Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Castro's African Adventurism Ends with a Whimper

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Castro's African Adventurism Ends with a Whimper

Article excerpt

IN the past 15 years, half a million Cuban troops have fought in Angola. Some 100,000 Cuban troops have fought in Ethiopia. The last Cuban troops left Ethiopia last year, after efforts to install Marxism-Leninism by Mengistu Haile Mariam left that country in a state of blight and despair. Mengistu himself fled Ethiopia last week.

This past weekend the last Cuban troops departed Angola, leaving the Marxist government to make peace with the anti-communist guerrillas it could not vanquish in one of Africa's longest civil wars.

So ends a chapter of Cuban intervention in Africa designed to extend communism's hand and heighten Cuba's international prestige. Instead, communism in both countries is in retreat, and Cuba's major expedition into Africa is ending in embarrassment and failure.

Cuba is considered so internationally inconsequential that it is not even present at the Angola peace talks.

The less-than-triumphant end to the Cuban presence in Africa is a humiliation that will complicate Cuban leader Fidel Castro's burgeoning problems at home. Says one Washington expert on Cuba: "With that many Cuban troops involved in Africa, not a single Cuban family has remained untouched by Fidel's African adventure. Everybody has some family member or friend who has served there. Now they'll be asking: 'What did we get from it? What was the point of it all?' "

Aside from questioning the merits of this foreign venture, the troops from Angola are returning to a homeland that is beset by shortages and decay. In Havana, families are given quotas for electricity consumption. Recent refugees from Cuba say families that exceed the quota have their power cut off for a few days. A second offense means permanent disconnection.

Mr. Castro has long been proclaiming a "special situation in peacetime," which essentially means rekindling a kind of revolutionary, guerrilla fervor even though Cuba is not at war.

Two weeks ago he demanded in a speech that Cubans prepare for the "zero option. …

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