Castro and Terrorism: A Chronology 1959-1967

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
          in Cuba.

              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.

          Jaime Suchlicki, Director
          Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies
          September 2001

          Castro and Terrorism A Chronology
          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
          Palestinian cause.

              *   Members of the Dominican Republic "Agrupación Política Catorce
          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
          military training.

              *   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
          (1967- 1968).

              *   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
          distributed widely.

              *   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 in
          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 Jackal",
          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
          Havana (1979).

              *   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
          to Iraq.

              *   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 in
          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 John
          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 the
          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.