Responded and said ... ah, a snuff ... our friend returned with the verdict: the prisoner is Cuban. So we knew of the presence of Cuban combat units in the civil war.
The young man discovered her to be said, yes, I am Cuban, but only talk to the boss, ... I am Savimbi Savimbi, you can talk you respect your life, I answered, and the prisoner gave the details of the arrival of units Cuban, places and how they operated.
In a leisurely, pleasant, Jonas Savimbi Malherio tells this and other interesting stories, we talked for hours and recorded part of an interview and now we were having dinner and then continue the work.
The trip was long, Miami, Paris, and then due to an African country. There will be one of the meetings with the leader of the anti-Communist guerrillas in Angola, who left the country liberated territory for this historic meeting.
For weeks, the interview was prepared. The life of Jonas Savimbi would be the most coveted trophy in Moscow and Havana, and that's why security measures were extreme. The President of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola was alone for a few days in an African country friend. Next to him several leaders of the most powerful anti-guerrilla group of Africa: Jeremiah Chitunda, the efficient and talented Secretary for Information, and Tony Fernandez, the active delegate in London and Brussels, the assistant of the President, Commander Jean Batiste, his bodyguard and his secretary. We accompanied our wife, Rachel, who would handle graphic record through photos of the various meetings.
On March 23, 1966, Jomas Savimbi, born into the tribe Ovinvundo, the majority of Angola, a graduate of Political Science and Law at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, founded with twelve men, the National Union Total Independence of Angola UNITA, establishing his headquarters in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, to fight against Portuguese colonialism that dominated his country. He later was expelled from the country by launching attacks on Angolan territory, and in July 1968, more than ten years ago, he went into the jungles of Angola.
When the Portuguese withdrew in 1975 from Angola, UNITA was the largest group in this country of six million and six times larger in area than Cuba. However, the Soviet Union, which wanted to install its African base in this strategic country, decided to send thousands of Cuban soldiers, who installed in power the Marxist poet Agostinho Neto, leader of a minority guerrilla group, but responding to Moscow .
Once again began the fight to Savimbi, and today the 42-year-old guerrilla leader worship has become the main obstacle to Soviet expansion plans in Africa, because Fidel Castro has been forced to keep tens of thousands of men, who if they were not fighting the UNITA forces bidders would invade and conquer Africa.
The leaders should fight alongside the people and not to travel and live abroad, away from combat-and describes its strategy Jonas Savimbi. Hence, granting very few interviews and rarely go abroad, but the presence of more than 30 thousand Cuban military and civilians in Angola, and the daily deaths of Cubans have made the war in Angola is already Cuba's war, war Fidel Castro. Savimbi refused to talk to Cubans and there were thus becoming the first Hispanic journalist, U.S., Latin America or Europe, which manages to interview the legendary guerrilla leader. In perfect English, then in Portuguese, we offered to Jonas Savimbi and the Journal IDEAL WRHC the following interview, we provide in textual form and complete by the informative and political impact is the same for the United States to Africa and Cuba .
Regalado: Mr. Chairman, we would like to hear your analysis on the war in Angola at the beginning of 1979.
Savimbi: The situation in Angola has improved a lot to us, even though the enemy has brought new troops Cuban troops, troops in East Germany, I mean, he notes, that East Germans are now a new element Russian intervention in our country, but despite all attempts to crush our resistance, our people, our soldiers have endured because they know that history backs them up, no foreign invasion can succeed, whatever the means employed, regardless give your reasons are, because imperialism, colonialism, are doomed to failure. That's why we have to resist the Cubans, the Russians and East Germans during these three years, that is why we are very optimistic that the next 1979, and enter this year, will bring new and great victories.
Regalado: For years, we have reported and denounced the Cuban military presence in Angola, however, some people say, including U.S. officials, that the level of Cubans in the country has decreased.
Savimbi: The number of Cuban troops has not diminished, what happened is that they have withdrawn some troops who have spent much time in Angola and brought new fresh troops. The number of Cuban troops in Angola today is 25 thousand, or that there has been no reduction. Some people try to justify the presence of Cubans, or trying to convince the world that Castro intends to withdraw from Angola. These people are playing with a very sensitive issue of geopolitics, Castro has no intention to withdraw from Angola, giving the impression that withdrawal Castro wants to win the sympathy of Americans for his regime by taking advantage of the position of President Carter, while Castro wants regime diplomatic recognition of Angola for the United States, which is why he is playing with words pretending to be withdrawal of troops.
"I think, continues the guerrilla leader, it is important to remind the world that in 1976 Castro issued a statement through Sweden, saying it would withdraw 200 troops from Angola each week, and never did that. Now he says again that last October it intended to withdraw Cuban troops from Angola, but due to the invasion of South Africa, had to send more troops. The truth is that Castro never had and does not intend or desire to withdraw his troops he wants to remain in Angola. I think it's important to say this: Fidel Castro until after its invasion of Angola was not an important political figure, but since it invaded Angola, since he succeeded, at least publicly, in its operations over the Americans, Castro has become an important person. It is now a political figure of international dimensions. Anything you say Castro in Havana is reported immediately in the Western press in the United States, France, in London, so I think this encouraged him to intervene in Ethiopia that is why we here in Africa more than 50 thousand Cuban troops. I think we've proven that in UNITA Castro can be defeated, despite the great arms, we have been resisting for three years, and all observers agree that Castro has lost more than 8 thousand troops in Angola.
Regalado: Precisely, I wanted to talk about it, to know his assessment of the Cubans killed in the war in Angola.
Savimbi: Castro can not publicly admit that he has lost so many men, due to the negative impact that this information can have on the internal situation, but several observers have said that number, 8 thousand dead, for example, among those who accompanied Senator George McGovern to Luanda, has written a column that has seen Cuban coffins were being buried, saying that this scenario is common, that is, it is very hard to admit, but we know that 8 thousand soldiers have died in Cuban Angola during these three years.
"Now we have another explanation," he continues Savimbi. At first the Cuban soldiers were very aggressive, chasing us in the forest, slaughtered our people, but after three years are absolutely demoralized, the Cuban life is now very difficult, and dare not enter the forest, because know that every time they do leave on the earth 100 dead, 50 dead, we think that whatever the path taken by events, Cuban troops have no chance of winning the war in Angola. If Americans adopt a correct and consistent policy, we can accelerate the defeat of the Cuban troops in Angola, but if they do not, three years is enough to prove that the Cubans can be defeated in Africa.
Regalado: What would you consider as correct and consistent policy of the Carter administration in relation to Angola?
Savimbi: I think we should go back a bit to try to describe the current thinking of the Carter administration. We must say that there is no foreign policy in the Carter administration, not only in relation to Angola, not only in relation to South Africa but the world ... After the defeat of the Americans in Vietnam, we believe that they have abdicated its position as superpower in the world They, the Americans, have given way to the Soviets, we agree with the recent interview of Dr. Kissinger, when Carter said the administration is ignoring the geoplítica. Many people are now trying to avoid dealing with the Cubans, who are but the envoys from Russia, many fear even face the Cubans, are being defeated, that is, in Angola, is what I said before, we tried without the aid anyone, and if we have had has been very little help, we have proven, again, we can challenge the Soviets and Cubans. What if we had the backing of a superpower like the U.S.? We could defeat the Russians. But the U.S. has allowed Cubans to come to Angola, setting a precedent that allowed the Russians to send the Cubans to the Horn of Africa. The Russians from Angola, from the Middle East are threatened, but today only the Carter administration is doing is to give ground to the Russians with the pretext that in principle this situation is described as an African problem, they knew very well that the Cuban were involved, that the Russians were involved, today has become clear that our problem was not African struggle ... Angola was the beginning of Soviet expansionism in the continent. That's why the Carter administration needs a policy for dealing with these invasions, otherwise it will be too late.
Regalado: How can the U.S. confront Soviet expansionism in Africa?
Savimbi: Let's take as an example the problem of Angola. We understand, although we have no evidence nor contacts with the Carter administration at the moment, it is preparing to diplomatically recognize the Luanda regime, are having some difficulties with public opinion, Congress, the Senate, because the presence of 25 thousand Cuban troops in Angola. They want to reverse this problem, saying many countries have already recognized the Luanda regime that Cubans should not be a precondition. If the Carter administration recognized the Luanda regime, which the Cubans in Angola is setting a very dangerous precedent to be repeated over and over again in Africa and elsewhere someday. That's why we think it is very important for the Carter administration to review the situation in Angola. The situation in Angola has very serious precedent already set, because without the apparent victory of the Russians in Angola, they would not have dared to invade the Horn of Africa, which is a very strategic area due to the Red Sea, which is why we think it is very important for them to be strong, because what will happen in Africa over the next two or three years, definitely affect Europe and anything affecting Western Europe will affect the balance of power between the U.S. and the Soviet Union .
Regalado: The case of Namibia, may perhaps become a Soviet base?
Savimbi: I think so, "but from where they are going to launch an invasion to transform Namibia into a Soviet base? ... From Angola, because Angola is a base from which the Russians can progress in any direction, but we have now, for example, so-called areas of tension in Zimbabwe in Namibia, South Africa, and it is from Angola can transform Namibia into a Soviet base. They now have the East Germans, who are soldiers of the Warsaw Pact, to help suppress the resistance, but aim to being ready to intervene in Angola, just because there was no resolution in Angola by Washington to stop the Russians.
Regalado: Is it time yet the free world to confront the Soviet advance?
Savimbi: Yes there is time, because we are there and we are resisting, absolutely yes there is time, but this deserves further analysis. The concern in America today is that everyone is seeing a new Vietnam in the Horn of Africa, a new Vietnam in Iran, a new Viet Nam in Angola, Vietnam anywhere This is false, all political problem has its very essence in accordance with the context of the region's people. What happened in Vietnam is somewhat different to what is happening in Angola, what is happening in Angola, Angola affected first, second affects Africa and third affect the balance of power between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. That is, if Americans decide to intervene in Angola, and think that what we are asking American soldiers to come and help us wrong, we say that we tried for three years that we have not needed a single foreigner to help , for three years we have been sufficient not only to keep them at bay but to advance and conquer positions, take for example the case of the Benguela Railway, where the government of Luanda, the Russians and the Cubans have set a target operation railway operation and will not succeed, which means that the Cubans and the Russians are not invincible. It is important to know that Americans can help without sending their children to die in Angola, we want to help us because we want to apply what Winston Churchill once said, we only need the tools and we would do the job.
Regalado: You mentioned the Benguela Railway. Do you know that Net is hiring mercenaries?
Savimbi: I do not think you can find best mercenaries Net Cubans who have had it for three years, I think the best quality of mercenaries is the Net has been using because it is a well-equipped regular army of Russia, which has unity and discipline, if this is true, and failed, or that any mercenary who is trying to recruit Net will not suffice.
Regalado: Of course the Angolan people are aware of the high price you're paying for my people, the Cuban people in the war in Angola. Am I right?
Savimbi: Let's take this question in two aspects: First, what the Russians are investing in the effort to keep the Cubans in Angola is being evaluated at present between one and two million dollars a day. That's why I think the Russians agreed to convince Net American money to look for Angola, so that instead of the Russians paid two million dollars per day to keep the Cubans, Americans are those who pay. Second, what is the price that our people are paying for this resistance, for independence: slaughter, thousands of people have died, thousands are homeless, thousands are orphans, then, is that to balance what is the loss Russia to keep the Cubans in Angola to do their dirty work against what you are paying in suffering Angolan people. We believe that Americans should look at this, because it is important not only for ourselves but for all countries who love freedom and respect, and I think that what we are doing in Angola, to resist, has a relationship with history. What Americans 200 years ago dared to confront the most powerful country, it was Great Britain, had only decided and bold leaders, had the unity of the people ... and a weak nation that was at that time America won and defeated Britain. Thanks to George Washington, by Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and gained independence. Americans can not ignore what we are doing today reminds us in our minds what they did over 200 years ... And we have another important document that encourages us a lot to us, is the Declaration of Independence of the United States, which says exactly this: "that the government has an obligation to defend the citizens, to create conditions of stability, create material and spiritual welfare for the people", and if the Government fails under the Constitution, "Citizens not only have the right but the duty to overthrow that government, because that is an illegal government. " Therefore we say that what we are doing in Angola is exactly what they did, following in a different context of American philosophy. I think we have much in common with America, that's why I'm sure they must know that we are their allies.
Regalado: The Politics of Human Rights, for example, does the Angolan people have human rights?
Savimbi: I believe that the Declaration of Human Rights states that all men are created equal, equal in dignity and rights. We can not say that there is any possibility of discussing human rights in a country where there is an expeditionary force of 25 thousand men engaged in a work of murder, loot, to rob, we can not talk about human rights in a country where an expeditionary force has put in power a minority, we can not talk about human rights in a country where troops of a superpower like Russia with its general plan to massacres of innocent no human rights in Angola, and is a paradox that the champions of the human rights policy, which we support can come to Angola and justify the presence of Cuban troops in Angola as a stabilizing factor. A man who defends human rights not only at home but in the world, how can we accept this? There are people in the Carter administration have not only fallen into a contradiction in international politics but also have fallen into a contradiction of their own country, because you can not ask for human rights in Russia, could not ask for human rights in Cuba, not can fight for human rights in Europe, where it is accepted that the Cubans can stay in Angola as a stabilizing factor.
Regalado: Precisely, a related topic, what is your analysis of the behavior of the Cuban troops in Angola?
Savimbi: Soldiers Cubans have had three attitudes: Upon reaching the end of civil war, tried to win over the population, but immediately realized that the people did not want, because they were foreigners, because they represented a new force external oppression. So Cubans started to shoot at women, children, to commit acts of banditry, the Cuban people after a while in this attitude they realized that the more acts committed against the people, more people joined the resistance. Now the attitude is that the Cubans are desperate, and today the Cubans shoot not only against our people, but against the Angolan MPLA. That is the first attitude was to try to win over our people, the second firing indiscriminately, and today is that they have gone mad, shooting even against those who say they were called. Not a single day that Cubans do not shoot members of the MPLA, which means that the Cubans have come to the conclusion that because of the atrocities they commit, and neither the MPLA wants.
Regalado: But Castro is sending more Cubans. For example, the agreement signed by Carlos Rocha in Havana, which incidentally was dismissed by Net-to send thousands of Cubans.
Savimbi: Absolutely, Castro is trying to make a colony in Angola, and I want to clarify something: the press is saying that Carlos Rocha was fired because he signed a series of agreements with Castro Neto without authorization. This is false. Who Rocha sent to Cuba? Did Rocha fled to Cuba? No, Rocha was sent by the President, and it was to sign agreements between Luanda and Havana. Rocha headed a delegation, or going in an official capacity to Havana, I am convinced that Rocha was fired for infighting within the MPLA, but the agreements that he was to sign absolutely be honored by both sides, Angola and Havana. Nobody is going to break those agreements, those agreements are official, that is, which is totally untrue of all falsehood, which have said Rocha Neto fired because he no longer wants more cooperation from the Cubans, I am really convinced that the ten thousand Cubans who have been promised for 79, come to Angola, because the agreement was made between Castro Neto. Rocha was only the instrument.
Regalado: President, then with more Cubans arriving in Angola, what will happen in the coming months?
Savimbi: The reality is that the independence, freedom, dignity, can not be conquered if the people are not ready to pay a price to conquer, the wars are long and are hard and sometimes people leave after victory, physically and morally crippled. But the Angolan people has agreed to pay that price, while Castro send more troops to Angola, more will be the hatred of the Angolans. Because today, Cubans not only colonial but also have become a burden to the Angolan people. Cuban soldiers are eating very well. They have all the houses that were left by the Portuguese when they left the country. The Angolans have no homes. When food is only a little food, because the producing region does not produce, but when brought from Czechoslovakia and other communist countries, this food is for the Cubans. When the Cubans in the jungle with the FAPL (army of Neto), Cubans have food on combat rations, the Angolans do not eat. When Cubans and respond violently attack us, the Cubans dead are carried by helicopter to the cities or towns, while the FAPL Angolans are injured on the ground until they die. Cubans who manage to take their helicopters prefer the Angolans dead and wounded soldiers sacrificed MPLA. All this is creating a tremendous sense of hatred against the Cuban people in Luanda, not by members of UNITA, but by themselves the MPLA. A Cuban who dares to go out alone at night in Luanda, is dead sure.
- Cubans are no longer safe anywhere in Angola, Savimbi adds, "died before they entered the jungle. Now killed by their allies. In Angola today, everybody is an enemy of the Cuban people, and I do not think Castro is entitled to create deep feelings of hatred among the Angolan people and the Cuban people, because we know that the Cuban people is a great nation, that the Cuban people love freedom, our people have always loved the brotherly cooperation between nations, but for these goals Castro has become an obstacle that he will leave behind a trail of hatred, because we resistance leaders understand this very well. We know there is a difference between the Cuban and the Cuban regime, there is a difference between the soldier Cuba and Fidel Castro, but Castro measures that continue killing our people, massacring humans, this situation will result in an issue to decide between the Cuban people and the people of Angola. I think the Cuban people, so good that people who fought for independence against the Spanish tyranny, also against American domination, against dictatorships, that people will fight again to prevent Castro leaves a legacy of hatred in Africa.
Tomas Regalado copyright
World Exclusive IDEAL