Operation Manuel: Czechoslovakia and Cuba

By
Daniela Spenser
CWIHP e-Dossier No. 7
 

During the height of the Cold War, Latin American revolutionary activists traveled to Havana and returned to their countries of origin in Latin America through the Czech capital Prague after having undergone military and political training in Cuba. Newly obtained Czech archival documents now provide details on "Operation Manuel." The operation began in 1962; from the available documents it is not clear when it ended. The documents reflect the central dilemma that the Czechoslovak Ministry of the Interior and the Czech Communist Party faced when the operation became a public secret following the desertion of several of the trained men from the revolutionary ranks. Once the operation became known, Czechoslovakia was brandished as a malefactor in the West. Despite their misgivings at the time the Czechoslovak authorities did not terminate their collaboration with the Cubans for fear of being dismissed as unsympathetic to the plight of the national liberation movements in Latin America. When they turned to the Soviet Union for advice, the Czechoslovak authorities found that Soviet intelligence, which participated in the same operation, faced the same security problems. And like the Czechoslovak authorities, the Soviets considered their involvement in the operation unavoidable if they too were not to arouse the suspicion that they were denying aid to the national liberation movements in Latin America.

Under the auspices of the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP), the following documents were found by a team of researchers headed by Oldrich Tuma in the archives of the Ministry of the Interior in Prague as part of the Project's new initiative on the Cold War in Latin America. The documents were translated by Ruth Tosek. The CWIHP Latin America Initiative, pursued in cooperation with Yale University's Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies (see http://www.yale.edu/las/conferences.html), the National Security Archive (George Washington University) and the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social Mexico City.

The CWIHP Latin American Initiative seeks bring together three scholarly communities which have thus far worked in relative isolation: North American Latin American Studies; North American/European/Russian and other Cold War scholars; and Latin American historians for cross-fertilizing discussions on the history of the Cold War in Latin America. In addition, the CWIHP Initiative seeks to explore new, unpublished and thus far largely ignored documentation on the subject in former Communist-world archives, U.S. archives, and Latin American archives. A first international conference, "México, América Central y el Caribe durante la Guerra Fría," co-sponsored by the CWIHP Initiative on Latin America & the Cold War was held in November 2002 in Mexico City, hosted by CIESAS in cooperation with Yale and the Mexican Foreign Ministry Archives. In March 2003, CWIHP and the Woodrow Wilson Center's Latin American Program sponsored an international conference on "Argentina-United States Bilateral Relations: An Historical Perspective and Future Challenges," which featured newly declassified documents on the "Dirty War."

Thus far, CWIHP has sponsored research in Eastern European archives as well as Mexican and Chilean archives, and is seeking new partners and new materials on the Cold War in Latin America, in particular from former Communist world and other archives, for example on East-bloc arms deliveries to Latin American countries etc. To contribute to this CWIHP Initiative, please contact the Cold War Project. Additional documents produced by the CWIHP Initiative on Latin America will be published on the CWIHP website

To read the documents, download the attached pdfs below.
 

About the Author: Dr. Daniela Spenser, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social, organized the November 2002 conference and has published widely on Soviet-Latin American relations.

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