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Backgrounder #289 on Latin America

September 12, 1983

September 12, 1983 | Backgrounder on Latin America

The Castro Doctrine Makes Gains


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289 September 12, 1983 THE CAST RO DOCTRINE MAKES GAINS INTRODUCTION The 7,000 Cuban troops and "advisorsn1 now in Nicaragua drama tize Havana's continuing role in the radical politics of Latin America. Although Cuba has been regarded since the early 1960s as a perennial threat to hemis p heric stability, only in the last decade has it acquired the military and financial means to mount a sustained offensive in Latin America and the Caribbean. The subsidization of the Cuban economy by the Soviet Union, the place ment of Soviet troops and ar m s on Cuban soil and the establishment of working contacts with international terrorist organizations such as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have enabled Cuba to pursue ambitions otherwise precluded by its geographic and resource constraints. D riving Cuba is the IICastro Doctrinell which targets at least a dozen Latin.American countries for desta bilization and revolution America. Essential for Cuba is the consolidation of Sandinistan rule in Nicaragua, a regime which came to power in part beca u se of Cuban support. Havana apparently views Nicaragua as a spring board from which to depose the governments of El Salvador and Honduras. For this, Cuba has been marshalling considerable material and personnel. Havana seems determined to keep the region r oiling in instability, to block efforts to implant democracy and to under mine governments sympathetic to the U.S greatest threat yet to Central American peace and democracy and to U.S. interests in the region I The current phase of Cuba's offensive focus e s on Central As such, Cuba poses its BACKGROUND Cuba As Maverick (1959-19671 From the start, leaders of Cuba's 1959 Revolution saw them selves as the vanguard.of the contagious region-wide revolt 2 against the established order followed a f'focosff strate g y, involving the establishment of armed focal points in key areas from which small bands of guerrillas could initiate a continentia1 revo1ution.l The attempted export of revolution While Fidel Castro committed Cuban resources throughout Latin America, the primary targets for exported revolution were the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Venezuela In June 1959, a guer rilla expedition, organized, armed and trained by Cuba, invaded Santo Doming0 hoping to destroy the Trujillo regime. This expedi tion was sound l y de.feated by Dominican military forces. In February 1964, the Organization of American States OAS) charged Cuba with attempting to overthrow the Betancourt government of Venezuela. In late 1967, Castro s longtime associate IfCheff Guevara led' a. 100-ma n expedition force into Boliva to overthrow the government. The Cuban organized, armed, and trained force was decisively defeated by U.S.-trained Bolivian military forces assisted by local peasants and townsmen. Guevara himself was killed.

Cuban interferen ce prompted the Dominican Republic and Peru to break diplomatic relations with Havana, while Guatemala, Nica ragua, Paraguay, and Haiti suspended relations, and El Salvador Honduras, Venezuela, and others expelled many Cuban envoys for fomenting insurgenc ies within their countries. In 1962, the OAS itself expelled Cuba for its policy of aggression throughout the region, and its consequent Ifincornpatability with the purposes of principles of the inter-American system.

Cuba As Con formist (1967-1978 Failure abroad and increasing economic woes at home forced Castro into a Napoleonic retreat. Domestically, he concentrated on socialist economic development; diplomatically, the focus was on ending Cuba's isolation by establishing gover nment-to-government relations in the region. Many Latin American governments did in fact re-establish relations with Havana.

While Castro was mending fences in .this hemisphere, he was stirring up trouble elsewhere, as MOSCOW~S proxy. By using the troops o f its client states, as in Angola and Ethiopia, the Soviet l' On the early phase of Castroism, see Kevin Devlin The Permanent'Revolu tionism of Fidel Castro ,I' Problems of Communism, January-February 1968 and Andres Suarez, Cuba: Castroism and Communism, 1959-1966 (The MIT Press 1967).

For contemporary accounts 'of Cuba's activities see for instance "How Com munists Plan to Get Latin America," U.S. News and World Report, March 9 1964; or "Revolution For Export," Time, August 22, 1960.

For summary of OAS' findings on this matter see "Cuban Intervention,"

Americas, April 1964, p. 44.

Maurice Halperin, The Rise and Decline of Fidel Castro (University of California Press, 1972), p. 121 I 3 Union was able to pretend to abide by the spirit of detente and yet seriously challenge American interests in strategic areas.

Soviet aggression was masked by a "foreign legion1' of Cuban and Eastern European forces.

Cuba As Active Partner (1978-Present Almost immediately, the benefits of this symbiotic relation ship bec ame apparent: Use of Cuban.troops enabled Moscow to pursue destabilizing foreign policy goals while enjoying the fruits of detente; Soviet material and moral support enabled Cuba to divert its resources to ambitious policy goals against the backdrop of th e Soviet shield. In exchange for Soviet support, moreover, Cuba portrayed the Soviet Union as an ally of the Third World in the North-South conflict. For example, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was described by Castro at the Cuban Communist Party Congr ess in December 1980 as an act of national liberation In exporting revolution, the haphazardness of the Che Guevara's Cuba's day has been replaced by institutionalized force projection.

Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) are operationally controlled by the M inistry of FAR MINFAR headed by Fidel Castrob brother Raul. Counterintelligence and covert activity are the purview of the Direccion General de Intelligencia (DGI) and the Departamento de America (DA) of the Central Committee.

The DGI was established in 1 961 with Soviet assistan~e After seven years of Soviet-Cuban tensions on the matter of DGI personnel selection, Cuba succumbed to Soviet economic pressure and permitted Moscow to reorganize radically the DGI and to bring it under close KGB control.

Crozie r, the DGI'is the only satellite service known in recent years to have received a Soviet financial subsidy specifically to enable it to extend the range of its activities abroad According to British strategist Brian The Departamento de America DA) was est a blished in 1974 to Drawing on the re- centralize supervision of covert activities sources of the military and of the DGI, the DA has successfully set up training camps in Cuba and abroad, networks for the covert transfer of material and personnel, and a h i ghly sophisticated propaganda machine. Agents of the DA populate every Cuban diplo matic mission in Latin America and the Caribbean, and are frequent ly employed by Cubals official press agency Prensa Latina, by Cubana Airlines, and by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with People 6 For a more extensive description of the DGI see Brian Crozier "The Soviet's Surrogate Forces Institute for the Study of Conflict, Conflict Studies 862, 1980 Information provided here on these various organizations is from Long M arch," Economist Foreign Report, July 11, 1979; and Cuba's Renewed Support for Violence in Latin America op. cit Cas'tro s I 4 Cuba's Current Stragew Cuba's strategy and tactics for exporting revolution have been transformed extensively in the past decade . The ltfocoslt stra tegy has given way to a dual emphasis on what the Cubans term "the unity of the opposition,It and 'Ithe quality of the vanguard.tt The first means that Cuban aid is extended on the condition that oppo sition groups in the target countr y unite in a military-political front; the second, that control is centralized in a cadre ideolo gically indoctrinated and armed by Cuba and Soviet bloc countries..

Underpinning both is the persistent use of terrorism and violence aimed at keep.ing tension levels high .and forcing authoritarian governments into ever more repressive stances, thereby undermining prospects for moderation and gradual reform.

The thrust of this contemporary strategy recalls the methods of the Bolsheviks. Violence and terrorism are employed precisely to prevent what Marxist-Leninists call the Ilbourgeoisification of the massesit--the forsaking of violence and revolution in favor of institutional reform. Governments are driven to abandon reform programs and adopt more repressive p olicies just to maintain the status quo. The struggle between the government and its foes is thus made more urgent, immediate and decisive. Marxist-Leninist ideology, meanwhile exaggerates the evils of the regime under attack by contrasting them with ideo l ogical utopianism In the consequent polarization, moderates and members of the Itloyal oppositionit are. drawn into anti-government fronts or coali tions. In these, the military predominates and in the military group, the Cuban trained and armed cadre is t he "vanguard.tt Since the. goal is revolution not reform, the struggle against the government.is intensified, not appeased, by governmental con cessions. If, as was the case in Nicaragua (and in tsarist Russia the government is ousted, the "vanguard of th e revolutionIt then consolidates its rule by unburdening itself of its coalition part ners The Nicaraguan Model The 1979 Sandinista victory in Nicaragua and this regime's subsequent support of anti-government guerrillas in El Salvador and Honduras, vindica t e Cuba's contemporary strategy. Cuba gave some training and arms and provided safe havens to Nicaraguan guer rilla forces throughout the 1960s and 1970s not then "ripe for revolution and was in fact a powerful anti Marxist bastion, Castro's objective was t o expolit rather than to force opportunities As Nicaragua was For further discussion of this communist tactic, see Robert Strausz-Hupe et al Protracted Conflict (New York: Harper Row, 1963 pp. 54-58. In July of 1978, Havana announced the unification of th e major guerrilla factiocs into the Sandinista National Liberation Front FSLN At that time, according to the U.S. State Department White Paper on communist involvement in El Salvador, a network was estab lished that shipped arms from Cuba and Panama, trans s hipped them to Costa Rica, then carried them overland to FSLN troops based in northern Costa Rica. This network was controlled by the Cuba's Departamento de America from its center in San Jose. Arms ship ments were followed by Cuban advisors, and in early 1979, by the arrival of a Cuban organized, trained and equipped Ilinternational ist brigade. I Prior to the FSLN final offensive in mid-1979, Castro met with its leaders to ensure continued unified action. During that offensive, Cuban advisors from the De p artment of Special Operations DOE) accompanied FSLN troops and maintained direct radio contact with Havana.8 have been dispatched to Nicaragua to help consolidate the "revolu cion sin fronteraslI--the revolution without frontiers. Among them are 1,800 Its ocial service workers1' and more than 1,000 military and security personnel assisting in police and counterinsurgency operations training offensive against El Salvador.

The El Salvador Offensive I I Since the Sandinista victory, 5,000 to 6,000 Cuban advisors I Nicaragua is the staging area for Cuba's Flush from its Nicaraguan victory, Cuba stepped up efforts to implement the unity of the opposition/quality of the vanguar d cum terrorism strategy in neighboring El Salvador unity of El Salvador's leftist groups became particularly essential in late 1979 when a reform-minded civil-military government took power in El Salvador. To prevent more moderate opposition elements from rallying to the reformers, Cuban supported forces intensified violence and terrorism to slow the pace of government reform efforts A Salvadoran guerrilla, Alejandro Montenegro, captured during a raid on a guerrilla safehouse in Honduras in August of 1982, confirmed that Nicaragua remains Cuba's primary conduit for insurgency weapons and ammunition throughout Central America.9 Cementing the REGIONAL OVERVIEW Guatemala.

The promise of 1980 to the meeting Cuban aid on condition of of Guatemala's four major un ification led to guerrilla groups Cuba's Renewed Support for Violence I op. cit, p. 72 Further, Nicaragua's Sandinista regime. assists in recruiting and transport ing guerrillas.for Cuban training programs. According to the U.S. State Department White Pap e r on El Salvador, one Salvadoran guerrilla who defected to Honduras in September of 1981 reported that he and 12 others went from Nicaragua to Cuba where over 900 Salvadorans were receiving training 8 6 the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP); the Rebel. Arm e d Forces (FAR the Organization of People in Arms (OPRA); and the dissident faction of the Guatemalan Communist Party (PGT/D After signing an agreement on cooperation, the Guatemalan representatives journeyed to Cuba where they met with Castro and again ag r eed to create a military command based in Managua zation is called the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (URNG) with a revolutionary directorate called the General Revolutionary Command (CGR The resultant organi In February 1982, a group of prominen t Guatemalan exiles in Mexico announced the .establishment of the Guatemalan Committee for Patriotic Unity (CGUP Members of this "unified political front" met in Havana the following day to celebrate the event.

Following these major steps towards oppositio n unification Cuba increased military supplies and training to Guatemalan guerrilla forces. Throughout 1981, arms were sent to Guatemala from Nicaragua via Honduras. These arms included 50- mortars submachine guns, rocket launchers, and small arms. The gu errillas primary target has been Guatemala's economic infrastructure; crop burning and activities to destroy the tourism industry are employed to create widespread dissatisfaction through swelling opposition ranks.

Honduras Here Cuba also has been unifying the major anti-government groups: the Honduran Communist Party (PCE); the Popular Liberation Movement (MPH-Cinchoneros); the Lorenzo Zelaya Commando, the military arm of the Revolutionary People's Front (FRP); the Morazanista National Liberation Front FM L H As the prospective vanguard, Cuba seems to prefer the MPH-Cinchoneros-a group known to have close ties to the Salvadoran guerrillas. The indigenous Communist Party PCH which eschews violence, is helpful 'to Cuba only to the extent that it very vocally o pposes cooperation between Honduras and the U.S. in combating-regional insurgency As Honduras is considered not yet "ripe for revolution,l' its present function is an arms and aid conduit to neighboring areas.

In January 1981, Honduran officials uncovered a large cache of arms earmarked for Salvadoran guerrillas. In November of that year, the Honduran government revealed the presence of a guerrilla safehouse outside the city of Tegucigalpa, containing an arsenal of automatic weapons and explosives and docu ments showing recent attendance in training courses in Cuba. Later that month, two additional safehouses were uncovered in La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula.

Costa Rica During the Nicaraguan civil war, Costa Rica was covertly used as a conduit for arms shipments to the Sandinistas. According to a Special Legislative Commission established in June 1980 by the 7 Costa Rican legislature, there have been at least 21 flights carry ing war materiel between Cuba and Llano Grande and Juan Santamaria Airports in Costa Ri c a. The Costa Rican pilots involved in arms transport told that Commission that they frequently had been accom panied by Cubans. The Commission found that over 1,000,000 pounds of arms had been transported to Costa Rica from Cuba and elsewhere during the S andinistas' war against the Somoza government.

Many of these weapons, including anti-aircraft machine guns rocket launchers, bazookas and mortars, remained in Costa Rica after the Sandinista victory and were redirected to Salvadoran insurgents. This still active clandestine arms network is overseen by the Cuban Departamento America from its secret operations center in San Jose, and--more recently-from the Cuban consulate itself according to the State Department.

Terrorism has played a significant role in i nsurgency opera tions especially since 1981. .In March of that year a steady terrorist offensive began; its first victims were a Costa Rican chauffeur and three Marine security guards from the U.S. Embassy in San Jose.lo Costa Rican authorities have uncov e red links be tween domestic terrorists and South American groups such as the Argentine Montoneros, the Urguayan Tupamaros, and Columbia's M-19-0 all alleged to receive varying degrees of Cuban support and train- ing 1 The findings of the Costa Rican gover n ment investigation and the subsequent implication of several high ranking Costa Rican authorities for aiding terrorist groups, led Costa Rka to close its consulate in Havana and to remove the 1977 Costa Rican-Soviet Technical and Economic Cooperation Agre e ment South American Targets Argentina Throughout the 1970s, Cuba provided training and tactical advice to Argentina's two most powerful terrorist groups: the Montoneros and the Peoples' Revolutionary Army (ERP At one time Cuba used its Buenos Aires embass y to maintain direct contact with those groups, When the Argentine government decisively suppressed the two groups in 1978, Cuba permitted Montoneros to establish headquarters (and later, intelligence facilities, labor union or ganizational apparatus, and top command facilities) on Cuban soil.

From there, Montoneros groups are sent to infilitrate Argentina and to participate in Itinternationalist brigades," such as those that fought with the Sandinista guerrillas lo For a full description of this terrorist offensive, see Barbara Crossette Terrorism in Costa Rica Causing Concern in U.S New York Times, March 23 1982, p. 2 8 Argentina is the home base of.the Junta de Coordinacion Revo lucionaria (JCR) founded in February 1974 to coordinate the acti vities of g uerrilla movements in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia. The JCR was disbanded in 1977 but reactivated in the summer of 1979 following the Sandinistan victory in Nicaragua.

JCR recruits are trained in Cuba near Guanabo, on an estate under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry.

Uruquay According to Claire Sterling, an internationally recognized expert in terrorism, the leader of Uruguay's Tupamaros terrorist group met with Castro in 1966 to set up arms and training arrange ments. Four years later, t he Tupamaros launched a campaign of terrorist bombings, kidnapings and assassinations In 1972 the elected parliament invited lililitary leaders to assume governmental control in an effort to suppress the terrorists.

Following the successful governmental counteroffensive Tupamaros forces retreated to Cuba, where they were further trained in military and terrorist tactics, and intelligence operations.

During the Nicaraguan civil war, Tupamaros participated in the Cuban organized internationalist brigade" dispatched to aid the Sandinistas.

C hile In the early 1970s Cuba provided arms and training for Chile's Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR During the three-year rule of Salvador Allende, Cubans received a total of 1,386 diplo matic visas and 1,294 official visas to travel to Chile. Mos t of them remained in Chile during this time. At the time of the Sep tember 1973 coup that toppled Allende, nearly 1,000 more Cubans were discovered to have entered the country illegally. Thus, more Cubans went to Chile during this period than to any other country in Latin America.

Cuban commitment intensified after the fall of Allende's Marxist regime and further increased in 1979 following the fall of Nicaragua's Somoza government that over 100 Cuban trained MIR terrorists had infiltrated Chile by early 1 980 and were responsible for a number of bombings and bank robberies Intelligence sources report Chile's Communist Party (PCCH), led by Luis Corvalan, has abandoned its longstanding policy of seeking revolutionary change by nonviolent: means. In 1980, Cor v alan met with Castro in Cuba and later announced that the new party line supported the armed struggle to overthrow the Chilean Government. .In early 1981, the PCCH signed a unity agreement with various Chilean extremist groups including the MIR, calling f or coordinated support for mass resis tance and terrorism.

I 9 Colombia Cuban arms and training were provided on a limited and steady basis throughout the 1970s to Colombia's M-19 (April 19 Movement the National Liberation Amy ELN) and the Revolutionary Ar med Forces of Colombia (FARC Cuba's special relationship with M-19 emerged following that group's two-month occupation of the Domini can embassy in Bogata in early 19

80. While the principal demands of 50 million.and.the release of 311 political prisoners were not met the group was flown to Cuba and given asylum there.

Twelve months earlier M-19 had masterminded a raid on an army arsenal north of Bogata where over 5,000 weapons were seized Several of those involved in the Embassy takeover participated in a joint Cubanm-19 operation to infiltrate Colombia via Panama and create a Ilpeoplels army.lI In February 1981, between 100 to 200 Cuban trained and armed M-19 guerrillas unsuccessfully attempt ed that operation, precipitating Colombia's suspension of rel a tions with Cuba on March 23 ed.

Diplomatic relations remain suspend CARIBBEAN OPERATIONS Grenada In March 1979 a political coup brought to power the New Jewel Movement (NJM-Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education and Liberation Like Nicaragua's FSLN, the NJM was an umbrella oppo sition group directed by a cadre of hard core Marxists.

Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, has adopted a full pro-Soviet line and has sought and received Cuban and Soviet aid.12 a 1,000-man People's Revolutionary Army--the recipient' of Cuban arms and training. Cuban and Soviet assistance has been chiefly directed towards the construction of an l'1nternational Airport with an approximately 4,800 foot'airstrip in Point Salines on the southern tip of the island. The facility supposedly i s designed for tourism. Grenada, however, has fewer than 300 hotel rooms The new Grenada's 250-man militia has been disbanded and replaced by Evidence of Grenada's new role in promoting regional. insur gency is confirmed by revelations that elements of th e Grenadian People's Revolutionary Army armed and supported a group of militant Rastafarians in a December 1979 revolt on nearby Union Island l1 l2 See Edward Lynch MOSCOW Eyes the Caribbean," Heritage Foundation Back gn events in Grenada see Richard Buel "Cold War in a Hot Country," National Review, November 14, 1980, and, "The Castroization of Grenada," National Review, September 17, 1982; and, Richard Sim and James Anderson The Caribbean Strategic Vacuum,"

Conflict Studies, No 121, August 1980 rounder No . 284, August 17, 1983 The Institute for the Study of Conflict, 10 Jamaica13 During the 1972 to 1980 rule of Michael Manley's People's National Party 500 Cuban and Soviet advisers arrived in Jamaica to train the police force and oversee the farmation of a communist internationalist brigade. For several years Cuba stockpiled arms in Jamaica or transshipped them through a front corporation- Moonex International-identified in May 1980 as the recipient of a shipment of 200,000 shotgun shells and .38 caliber pi s tol ammuni- tion shipped from Miami. After Manleyls government was decisively defeated at the polls, new Prime Minister Edward Seaga, broke rela- tions with Cuba in October 1981, after repeatedly warning Havana to stop interfering in Jamaica's internal af fairs.14 have not been reestablished.

Dominican Republic Relations The Dominican Republic, like many of its neighbors, has been a target of Cuba in the wake of the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua. The Dominican Communist Party (PCD) and the Dominican Liber ation Party, which both receive funds from the. Soviet Union and Cuba, have been pressured to form a united opposition front e- to me U.S. State Department, Cuban intelligence officials such as Omas Cordoba Rivas, chief of the Dominican Republic desk of t he Departamento de America, have made frequent visits to that country since early 19

80. Soviet and Cuban "seed money" is also responsible for a "scholarship program" that trains some 700 Dominican students at institutes such as MOSCOW'S Patrice Lumumba Un iversity According Guyana In Guyana, Cuba has worked through the official government and radical opposition forces. The People's National Congress PNC led by Forbes Burnham, has permitted as many as 200 Cuban technicians, advisers and medical personnel to be stationed there. At the same time, Cuba was aiding the Working Peoples' Alliance WPA) designed to foment strikes in the sugar industry, street demonstrations and incidents of violence. So blatant was Cuba's role that five Cuban diplomats were expelled in August 19

78. The Cuban threat in Guyana reportedly has led Brazilian President Joao Baptista de Figueiredo to establish air bases close to Surinam and to deploy jungle-trained infantrymen there.15 l3 l4 See Alexander Kruger Jamaica After the Elections: Opportunity for Eco See Jeffrey Gaper The Marxist Threat to Jamaica Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 9, May 20, 1977 nomic Recovery Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, No 131, January 26 1981 l5 "Brazil Fears Creeping Influence of Cuba," London Times, M ay 11, 1983 p.7 11 CONCLUSION Since 1959 Cuban foreign policy has been guided by the Castro Doctrine-a hemispheric agenda aimed at the overthrow of Latin America's Ilold guard" and its replacement by Marxist-Leninist regimes. The obliteration of this old g uard requires the disrup tion of societies to the extent that either a government must be come increasingly repressive or lose public confidence in its authority. Either of these alternatives affects the extent to which Washington can, with U.S. public su p port, continue assis tance. Once U.S. backing becomes questionable, it is easier for Cuba to unify opposition groups into political-military fronts which have as their 9mnguard" a trusted, Cuban-trained and armed revolutionary cadre This was the case in N icaragua, and threat ens to be so in El Salvador.

While change in Latin America is inevitable, it is not inevit It is primari- able that it be Marxist-Leninist and anti-American ly Cuban and Soviet bloc involvement that cause the imposition of totalitarian orientations on Latin American political dynamism.

U.S. policymakers and the American public should recognize that the triumph of Cuban allies in Latin America will lead to the in stallation of totalitarian regimes and a permanent state of hosti lity to the United States.

Rather than simply respond to Soviet and Cuban revolutionary initiatives in Latin America, the U.S. can promote democratic. pro cesses in the region. But fledgling democratic governments, such as El Salvador, Honduras and Peru, can only survive if the sub v er sive. actions of Cuba are decisively met character of the Cuban-supported revolutionary movements, no simple program of social reform or economic aid can avert the Marxist threat. The broad, expensive program of Cuban intervention. in Latin America mus t be exposed and then met Given the largely military Prepared for The Heritage Foundation By Eileen Scully Washington D. C.

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