Cuba Unaware of US Intent to Invade in 1976

Havana has only now become aware that former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger proposed to “smash” Cuba in 1976. Néstor García Iturbe, as the Cuban government’s representative in the first covert negotiations to take place between the two countries following the success of the revolution, maintains that the last meeting on Feb. 7, 1976, was conducted in a relaxed atmosphere and only discussed the issue of family visits by Cuban citizens residing in the United States.

García Iturbe, currently an associate professor at the International Institute for International Relations in Havana, said, “We had no idea that, at that time, Kissinger was advising President Ford to take a decision to devastate Cuba. That last meeting at Washington National Airport had proceeded as normal, although we did suppose that all was not well.”

García Iturbe’s statements to La Jornada were made in response to recently declassified documents included in “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.” Written by the researchers William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, the book describes the covert negotiations and contacts that took place between Washington and Havana in the wake of the 1959 revolution. The memorandum of a meeting between President Ford and his secretary of state at the White House on Feb. 25, 1976, reveals that Kissinger said, “I think we are going to have to smash Castro.” He added, “We probably can’t do it before the [presidential] elections.” Ford responded, “I agree.”

A further document describes a meeting on March 15, 1976, during which Kissinger told Ford that the purpose of airstrikes on Cuba would be to “humiliate” the Cubans. He also had plans to mine Cuba’s harbors and launch airstrikes on its military installations in response to Havana’s decision to send troops to Angola. His contingency plan considered the possibility of a Soviet military response, which would have resulted in a “general war.” The attack, scheduled for after the elections, never took place because Democrat Jimmy Carter replaced Gerald Ford as president.

García Iturbe added, “We knew they were not happy about our presence in Africa, and they had said so in writing. But at that time they were financing the South African troops that were invading Angola. We had reason to be just as upset as they were, but we did not end the dialogue or plan airstrikes.”

With Kissinger’s proposed airstrikes postponed until November, Washington opted to use CIA-hired terrorists to attempt to “humiliate” Cuba. García Iturbe recalls 1976 as one of the bloodiest years in the history of the United States’ organized terrorist operations against Cuba. In the second half of 1976, U.S.-trained terrorists detonated more than 50 bombs against Cuban installations overseas, including the two that blew up the Cubana Airlines civil airliner, killing all 73 passengers on board. Luis Posada Carriles, one of the masterminds behind the attack, lives in Miami under the protection of U.S. authorities.

Washington Incensed

Piero Gleijeses is a lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa, 1959 – 1976,” the most corroborated research work on the presence of Cuba in the war in Angola in the mid-1970s. In conversations with La Jornada, he observed that the U.S. government was incensed by Cuba’s military presence in Africa. “Kissinger reacted like the neighborhood bully he is,” said Gleijeses. “Fidel defeated the axis of evil [Washington and Pretoria] in Angola and humiliated them. The gringos wanted revenge and that feeling has not diminished, even after such a long time. The Anglo-Saxons lack the sense of fair play that we Latinos have.”

According to Gleijeses, Havana was aware that assisting the Angolan government could derail its ongoing dialogue with Washington. He said, “Cuba was prepared to pay that price — and not only at that time. The Carter administration was willing to normalize relations with Cuba in exchange for Havana withdrawing troops from Angola. Yet, Cuba refused and did not yield to the blackmail.”

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