I was there. It was tense. A small plane carried a sign calling Mandela a communist flew over the Convention Center. Miami’s black community was outraged by the reception and later boycotted Cuban businesses in retaliation. In an interview with PBS’s “MacNeil-Lehrer Report,” he said he considered the criticisms unreasonable since Cuba offered help to the ANC while the US government did not. (Mandela was only removed from the US “terrorist list” in 2008, 18 year after he was released from prison.) The Cubans supported the ANC, trained their cadres, provided both schooling and medical care, all as part of their commitment to revolutionary movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. When South African forces invaded Angola, Cuba sent troops, not once, but twice, as an act of what they called “proletarian internationalism.” The Cuban army supported the Angolan military in a crucial battle defeating the South Africans in the town of Cuito Carnivale. That led to South African troops withdrawing, along with the Cubans, and made possible a negotiated settlement in Namibia.
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