8. Memorandum of Notification1


  • Members of the Special Activities Working Group of the Special Coordination Commitee


  • Planned Covert Action Campaign to Enlighten Cuban Population as to the Price of Cuba’s Intervention in Africa2


  • A. “Perspectives” entitled “The Expanding Cuban/Soviet Presence in Africa”
  • B. The Presidential Finding on Angola, Dated 8 November 19773

1. Background:

The following NFAC analysis (dated 3 March 1978) points to various vulnerabilities of the Cuban government to a better informed domestic public opinion on the issues of Cuba’s involvement in Africa.4 A better informed Cuban public could represent a source of pressure on Castro to modify those involvements.

The political, military, economic, and social costs to Cuba of its expanding role in Africa are still well within manageable limits and are not a significant constraint on Cuban policymakers. Only heavy Cuban casualties would be likely to present the Castro regime with difficult political problems.

Reaction to the country’s extensive involvement in Africa is mixed among the Cuban people. Pro-regime activists openly support the African commitments, but many people are convinced that the country’s current austerity is caused by the involvement; in fact, it stems largely from low world sugar prices. No organized opposition exists in Cuba, however, and without planning, coordination, and leadership, those who oppose Cuba’s role in Africa have little impact on regime leaders. [Page 20] So far, opposition is limited to grumbling among friends and family of ordinary Cubans sent to do service in Africa.

As is his custom during periods of flagging popular support, President Fidel Castro has spent a good deal of time since mid-1977 traveling through the country trying to bolster morale. Castro is keenly aware of—and exploits—the considerable capacity of the Cuban people to endure hardships. His normal reaction is to manufacture both a reason to suffer and a scapegoat to hate. A master of media manipulation, he has little trouble refocusing public anger and generating renewed revolutionary momentum.

Castro is probably not yet overly concerned about public attitudes. The numerous speeches and heavy media treatment in the last six months are, in effect, pre-emptive moves to head off disaffection. Castro doubtless knows that the current level of discontent is well within tolerable limits and that by careful persuasion he can keep it far short of the point where outright repression might be required.

The political and economic costs of Cuban involvement in Africa will probably remain manageable for Havana, at least for the near term. A deepening popular disaffection, stemming from an exaggerated perception of the financial costs, could pose a constraint on Cuban policymakers, however, should the number of casualties the Cubans suffer increase rapidly.

2. Proposal:

This paper addresses the means by which Cuban public opinion and the government itself could be influenced through non-attributed and falsely attributed covert action operations. Because these sorts of techniques involve a bit higher risk than routine media placement, we are advising the SCC/SAWG of our intentions.

To complement the ongoing media and radio campaign, CIA proposes to utilize its world-wide network of contacts [7 lines not declassified]. By reaching Cuban officials and military forces outside Cuba, their motivation to work in support of their government’s African policies may be adversely affected; they may in turn share their sentiments with friends and family at home. Those at home then may be less quick to support Castro’s adventures and might serve as a moderating pressure on his more drastic policies.

a. Purpose: Influence Third World Countries Assisting Cuba

CIA will enhance the doubts and second thoughts about Cuba’s activities in Africa which may have occurred to (1) the industrialized countries whose foreign aid and technical assistance programs include Cuba as a beneficiary; (2) the more moderate countries in the Non-Aligned Nations Movement; (3) international organizations concerned with humanitarian relief, some of whose resources are wasted by Cuba’s military activities in Africa.

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To achieve this, CIA will produce unattributed or falsely attributed studies which demonstrate the Cuban government’s direct and indirect exploitation for its own foreign political purposes of the voluntary assistance being provided by certain governments and institutions; that Cuba’s military involvements in Africa are draining away humanitarian relief which could better be applied to peoples suffering the effects of poverty and natural disasters.

These studies will consist of both overt and intelligence information and will be circulated to governments, parliaments, international bodies, [less than 1 line not declassified].

b. Purpose: Advise Cuban Populace of Realities of Its African Commitment

[1 paragraph (24 lines) not declassified]

c. Purpose: Alert Selected Groups to Cuba’s Duplicity and Betrayals

CIA will produce and disseminate booklets and circulars which (1) highlight the Cuban government’s betrayal of the Eritrean liberation movements (which in the past it supported with propaganda and material assistance); (2) demonstrate that many of Cuba’s foreign activities are simply those of a Soviet surrogate, and (3) discuss the long-term adverse effects on the Cuban population of the Cuban government’s commitments to current and future African revolutionary developments. These items, given notional or false attribution, will be disseminated to selected foreign audiences in the Third World as well as to the Cuban populace at home.

Through its assets in the media CIA can surface materials specifically designed to support the operations discussed above. Special briefing papers passed to foreign heads of state and decision-makers will also support these operations.

NOTE: In addition to efforts now underway to gain access to radio stations in Latin America whose broadcasts reach Cuba, and to radios in Africa and Europe which reach Cuban forces stationed abroad, CIA plans to produce documentary video tapes on Cuba’s activities in Africa [3 lines not declassified].

3. Risk-Security Factors:

[1 paragraph (11 lines) not declassified]

4. Policy Authority:

The following policy authorities permit the covert action initiatives described herein:

a. “Perspectives” entitled “The Expanding Cuban/Soviet Presence in Africa” dated 4 May 1976;

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b. “Perspectives” entitled “Drawing African Attention to Soviet Activity in the Horn of Africa: dated 22 September 1977;5

c. Presidential Finding on Angola, dated November 8, 1977.

5. Subsequent Reporting:

An interim report on the effectiveness of this campaign will be provided by 30 June 1978.6

6. Deadline:

Close of business 24 April 1978. Comments should be LDX’ed to Mr. John N. McMahon, Deputy Director for Operations, CIA [less than 1 line not declassified] with an information copy to Mr. Paul B. Henze, National Security Council Staff, Room 300, extension 3334.


Paper Prepared in the National Foreign Assessment Center, Central Intelligence Agency 7


  • PERSPECTIVES—Expanding Cuban/Soviet Presence in Africa

1. Expanding presence of Cubans and Soviets in Africa reflects merging Cuban/Soviet views of third world and complementary roles each can play in it. Cuba’s role promotes Castro’s goals of exporting revolution and building his image as third world leader while acting as surrogate for USSR in military and para-military activities. This serves USSR’s objective and supplements its own efforts to extend its military capabilities and political influence in Africa. Covert action efforts, in support of U.S. foreign policy, should therefore focus on: exposing Cuban/Soviet motives; mobilizing international criticism of Cuban/Soviet actions; and strengthening resolve of those African states opposed to further Cuban/Soviet intervention in Africa.

2. Following provides background on Cuban/Soviet activities and underlying motives and goals:

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a. Cuban involvement in Africa goes back to 1960’s when Cuban advisers began training militia forces to support leftist liberation governments/movements in Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea, Zanzibar, Cameroon Republic and Guinea Bissau. At present Cuban personnel are deployed in about ten countries, either in military capacity or as civilian advisers or technicians. Estimated numbers range from as high as 10,000 or more in Angola to only 20–25 in Guinea Bissau as well as in Sierra Leone. Outside of Angola, Cuban personnel are believed present in largest numbers (i.e., several hundred), in Congo (Brazzaville) which was major staging area and rear base for Cubans fighting in Angola. Cubans are also in Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Guinea, Somalia, Zambia and the Spanish Sahara.

b. Cuban intervention in Africa, paid for and logistically supported by USSR, is ideally suited to Castro’s goal of becoming major link between communist and third world countries, thus opening way for him to attain significant international attention. Cuban success in Angola has reinforced his views that communist and third world nations have gained advantage over Western powers in this area. He appears determined to capitalize on this success, which could possibly lead to an effort to obtain Soviet backing for Cuban training of liberation groups opposed to white-minority regimes in Southern Africa.

c. Soviets demonstrated considerable interest in Africa in early 1960’s, in wake of several African nations’ gaining independence. Although they seemed to lose interest from middle 1960’s to 1971, they have since become more active and more selective as to areas in which they operate. In 1971 USSR began gradually to increase arms shipments to Guinea, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda, and has since gained access to facilities for military operations in Guinea and Somalia, including expansion of military base in Berbera, Somalia.

d. In Angola USSR saw opportunity to develop and expand its influence by exploiting crisis situations. Its long-standing assistance to MPLA had remained at moderate levels until date for independence became known, after which assistance escalated sharply and Cuban intervention began in earnest. By arming MPLA and using Cuban troops to intervene in Angolan conflict, USSR has accomplished objectives of attaining influence in Angola and of gaining access to port facilities and airfields on South Atlantic coast of Africa, supplementing facilities it had already acquired on Coasts of Guinea and Somalia. Also, Angola’s strategic location, on borders of both black-ruled and white-ruled countries, gives Soviets opportunity to exert political and military influence throughout wide area.

e. By using Cubans to help advance their objectives, Soviets are able to maintain relatively low profile in crisis situations, thereby concealing their intent and eliminating fears of Soviet neo-colonialism on part of [Page 24] Africans. Using Cubans also gives Soviets one of few benefits they can hope to get in return for their huge investment in Cuba, which is heavily mortgaged to USSR for years to come.

f. Overall Soviet goals in Africa are to identify with and demonstrate continuing commitment to cause of national liberation and to diminish Chinese influence with liberation movements; to reduce or contain western influence; and to obtain access to other strategically located military facilities.

3. In addition to exploiting Cuban/Soviet motives and goals, [less than 1 line not declassified] draw on following state-approved guidelines for covert action purposes:

a. Emphasize vital need for settlements providing for majority rule in Rhodesia and an acceptable self-determination process for Namibia. Solution of these problems would remove two of most important pretexts Soviets and Cubans have used to justify intrusion into Africa.

b. Note inconsistency of those African countries that grant to USSR near-exclusive base rights and free access to airports and harbors and yet profess to be non-aligned.

c. Support territorial integrity of African states in order to strengthen resolve of moderate countries which oppose Cuban/Soviet incursions, or which fear territorial ambitions of their more radical neighbors.

d. Exploit Chinese criticisms of intervention by Cuba and USSR and their responses to this criticism, including Cuba’s attack on PRC for its support of “imperialists” and “white racist regimes.” Exploit any statements from Maoist/Peking elements that criticize Soviet/Cuban domination of Angolan Government.

e. Question Castro’s right to request foreign aid from Western governments and wisdom of these governments in extending aid, when he is spending fortunes (which could well include aid funds) in deploying troops and equipment in distant foreign wars.

f. Encourage consideration about more sober attitudes of governments in Latin America toward Cuban adventures abroad, noting that number of Latin American leaders see that Castro took initiative in Angola. These attitudes of Latin American leaders indicate that Cuba cannot expect to renew its credentials as “revolutionary leader” and at same time retain its recently acquired respectability in Latin America.

g. Emphasize that southern Africa is far removed from Soviet and Cuban homelands and well beyond reasonable limits of their traditional security interests. Suggest that their continued activity in this potentially explosive area could undermine what policy of detente has achieved and could severely damage East/West relationships.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Subject Files: A–E, Box 29, USSR-Cuban Intervention in Africa, 9 Jan 1978–7 July1978. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified].
  2. On March 27, the SCC discussed the idea of a covert action plan to advertise within Cuba the cost of Cuban intervention in Africa. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVII, Part 1, Horn of Africa, Document 76.
  3. Not found but see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVI, Southern Africa, Document 16.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVI, Southern Africa, Document 18.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVII, Part 1, Horn of Africa, Document 52, footnote 6.
  6. See Document 15.
  7. Secret; Sensitive. Approved by the Department of State on April 27, 1976.