On November 5, 1975, the Cuban government began supporting Angola with military forces, following the request of then President Agostinho Neto in view of the imminent invasion by the South African regime, with the advice of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This solidarity action by Cuba was called Operación Carlota.
The request of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) was met and a battalion of special troops from the Ministry of the Interior was first sent in to stop the advance of the troops from South Africa and Zaire, who were on the verge of taking Luanda.
The invading hordes were supported, not only by the United States, but also by the regime of Zaire and the Republic of Congo, and had modern weapons and well-trained soldiers to fulfill the evil purpose of occupying Angola.
From 1975 to 1991, around 300,000 Cubans participated in the African epic and more than 2,000 lost their lives, whose remains were repatriated during the so-called Operación Tributo.
To preserve the independence and territorial integrity, the leader of the MPLA, António Agostinho Neto, initially requested weapons and instructors from the largest of the Antilles, which would be complemented by Operación Carlota.
The first Cuban instructors fell in combat on November 3 of that year and eight days later Neto proclaimed the independence of Angola and became the first president of the new African State.
During Operation Carlota, important battles took place that defined the course of the war in favor of the MPLA, due to the active participation of Cubans and the inclusion of weapons and instructors at the request of Agostinho Neto. The Battle of Cangamba and the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale (south of Luanda), the latter led by Fidel Castro from Havana, lasted from December 1987 to March 1988.
The victory in Cuito Cuanavale allowed for negotiations with representatives of the South African regime and the US, the liberation of Namibia, and the end of apartheid, in exchange for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola.
In the words of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, the leader of that mission, it was ‘an extraordinary feat by our people, especially by the youth’, and ‘seldom has such a page of altruism and international solidarity been written’.
In the act of farewell to the fallen in that deed, he pointed out that they died fighting against colonialism, racism, plundering, exploitation, and in favor of independence, socialism and internationalism.