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    Historian identifies Cubans who died fighting in Angola

    Posted on Saturday, 02.20.10
    Historian identifies Cubans who died fighting in Angola
    By JUAN O. TAMAYO
    jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

    An amateur historian writing a book on a key battle of the Angola war
    has obtained a list of the names of all 2,106 Cuban soldiers that the
    Castro government admits were killed in that conflict.

    Cuba's provincial newspapers published the names of each province's dead
    around Dec. 7 1989, when all the soldiers' remains were buried in
    simultaneous ceremonies throughout the island.

    But the full list was not available until Peter Polack, a criminal
    lawyer in the Cayman Islands, obtained it last month from a memorial in
    South African to the struggle against Apartheid and colonial rule.

    The Park memorial received the list in 2006 from Cuba's
    ambassador to Pretoria, Esther Armenteros, so that the names could be
    added to the Sikhumbuto Wall, designed to display the names of all those
    killed fighting for “liberation in South Africa.''

    While the Cuban government put its Angola casualties at 2,106 soldiers,
    others believe the real figure is higher. A total of 2,289 Cubans,
    including 204 civilians and 2,085 soldiers, died while serving in
    Angola, Ethiopia and other countries over 30 years, according to Cuban
    officials.

    Polack said he became interested in Cuban issues in 1992, when he met
    two Cuban refugees in Jamaica who had fought in Angola. “Their stories
    were completely fascinating,'' he told El Nuevo Herald.

    In the Cayman Islands, a British territory 150 miles south of Cuba, he
    saw groups of Cuban would-be-refugees arriving aboard tiny boats from
    what he called “behind the mojito curtain.''

    “It was very moving. It speaks volumes to me that waves of people would
    risk their lives,'' Polack added. “In my backyard I still have pieces
    of some of the boats.''

    Cuba first sent troops to Angola in 1975, on the eve of independence
    from Portugal, to support the leftist guerrillas of the Popular Movement
    for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in their civil war against two other
    rebel groups that had been fighting against Portugal.

    It later sent tens of thousands more troops — overall some 300,000
    Cuban soldiers served in Angola — as the by-then MPLA-run government
    fought against South African troops and U.S.-backed guerrillas of the
    National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

    Havana officials took part in international peace negotiations,
    concluded in 1988, and withdrew the last 119 Cuban troops in Angola in
    1991, although the civil war continued until 2002.

    Polack said he's writing a book, “Black Stalingrad,'' on the battle of
    Cuito Cuanavale, a key engagement during which 15,000 Cuban troops
    helped Angolan government soldiers stall an offensive by South African
    and UNITA (The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) troops.

    Both sides claimed victory in fighting around Cuito Cuanavale from
    December 1987 to April of 1988, which has been called “Africa's largest
    land battle since World War II.'' But the result was more of a stalemate
    that forced all sides to start serious peace talks and eventually led to
    the departure of Cuban and South African troops from Angola and the
    independence of Namibia.

    Relatives of the Cuban casualties during the island's 16-year
    involvement in the Angola war were notified of the deaths by small
    groups of Revolutionary Armed Forces officers and local Communist Party
    officials.

    Cuba did not announce the number of its dead until 1989, when it staged
    the Dec. 7 “National Day of Mourning'' and reaffirmation of the
    government's “internationalist'' spirit.

    Historian identifies Cubans who died fighting in Angola – Miami-Dade
    Breaking News – MiamiHerald.com (20 February 2010)
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/20/1490868/historian-identifies-cubans-who.html

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