Cuba and Revolutionary Latin America: An Oral History

By Prevost, Gary | The International Journal of Cuban Studies, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Cuba and Revolutionary Latin America: An Oral History


Prevost, Gary, The International Journal of Cuban Studies


Dirk Kruijt, Cuba and Revolutionary Latin America: An Oral History (London: Zed Books, 2017) pb. 304pp. ISBN: 9781783608027

Reviewed by Gary Prevost

Cuba and Revolutionary Latin America - An Oral History is an important contribution to our understanding of the role that the Cuban revolution has played in promoting revolutionary and progressive movements in Latin America over the last six decades. The primary strength of this work is the source material that its author - Dirk Kruijt - has painstakingly amassed. He interviewed more than 60 Cuban officials, primarily the activists of the Department of the Americas, the Cuban institution responsible for the revolution's changing relationships with Latin America. Kruijt has documented how Cuba has remained an important force in the political life of Latin America, from its role in support of revolutionary guerrilla movements in the 1960s, down to its role in the leftward direction of Latin American politics in the twenty-first century, through the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and its central role in facilitating an end to Latin America's longest running civil war in Colombia.

Throughout the book, Kruijt provides historical background and analysis to Cuba's revolutionary role in the hemisphere but the most important contribution of the book comes from his interviews with Cuban officials. Kruijt interviewed officials of Cuba government that carried out the work of the Cuban revolution in Latin America, breaking them down into two primary groups. The first cohort participated in the insurrection that took place between 1953 and 1958 against the dictatorship of Batista. This group radicalised in the swift transition towards socialism in the early 1960s. The succeeding age group was too young to have participated in the insurrection, but radicalised during Cuba's health and literacy campaigns. Kruijt calls the latter group revolutionary internationalists and passionate Fidelistas who were always inspired by the ironic revolutionary figure of Che Guevara. It is through their stories that the organisation of the internationalism of the Cuba revolution is analysed for the first time. Through these stories, we learn how the tactics and strategy of Cuba's revolutionary ethos unfolded beginning in the decade of the 1960s when replicating the Cuban revolution across the continent and in the wider world was the objective. The focus for that era is on how the Cubans identified revolutionary groups across the continent and then searched for concrete ways to assist them to achieve revolutionary change in their own countries. The latter work was largely carried out by the Department of the Americas of the Cuban Community Party, and supported a wide range of opposition movements, both moderate and radical, that fought against the primarily military governments of that era by advising them, training them, and when necessary, bringing them to Cuba for sanctuary.

One of the richest sections of the book is the chapter that deals in a nuanced way, and with the benefit of historical hindsight, the role that the Cubans played in influencing Latin America's guerrilla movements, particularly those in Central America and the Andean region. This section also details the often-difficult relationship that Cuba had with its socialist partner, the USSR, over how much support was to be given to revolutionary movements in the region in comparison to Moscow-oriented communist parties that opposed the activities of the revolutionary groups and resented the interference of the Cubans. …

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