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On this day in 1975, Cuba began Operation Carlota, its most important military internationalist mission in Africa. It was a major undertaking that contributed to the defeat of the apartheid military regime in South Africa & the independence of Angola & Namibia. More of the story:

Across Africa, Cuba provided military instructors & doctors, helping rebels gain their independence from Europeans. After the Portuguese dictatorship fell in 1974 & Portugal prepared to grant Angola independence on Nov. 11, 1975, three local movements fought to take power.

The largest rebel group with most popular support was the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). They were providing critical training & safe haven to other national liberation forces like the ANC (South Africa), SWAPO (Namibia), and FRELIMO (Mozambique).

In early November, the Apartheid South African Army was advancing 45 miles per day toward the capital Luanda. South Africa’s invasion endangered not only Angola’s revolution, but the struggle for liberation throughout the continent.

The Angolans had one unlikely country they could turn to: Cuba. They had already provided military instructors to assist the MPLA. The answer came less than 48 hours later on Nov. 5. Yes. Fidel Castro & the Communist Party of Cuba reached its decision without thinking twice.

On another Nov 5 in 1843, a slave called Black Carlota, working on the Triunvirato plantation in the Matanzas region, took up her machete in a slave rebellion in which she lost her life. It was in homage to her that the solidarity action in Angola bore her name: Operation Carlota

On Nov. 7, the first 82 soldiers, carrying light artillery, left to Angola. Over the coming weeks more than 10,000 Cuban troops would land in Angola. More than a decade later, at the end of apartheid, there would be as many as 36,000 troops fighting against the apartheid forces

By the end of 1975, Cuban troops had routed the apartheid army & prevented their takeover of the country. The world owes Cuba and these internationalist soldiers a huge debt.

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