By Eugene Pons
Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies, Occasional
Paper Series, September 2001
Since 1948 when, as a young student, Fidel Castro participated in the
violence that rocked Colombian society and distributed anti-U.S. propaganda,
he has been guided by two objectives: a commitment to violence and a
virulent anti-Americanism. His struggle since and his forty-two years rule
in Cuba have been characterized primarily by these goals.
In the 1960's Castro and his brother, Raul, believed that the
political and economic conditions that produced their revolution existed in
Latin America and that anti-American revolutions would occur throughout the
continent. Cuban agents and diplomats established contact with
revolutionary, terrorist and guerrilla groups in the area and began
distributing propaganda, weapons and aid. Many Latin Americans were brought
to Cuba for training and then returned to their countries.
At the Tricontinental Conference held in Havana in 1966 and attended
by revolutionary leaders from throughout the world, Castro insisted that
bullets not ballots was the way to achieve power and provided the
institutional means to promote his anti-American, violent line. He insisted
that "conditions exist for an armed revolutionary struggle" and criticized
those who opposed armed struggle, including some Communist leaders in Latin
America, as "traitorous, rightists, and deviationists."
Castro's attempts in the 1960's to bring revolutionary,
anti-American regimes to power failed. His support for guerrillas and
terrorist groups in Guatemala, Venezuela, and Bolivia only produced violence
and suffering to those countries and their people, which repudiated violence
as a means to achieve power. Violence resulted in military regimes coming
to power in several Latin American countries
For the next two decades, the Cuban leadership, supported by the
Soviet Union, modified its tactics. In addition to agents from the America
Department, the subversive arm of Cuba's Communist Party, Castro used his
Armed Forces to help friendly groups achieve power in Latin America and
Africa. In Nicaragua Cuban military personnel, weapons and intelligence
supported and helped bring to power the Sandinistas. In El Salvador, a
bloody civil war in part fomented and aided by Cuba, ended in a stalemate
and a negotiated peace.
In Africa, Castro achieved his most significant victories. The Soviet-Cuban
backed Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) faction was installed in
power in Angola and other Cuban supported regimes came to power throughout
the continent. The Cuban military also trained and supplied the South-West
African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) and the African National Congress
(ANC), forces fighting the South African regime.
Castro also became involved with African-Americans in the U.S. and
with the Macheteros, a Puerto Rican terrorist group. Cuba focused
particular attention on the black struggle in the U.S., providing aid and
training to the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army, as well as a
safehaven on the island for black leaders. Castro continuously promoted the
independence of Puerto Rico and supported the Macheteros who committed
terrorist acts and bank robberies in the United States. Several still live
Cuban military and intelligence personnel aided Middle Eastern
groups and regimes in their struggle against Israel, and Cuban troops fought
on the side of Arab States, particularly Syria, during the Yom Kippur war.
Castro sent military instructors and advisors into Palestinian bases;
cooperated with Libya in the founding of World Mathaba, a terrorist
movement; and established close military cooperation and exchanges with
Iraq, Libya, Southern Yemen, the Polisario Front for the Liberation of
Western Sahara, the PLO and others in the Middle East.
Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro continues to
undermine U.S. policies in the Middle East in several ways: a) by portraying
U.S. actions and diplomacy in the region as those of an aggressor, seeking
to impose hegemony by force, particularly in Iraq and the perpetration of
unjustified economic sanctions on Iraq and Iran; b) by portraying the U.S.
as the main obstacle to a peaceful settlement of the Israel/Arab conflict;
and c) by discrediting U.S. policies and seeking support for Cuba at the
U.N. These anti-American views and policies are conveyed as a systematic
message through a network of Cuban embassies and agents, as well as at the
U.N. and other non-governmental political, religious and cultural
While not abandoning his close relationships in the Middle East,
Castro has recently concentrated his support on several groups: the Fuerzas
Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), where Castro, and his new ally
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, see significant possibilities for success; ETA,
the Basque terrorist/separatist organization from Spain, which has found
refuge and support in Cuba, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which
established its Latin American headquarters in Havana.
American policymakers should pay careful attention to the intricate
web of relationships which emerges so clearly from this chronology. It
carefully details Castro's involvement with and support for terrorist
regimes and organizations during the past four decades. Cuba's geographical
location, Castro's continuous connections with these groups and states and
the harboring of terrorists in Havana creates a dynamic that requires
vigilance and alertness.
It should be emphasized that in addition to violence and terrorism, Castro
and his regime, have been for more than four decades, the most vocal and
active proponents of anti-Americanism. The often-repeated view in many
countries that the United States is an evil power, guilty for much of the
problems and sufferings of the developing world, is owed in great part to
the propaganda efforts of Fidel Castro.
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies
Castro and Terrorism
By Eugene Pons*
* Raúl Castro and Che Guevara visited Cairo and established
contacts with African liberation movements stationed in and supported by
Cairo. Both Cuban leaders visited Gaza and expressed support for the
* Members of the Dominican Republic "Agrupación Política
de Junio" received military training in Cuba.
* Major emphasis was placed on instructing several hundred
pro-Castro Latin Americans in violence and guerrilla warfare. Dominicans,
Guatemalans, Venezuelans and Chileans were trained in special camps in Cuba
and infiltrated back to their countries.
* Castro established relations with the Algerian FLN; official
and public support was extended, weapons were shipped to the FLN through
Morocco (1960-1961). Cuba provided shelter, medical and educational services
and cooperation in the fields of counter-intelligence and intelligence.
* African leaders from Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria,
South Africa, Spanish Guinea, Tanganyika and Zanzibar arrived in Cuba for
* Che Guevara engaged in guerrilla operations in
Congo-Kinshasa (former Zaire) in 1965.
* A revolutionary trained in Cuba, John Okello, overthrew the
pro-Western government in Zanzibar in 1964 and proclaimed the "People's
Republic of Zanzibar" which was promptly recognized by Cuba and the Soviet
* Conference of Latin American Communist Parties held in
Havana agreed to "help actively the guerrilla forces in Venezuela,
Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, Honduras and Haiti".
* Group of Venezuelans, members of the Movimiento de la
Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR), trained in Cuba and landed in the Venezuela
coast in the State of Miranda.
* Cuban trained Guatemalans Cesar Montes and Luis Turcios Lima
led a violent terrorist/guerrilla campaign against the government in
Guatemala. Montes organized the Ejercito Guerrillero de los Pobres (EGP) in
Guatemala. In the 1980's he joined the FMLN in El Salvador and participated
actively in the bloody civil war in that country.
* Cuba welcomed the founding of the PLO. First contacts with
Palestinian FATAH in 1965 in Algiers and Damascus.
* The Tricontinental Conference was held in Havana in January,
1966 to adopt a common political strategy against colonialism,
neocolonialism, and imperialism. Cuba provided the organizational structure
to support terrorist, anti-American groups in the Middle East and Latin
America. The Organization for the Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa,
Asia and Latin America (OSPAAL) was created.
* Fidel Castro created The National Liberation Directorate
(DLN) in Cuba to support revolutionary groups throughout the world. DLN was
responsible for planning and coordinating Cuba's terrorist training camps in
the island, covert movement of personnel and military supplies from Cuba and
a propaganda apparatus.
* A Cuban controlled Latin American Solidarity Organization
(LASO), with its permanent seat in Havana was created to "coordinate and
foment the fight against North American imperialism".
* In Venezuela, Castro made a relentless and determined effort
to create another Cuba by supporting the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberaci n
Nacional (FALN) and promoting violence and terrorism against the
democratically elected regime of R mulo Betancourt.
* Castro sent weapons via Cairo, to the NLF in Southern Yemen.
Cuban agents were sent on fact-finding missions to North and South Yemen
* Cuba published a small book by French Marxist journalist
Regis Debray Revolution in the Revolution, promoting guerrilla warfare in
Latin America. The book was translated into various languages and
* Cuban supported guerrillas led by Che Guevara moved into
Bolivia in an attempt to create "many Vietnams " in South America.
* Cuba and Syria developed a close alliance and supported
FATAH and the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF).
* Cuba continued its military and political support for FATAH
after the Syrians broke with the latter, and Cuban military, political and
intelligence support was granted to other Palestinian organizations.
* Castro sent military instructors and advisors into
Palestinian bases in Jordan to train Palestinian Fedayeen (1968); first
high-level delegation from FATAH-PLO visited Cuba (1970).
* Several missions sent to Southern Yemen to support NLF/FATAH
Ismail both politically and militarily.
* Castro began supporting and training of M19, a Colombian
guerrilla group that captured the Dominican Embassy and the Justice building
in Bogota and assassinated several prominent Colombian judges.
* In 1970 a "Mini Manual for Revolutionaries" was published
the official LASO publication Tricontinental, written by Brazilian urban
terrorist leader Carlos Marighella. The mini manual gives precise
instruction in terror tactics, kidnappings, etc. The short book was
translated into numerous languages and distributed worldwide by Cuba.
* Cuba commenced political and military cooperation with
Somalia's Siad Barre (1969).
* Economic and political cooperation began with Libya in 1974.
* In 1974 the National Liberation Directorate (DLN) was
reorganized into the America Department (DA) under the Communist Party of
Cuba Central Committee. The DA centralized control over Cuban activities for
supporting national liberation movements. The DA was responsible for
planning and coordinating Cuba's secret guerrilla and terrorist training
camps, networks for the covert movement of personnel and material from Cuba,
and a propaganda apparatus. DA agents also operated in Europe and other
regions. Trusted Castro ally Manuel Pi±eiro, " Barbaroja" was placed in
* Cuba provided training and support to the Tupamaros, a
terrorist group operating in Uruguay.
* Cuba's America Department (DA) set up a network for the
funneling of weapons and supplies to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
* In 1979 second in command in Cuba's America Department (DA)
Armando Ulises Estrada, helped unify Sandinista factions fighting Somoza.
* Closer connections with FATAH-PLO and other Palestinian
organizations were reinforced, including training of Latin American
guerrillas in Lebanon; Cuba's military support included counter-intelligence
and intelligence training.
* Arafat visited Cuba in 1974.
* Cuba provided military support and personnel to Syria during
the Yom Kippur War (1973-1975).
* Black Panther Party members from the U.S. were trained in
Canada by Cuban personnel. Black Panther leaders and other U.S. blacks also
received weapons and explosives training in Havana.
* Cuba joined with Algeria and Libya on a diplomatic/political
offensive in support of Frente POLISARIO (People's Front for the Liberation
of Western Sahara and R o del Oro); later on provided military cooperation,
and medical services.
* The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that
there were 300 Palestinians training in Cuban camps.
* Cuba supported the so-called "Steadfastness Front" against
the U.S. backed Camp David accord.
* Illich Rßmirez Sßnchez, known as "Carlos, the
responsible for numerous terrorist acts in Europe, trained in Cuba. He
attended the 1966 Tricontinental Conference in Havana and later trained in
urban guerrilla tactics, automatic weapons, explosives and sabotage in Cuba.
* Abu Iyad, a close aid to Yasser Arafat, stated in 1978 that
hundreds of Palestinian had been sent to Cuban terrorist camps.
* Additional military and political support provided to the
Palestinian cause; Arafat attended the Sixth Non-Aligned Conference in
* During Havana visit, Arafat signed agreement for military
cooperation and arms supply.
* Significant hard currency loans (tens of million) were
facilitated by Arafat-PLO to the Cuban government under very soft terms;
Cuba granted diplomatic and political support to Arafat during the 1982
Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
* The Aden (South Yemen) regime supported the Ethiopian
radical officers commanded by Mengistu Haile Mariam, sending Yemeni military
units in support of the latter against Somali aggression, and asking the
Cubans to do the same. Cuba joined in, first with a group of officers headed
by General Arnaldo Ochoa, a move that was followed later on by the
deployment of large Cuban forces against the Somali invasion. Also as part
of the alliance with the Aden regime, Cuba granted some small-scale support
to the Dhofaris in their armed struggle against the monarchy in Oman.
* The Cuban trained Congolese National Liberation Front
invaded Shala, Zaire.
* As part of Cuba's alliance with Mengistu Haile Mariam's
regime in Ethiopia, the Cuban leadership decided to engage in active
political and military support of the Liberation Movement of Southern Sudan
headed by John Garang against the Arab-Muslim regime in Khartoum.
* Cuba developed closer ties with and sent military advisors
* Cuba's America Department (DA) operated a weapons pipeline
to the Farabundo Mart National Front (FMLN) a terrorist group attempting to
gain power in El Salvador.
* Cuba cooperated with Libya in the political founding of the
World MATHABA in Tripoli, to provide political support and coordinate
revolutionary violence throughout the world. Cuba supported Libya's stand on
Chad and the FRENTE POLISARIO.
* Cuban trained terrorists members of the Guatemalan EGP
kidnapped a businessman in Guatemala. Several were arrested in Mexico when
attempting to collect ransom.
* Despite its close links with Baghdad, Cuba recognized and
praised the Iranian Revolution. Once Iraq attacked Iran, Castro withdrew his
military advisors from Baghdad and adopted a position of official
impartiality, though more sympathetic to Baghdad, due to his past relations.
* Argentine born Cuban intelligence agent Jorge Massetti
helped funnel Cuban funds to finance Puerto Rican terrorists belonging to
the Machetero group. The Macheteros highjacked a Wells Fargo truck in
Connecticut in September 1983 and stole $7.2 million.
* Cuba's America Department (DA) provided, thru Jorge
Massetti, weapons and several thousand dollars to the Chilean MIR.
* Libyan support to Latin American revolutionary movements,
especially in Central America and the whole of the World MATHABA project,
declined after the U.S.bombing of Tripoli in 1986.
* Cuban agents in Mexico engaged in bank robberies to finance
several terrorist groups from Latin America operating out of Mexico.
* The Palestinian Intifada increased Cuba's support for Arafat
and the PLO, both diplomatic and military.
* Several dozen Mexicans received training in terrorism and
guerrilla warfare in Sierra del Rosario, Pinar del Rio Province and in
Guanabo, in eastern Cuba.
* After the negotiations leading to the establishment of the
Palestinian National Authority, Cuban-Palestinian military cooperation was
enhanced, including the areas of counter-intelligence and intelligence.
* In early 1989, Cuban General Patricio de la Guardia directed
a plot in Havana and charged Jorge Massetti with blowing up the U.S.
transmission balloon of TV Mart located in the Florida Keys.
* Cuba condemned Iraq for its invasion and annexation of
Kuwait, supporting the latter's sovereignty; it also condemned U.S. military
operations in the Gulf and abstained at the U.N. from supporting the bulk of
the sanctions imposed on Baghdad. A Cuban military delegation was sent to
Iraq to learn and share what was considered vital information and
experiences from U.S. combat operations in Kuwait and Iraq.
* Cuba provided advanced weapons and demolition training to
the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) in Per·. The Tupac Amaru
attacked the U.S. Embassy in 1984; bombed the Texaco offices in 1985 and
attacked the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in 1985 all in Lima, Per·.
* ETA, a Spanish terrorist organization seeking a separate
Basque homeland, established the Cuartel General (General Headquarters) in
* A high-level PLO military delegation including the head of
Intelligence paid a visit to Cuba.
* On February 24, 1996, Cuban Air Force Migs shot down, in
international waters, two small unarmed civilian planes belonging to
Brothers to the Rescue, a Miami based group. All occupants were killed,
including three American citizens.
* The election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika (April 1999) as
President of Algeria, opened new opportunities for Cuba, given Bouteflika's
close relationship with the Cuban government for more than three decades.
* PLO leaders continue to have close relations with the Cuban
leadership, having access to specialized military and intelligence training,
either in Cuba or Palestinian territory, and in the sharing of intelligence.
* A spokesman for the Basque government in Spain met in Havana
with two high level ETA terrorist taking refuge in Cuba, Jos Angel Urtiaga
Martinez and Jes·s Lucio Abrisqueta Corte.
* Cuba continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists
fugitives from the U.S. They include: Black Liberation Army leader Joanne
Chesimard aka Assata Shakur, one of New Jersey's most wanted fugitives for
killing a New Jersey State trooper in 1973 and Charlie Hill a member of the
Republic of New Afrika Movement wanted for the hijacking of TWA 727 and the
murder of a New Mexico State trooper
* A number of Basque ETA terrorists who gained sanctuary
Cuba some years ago continued to live on the island, as did several Puerto
Ricans members of the Machetero Group.
* Castro refused to join the other Ibero-American heads of
state in condemning ETA terrorism at the 2000 Ibero-American Summit in
Panamß and slammed Mexico for its support of the Summit's statement against
* Castro continues to maintain ties to several state sponsors
of terrorism in Latin America. Colombia's two largest terrorist
organizations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the
National Liberation Army (ELN), both maintain a permanent presence on the
* Colombian officials arrested IRA members Niall Connelly,
Martin McCauley and James Monaghan and accused then of training the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Connelly had been living in
Cuba as the representative of the IRA for Latin America.
* Former Defense Department counter-terrorism expert
More told UPI that Cubans, militant Palestinians, Hezbollah and even
advisors from the leftist government of Venezuela are all active in
* During the trial of several Cuban spies in Miami, one of
accused Alejandro Alonso revealed on December 30, 2000 that he was
instructed from Havana to locate areas in South Florida "where we can move
persons as well as things, including arms and explosives."
* Speaking at Tehran University in Iran on May 10, 2001 Fidel
Castro vowed that "the imperialist king will finally fall".
*Eugene Pons is the Coordinator of Cuba's Information System at the
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.