The Kissinger-Cuba-Angola-Jamaica connection
Jamaica was in serious need of money, but PM Manley resisted Henry Kissinger’s pressure to denounce Fidel Castro for sending troops to Angola, in exchange for US dollars. It was a principled stand in support of Angola’s liberation, which had wide ramifications for Southern Africa.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s incipient plan to “smash Cuba” in response to Fidel Castro sending soldiers in 1975 to support Angola’s liberation struggle has recently been documented (‘Back Channel to Cuba’, a book by Peter Kornbluh and William LeoGrande) and drawn comment on independent news/analysis sites (Common Dreams and Democracy Now. Gone largely unremarked upon has been Jamaica’s entrapment in this web of intrigue involving the United States, Cuba and Angola.
Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley’s democratic socialist government had already come under the watchful eye of the United States. Yet another country in the hemisphere wanting to use its natural resources to better the lives of its people rather than the bottom line of foreign-based multinational corporations posed a major threat to US regional economic hegemony.
Manley, more a Fabian social reformer than a leftist radical, wanted a mixed economy open to foreign investment and had even supported the expelling of Marxists under his father’s administration, but all this was trumped by the hysteria over his cordial relations with Cuba and his personal friendship with the Cuban leader.
A CIA destabilization programme against the Manley government, dramatized in my novel ‘Stir It Up: The CIA Targets Jamaica, Bob Marley and the Progressive Manley Government’, was almost certainly in effect even prior to Angola becoming a hot-button issue. When Cuba sent soldiers to Angola to fight back the South African army and allied guerrilla units, all backed by the CIA, Manley’s “friendly alliance” with Castro took on much greater importance to US planners.
Kissinger, the self-styled grandmaster on the international chess board, was at the centre of the tableau. He arrived in Jamaica in December 1975 and ensconced himself in a posh resort on the island’s north shore, apparently in the company of his wife Nancy (as Manley writes in his ‘Jamaica: Struggle in the Periphery’). Manley arranged for Kissinger to come to Jamaica House for lunch, where Henry brought up what was on the top of his mind: Jamaica’s diplomatic backing of Cuba’s intervention in Angola.
Jamaica at the time was struggling mightily in only its 14th year of existence as an autonomous nation, independence having come in 1962.
The 1970s oil crisis was hitting the young Caribbean country hard, compounded by an extreme shortage of foreign exchange. Manley had previously floated the idea to Kissinger of running a hundred-million-dollar line of credit to help Jamaica avoid going under completely.
It was thus that Manley and Kissinger, as described in my novel, came to the breakfast room at Jamaica House in Kingston with heavy agendas. Kissinger’s ploy seemed to be that if Manley ever dreamed of getting that line of credit he would have to denounce Castro for sending troops to Angola. The dilemma facing Manley was framed in similar terms to those which Castro had earlier confronted: the conditioning of improved relations with the US upon falling in lockstep with American foreign policy.
Both Castro and Manley were forced to wrestle with choosing between doing what they believed was morally right and what would ingratiate themselves with the United States. Both chose to stand on principle and champion Angola’s liberation movement, in so doing directly contributing to the struggle of resistance against the apartheid South African regime.
Both would pay a dear price as the dangling carrot was removed and the big stick applied, with CIA operations intensifying against their governments, economies and peoples.
As Piero Gleijeses indicates in his scholarly “Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991,” Castro’s support for Angola was a major contribution to the liberation struggle across the whole of southern Africa, a black Third World army turning back the supposedly invincible forces of the white supremacist regime. Michael Manley’s actions very much deserve to be seen in the same light and constitute an important reason he was honoured with the South African Order of Supreme Companion of Oliver Tambo. Nelson Mandela visited Cuba and Jamaica soon after his release from prison to personally thank Castro and Manley for their courageous backing.
The work of Gleijeses, Kornbluh and LeoGrande has contributed significantly to correcting the mainstream interpretation of these events pushed by the United States government and media. Yet the truth was understood long ago by people like Manley, as shown in 1982’s ‘Jamaica: Struggle in the Periphery’.
About the mainstream’s adamant insistence that Castro was acting as Russia’s puppet, now discredited by the above authors, Manley writes:
“Contrary to popular views assiduously promoted by propaganda, it was a Cuban decision. There are indications Moscow was taken by surprise… [and] might not have favoured such a decision…. Fidel Castro’s brother Raul was hastily dispatched to Moscow to explain the Cuban decision.”
About the merits of Cuba’s action in Angola in the light of the struggle for equal rights and justice, Manley continues:
“It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the Cuban action. You have to go back to the days of Alexander the Great to find a parallel where so small a country by feat of arms has affected so profoundly the balance of forces on a continent.
If South Africa had installed Savimbi as its puppet ruler [in Angola], it is safe to say that Rhodesia’s Ian Smith would be firmly in control to this day. By now Zambia might have fallen, Namibia would be a lost cause, Botswana throttled, Tanzania and Mozambique impossibly isolated. Certainly Tanzania could not have lifted the yoke of Amin from the necks of the Ugandan people. The whole of Southern Africa might now be firmly in the grip of the racists operating through puppet regimes…”
Perhaps it would be a good idea for the United States to talk to governments and peoples around the world and actually listen to what they have to say, and ponder the differing ways they might have of looking at world events. Then again, there can be no search for truth if propaganda and self-interested control are higher virtues. – Pambazuka News
* David Cupples is the author of ‘Stir It Up: The CIA Targets Jamaica, Bob Marley and the Progressive Manley Government’, a novel.