general to whose genius the glory might logically have belonged was shot at dawn last Thursday.
Division General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, commander of the Cuban Expeditionary Force in Angola
between November 1987 and January this year – the man, in other words, sent in to clean up the mess
after Unita and the SADF had thrashed the MPLA and its Soviet advisers at Mavinga – was executed on
charges, principally, of attempting to smuggle cocaine to the US in cahoots with Columbia’s notorious
Or so at least the Cuban people and the world have been asked to believe. The transcripts of those
sections of Ochoa’s "trial" that were broadcast on Cuban television, and other evidence, suggest that
the truth is rather different. The general may, tangentially, have been involved in the drug trade, but that
was not the reason for his arrest and liquidation.
Ochoa, according to those who knew him (including diplomats involved in the Angola/Namibia
settlement process), was a man of striking countenance and much intelligence and charisma.
He knew his mission was to preside over Cuba’s last hurrah in Angola and that the "heroic" defence of
Cuito was, therefore, a vainglorious fraud, designed to cover a retreat that had already been decided.
The 15 000 new troops who followed Ochoa came to save Cuban face, not the MPLA.
Defence Minister Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, quoted the general as saying: "I have been sent to a lost
war so that I will be blamed for the defeat." That was, indeed, his view.
From: Paratus, September 1989.
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