Cuba’s international solidarity with liberation struggles. 

Cuba is a country I have always looked to with great admiration and I think that may have been spurred on by the fact Che had Irish ancestry. Yet Cuba is an inspiration as it cast off the colonial and neo-colonial chains of domination and exploitation. Cuba is a country where independence, social justice and equality are its core. Where people are the masters of their nation. This obviously appeals to an Irish Republican like myself who’s country is still not free from colonialism and that the ideals of equality are yet to be realised. 

Yet Ireland does not go unnoticed by Cuba. The Cuban government had invited a delegation of Sinn Féin activists in 2019, a delegation which I went on. It was clear the support they had for the Irish struggle for freedom from conversations but also the fact we had a wreath laying ceremony at the hunger strike monument in Havana which is dedicated to the ten Republican prisoners who died in 1981. The Cuban Communist Party often send Sinn Féin solidarity messages at the Ard Fheis every year reaffirming their support for our liberation struggle.

But Cuba is not only a friend to Ireland and our independence struggle, Cuba is a friend to all independence and revolutionary movements. From Algeria, Palestine, Vietnam, South Africa and Angola, the Cuban nation has stood shoulder to shoulder with those seeking nationhood and liberation. 

From the earliest stages.

In 1961 Cuba’s revolutionary government set up diplomatic relations with the Vietnamese revolutionary government in Hanoi, Cuba also started diplomatic relations with the National Liberation Front based in Southern Vietnam. They had a mission based in Havana, Fidel even said: “For Vietnam, Cuba is willing to shed its blood”. While many countries no doubt backed US efforts in Vietnam or at least turned away Cuba supported the struggle to reunite the Vietnamese nation. Today both countries have strong relations and continue to develop their socialist models that advances the well-being of their peoples. 

In September 1960 Fidel Castro at the UN made a speech in support of Algeria’s struggle for independence from French colonialism. Cuba sent weapons to FLN fighters who were waging their independence war against France while taking wounded fighters and refugees to Cuba. 1962 Algeria gained its national sovereignty from France and quickly Cuba began a relationship with the new independent Algeria. Like Cuba or Vietnam the break from Colonial rule in Algeria also meant a dedication to their peoples wellbeing. This involved Cuba sending medical brigades to help Algeria deliver healthcare to the people. Fidel and Che would visit Algeria on many occasions, while Algeria’s Ben Bella would visit Havana. Cuba and Algeria both became popular destinations for revolutionary and national liberation movements from over the globe. 

In the Congo, Che and other Cuban fighters fought alongside the revolutionaries in the Simba rebellion. Here former followers of Patrice Lumumba waged a Guerrilla war against the Mobuto’s military forces that were backed by the US and Belgium. They sought to liberate the nation’s resources and wealth from the neocolonial system of exploitation. Cuba supported their revolution to the hilt, however the revolution did not succeed. 

The anti colonial, independent and non aligned states.

Cuba would join the non aligned movement an organisation that sought to unite the progressive revolutionary countries in maintaining their sovereignty and independence. The non aligned countries had sought to remain independent from both the Eastern bloc and western capitalist powers in theory. Through this Cuba would develop relationships with countries such as Tito’s Yugoslavia, Nasser’s Egypt, Tanzania and India. 

The non aligned movement was intended to be an alliance of countries that broke off the chains of colonialism, capitalism and imperialism. Many of the countries involved from Ghana, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and Algeria had all gained their independence from  Colonial powers and began nation building with an emphasis of implementation of popular social policies to empower their peoples. However reactionary governments would often take power via coups and western backing. In Ghana for example Nkrumah a revolutionary nationalist and thinker would be displaced in a coup, then in Indonesia Sukarno who led the country to independence was overthrown by a western backed militarist called Suharto. 

This led to two camps of states within the Non Aligned Movement, the reactionary neo-colonial camp and the progressive camp for sovereignty. While the NAM was supposed to remain neutral of the western and eastern camps it was clear that both the reactionary and progressive states had to rely on them. In 1979 at Havana Fidel stated what the movements ethos were about: 

“the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, racism, Zionism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.”

Cuba was clear in trying to keep to the principles of non alignment. It meant supporting people’s right to self determination and the liberation of people from colonialism with all its reactionary symptoms. 


Cuba has been a friend to Africa, Cuba made alliances with the newly independent Tanzania and Ghana after the triumph of the revolution. Cuba was quick to develop ties with the newly emerging independent countries in Africa. “The blood of Africa runs deep in our veins” is what Fidel said of the Cuban people, which has a large population of African descent. 

However it was Cuba’s commitment to African National liberation struggles which gained it recognition. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Che Guevara addressed a group of African revolutionaries from across the continent. People from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa were all there. Ronnie Kasrils from Umkhonto We Sizwe would be there, while he gives a comradely critique of meeting Che it is no doubt clear the support Cuba was offering. 

Cuba gave support to the anti apartheid South African revolutionaries, training and material aid were given to Umkhonto we Sizwe by Cuba. The ANC was also given diplomatic support from Cuba. While western imperialist powers were supporting the apartheid regime or at least ignoring its nature it was Cuba, the socialist bloc and progressive countries that helped the national struggle against it. Cuba was the main leader in leading the international campaign against apartheid. 

While FRELIMO in Mozambique didn’t receive support from Cuba in the independence struggle against Portugal, after independence though they developed a close relationship. Cuba sent doctors, health workers and those willing to help build Mozambique. Cuba also helped the independence struggle of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. 

But it was the sending of troops to the newly liberated Angola that Cuba is most recognized for. South African forces, the CIA and the counter revolutionary UNITA attempted to overthrow the progressive MPLA government which led the struggle against Portuguese colonialism. The Cubans sent forces at the request of the MPLA.  Between 1975 and 1991 they fought alongside Angolan troops. The battle of Cuito Cuanavale changed the course of history in Africa.

The Cuban fighters helped repel the apartheid troops leading to defeat of their forces and proxies. This defeat also led to the independence of Namibia from the South African regime. After Angola retaining its sovereignty and Namibia gaining it’s freedom after a long struggle, the Apartheid regime was isolated. This paved the way to Mandela and the ANC gaining political power with the apartheid regime being dismantled. Nelson Mandela said of Cuba’s involvement: 

“We have come here today recognising our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa?… Cuito Cuanavale marksd an important step in the struggle to free the continent and our country of the scourge of apartheid.”

The liberation movements in Angola, Namibia and South Africa gained victory with the help of Cuba and they never have forgotten that. Today Cuba still sends its solidarity in the form of doctors  and medical brigades to African nations. They have sent medical teams to fight against Ebola, HIV and Covid-19 viruses. They done this while the west looked on. 

Palestine and Western Sahara.

One of the countries Che had visited was Palestine, he had went to Gaza where he met with Palestinian nationalists and Egyptian officials. Cuba welcomed the founding of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and had allowed Palestinians to study, to hold conferences in Cuba and even granted some Palestinians citizenship. Yasser Arafat was given a Presidential styled welcome to Havana when he visited the country. Arafat was given the Bay of Pigs Medal which is awarded to: 

“Cuban citizens or foreigners who have excelled in the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, or who have done great deeds for peace and progress of mankind.”

Cuba would develop full diplomatic ties with the PLO as the legitimate authority of the Palestinian nation. Cuba co sponsored a UN motion equating Zionism as a form of racism. Today Cuba continues to train Palestinian doctors and send medical services to Palestinian lands. Aid and support is still given to the Palestinian people as they continue to oppose the colonial Israeli regime. 

Another Arab country that receives solidarity from Cuba is that of Western Sahara. The Sahrawi people have been faced with colonial occupation since the Spanish first occupied the region. Since the 1970s Morocco has occupied the nation. Cuba gave recognition to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1980, which is a government exiled in Algeria. Cuba has trained medical students, technicians and other students from Western Sahara. Teachers and medical brigades have been sent from Cuba to the refugee camps in Algeria. Covid vaccines were also sent to help combat the disease.

The relationship between Cuba and Western Sahara predate 1980, Cuba supported the Polisario Fronts liberation struggle against both the Spanish and Moroccan colonialists. The Polisario Front was an armed liberation group which then became a political party, it is the representative of the Sawhari people in their struggle. Cuba supported their armed struggle against occupation up until the peace agreement. But since then Cuba supports the efforts made in decolonisation and national independence in Western Sahara. 


Throughout the 20th century Cuba had supported efforts of decolonisation and national independence across the globe. Cuba as a country who liberated itself from the colonial yoke realised that it had a duty to support other peoples struggles for liberation. Cuba is a true friend in International solidarity and we owe them our support for this.

by Aidrean Ó Gallchobhair

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