CubaBrief: 50 years ago Cuban troops covertly invaded and tried to destroy Israel led by the Cuban general now torturing Venezuelans. Cuban soldiers enlisting in Moscow’s illegal Ukraine war

Cuban soldiers

Fidel Castro broke relations with Israel on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. This was required for all Soviet-aligned regimes, as the international communist line defined Israel as a colonial state and an arm of U.S. imperialism. Noticias de Israel (News of Israel) provided a more in-depth description of what took place that should raise questions about Cuban soldiers in Ukraine fighting in the Russian army. A secret effort was planned from the highest echelons of the regime in Havana to transfer military aid to Syria. For this expedition, a tank brigade, helicopter pilots, communications operatives, and intelligence and counterintelligence officials were methodically chosen. It was critical that these individuals did not raise suspicions and that they were fully equipped for the mission at hand.

The Military Brigade of Senén Casas Regueiro was mobilized, and this covert plan was carried out under the command of General Leopoldo Cintra Frías, a well-known person in military circles. The soldiers departed Cuba disguised in civilian clothes, with falsified passports identifying them as university students, in a meticulously orchestrated diversionary maneuver. They took separate aircraft to East Germany for a technical stop over before continuing on to their final destination: Syria.  

This operation’s surprise led to a succession of enormous losses for Israel, both in terms of human lives and military equipment. During the clash, some civilian areas were also impacted.

On March 31, 1974, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared on US television that 3,000 Cuban troops had been transferred to Syria to support the Yom Kippur War. In 1978, The Economist published two articles in its Foreign Report that focused on Cuba’s participation in Syria beginning shortly after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Tank crews from Cuba fought alongside Syrian soldiers. 180 Cubans were killed and 250 were injured, according to Foreign Report.  

Combat forces from Cuba stayed in Syria until 1975.  Much of this information was taken from the 2020 Spanish documentary by Abraham Rivera on the Yom Kippur War.

Today, Leopoldo Cintra Frias is minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (MINFAR) and he has been the subject of targeted U.S. sanctions for his role “in the torture of Venezuelans and subjected them to “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment for their anti-Maduro stances” alongside Maduro’s military and intelligence officers.”

One wonders what he is up to in the Ukraine theater?

General Frias’s children, Deborah Cintra Gonzalez and Leopoldo Cintra Gonzalez (son named after him), were also sanctioned, and barred from entering the United States. General Frias’s son is one of those up and coming “entrepreneurs” being celebrated by some in the media.

He is not alone, and some are already in the United States.

​ Rodolfo Dávalos León is a Cuban national living in the United States who founded Caribbean Ventures Management LLC, a company incorporated in the state of Delaware in 2016, but headquartered in Coral Gables, Miami.  When protests erupted across Cuba on July 11, 2021, and the dictatorship’s future was in doubt, Mr. Dávalos León tweeted out “If the revolution falls you will find me in Cuba, with my father, knee on ground, rifle in hand, defending the work of Fidel. Long live Cuba, long live Raul, and long live Fidel!” 

Who is his father?

His father is a highly placed confidant of Fidel and Raul Castro. According to official records, Dr. Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández is a professor of International Law at the University of Havana and president of the Cuban Court of International Commercial Arbitration.

Cuban independent journalist Ulises Fernández in a July 2021 piece for Cubanet filled in some of the gaps in the professor’s official record. Dr. Dávalos Fernández was present in  “every international litigation that involved the Cuban government as defendant, plaintiff, summoned party, or even referenced entity, in matters unpleasant in nature, since they always have to do with breach of contracts, frozen bank accounts, confiscations, accumulated debts, fraudulent practices against businessmen, blackmail, espionage and psychological manipulation.”

Rodolfo Dávalos León with Ben Rhodes and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.

Although Rodolfo Dávalos León’s foray into capitalism has not dulled his enthusiasm for revolutionary violence, he has been able to associate with movers and shakers on the American political scene. According to publicly available photos, he met with former Obama White House staffer Ben Rhodes in Coral Gables and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy in Washington DC. This is the same Senator Leahy that arranged for his foreign policy aide Tim Rieser to investigate if Cuban spy Gerardo Hernandez, then serving a double life sentence for espionage and murder conspiracy, would be able to provide sperm samples to be delivered to his wife, the first attempt failed, and the second took, and conception was achieved.

President Obama commuted Gerardo Hernandez’s double life sentence in December 2014, as part of his thaw with Raul Castro. Family members of the four men killed in the murder conspiracy the Cuban spy was convicted of were not happy about his pardon. Hernandez returned to Cuba to head up the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) to spy on Cubans across the island, an instrument of totalitarian control. He was also appointed to the Castro dictatorship’s Council of State, the 31-member body that oversees day-to-day life on the island, on December 17, 2020.

Gerardo Hernández was in Moscow on May 31, 2023, leaving a wreath on a monument to Fidel Castro erected by Vladimir Putin in 2022.

This month, reported Reuters, Havana has issued contradictory messages regarding its citizens fighting for Russia. When it announced the trafficking ring arrests on September 8, it also stated that it was illegal for its nationals to fight for a foreign army, a crime punishable by life in prison. However, Cuba’s ambassador in Moscow later stated that Havana does not oppose Cubans “who simply want to sign a contract and legally participate with the Russian army in this operation.” Within hours, Cuba contradicted its envoy, stating unequivocally that Cubans were not permitted to fight as war mercenaries.

This mix up is a reminder of the quote attributed to Mark Twain, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Cubans who are speaking more plainly compare Cuban involvement in Ukraine with prior expeditions in Southern Africa.

”49-year-old Enrique Gonzalez, formerly a struggling bricklayer, objects to the label “mercenary.” The former bricklayer, who had received his Russian passport, was interviewed by Reuters and compares his decision to fight for Russia to that of Cubans who fought in the 1970s in a Soviet-backed war in Angola. In that battle in southern Africa, commonly seen as a Cold battle proxy struggle, Cuba sent tens of thousands of troops to fight for a communist guerrilla force backed by Moscow against a competing anti-communist movement backed by the United States. “I’m following their example,” Gonzalez said of the Cuban fighters in Angola, adding that Moscow had been a staunch supporter of Cuba for decades and had provided economic assistance to the island. “Russia helped to maintain my family.”

This all points to another Cuban deception to avoid sanctions from the European Union, and the United States while assisting their Russian ally in Ukraine to prosecute an illegal war of aggression.

Babalu Blog, October 6, 2023

When the Castro dictatorship deployed Cuban soldiers in the Yom Kippur War to destroy Israel

October 6, 2023 by Alberto de la Cruz

Hundreds of Cuban tank crews took part in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Hundreds of Cuban tank crews took part in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, and it’s important we remember the Cuban regime that rules Cuba today is the very same regime that sent troops to destroy Israel during that war. Nothing has changed in Cuba since then. The Castro family dictatorship ruling Cuba with an iron fist in 1973 continues to do so 50 years later.

Via Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Yom Kippur War at 50: Castro deployed Cuban troops to invade and destroy Israel in October 1973

On October 6, 1973, the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Egyptian battalions and Syrian tank columns launched a surprise offensive on two fronts against Israel.

During the course of the Yom Kippur War that lasted twenty days, 2,656 Israelis were killed and 7,200 wounded.

Fidel Castro sent thousands of Cuban troops to fight on the Syrian side in the surprise attack to destroy Israel.

Havana maintained diplomatic relations with Israel from 1959 through 1973, even as it fully embraced terrorism against the Jewish nation.

Fidel Castro broke relations with Israel on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. This was required for all Soviet-aligned regimes, as the international communist line defined Israel as a colonial state and an arm of U.S. imperialism. Noticias de Israel (News of Israel) provided a more in-depth description of what took place.

From the highest levels of power in Havana, a secret operation was orchestrated to send military support to Syria. A tank brigade, helicopter pilots, communications agents, and intelligence and counterintelligence officers were meticulously selected for this mission. It was imperative that these men did not arouse suspicion and that they were perfectly prepared for the task entrusted to them.

The Military Brigade of Senén Casas Regueiro was mobilized, and under the command of General Leopoldo Cintra Frías, a recognized name in military circles, this surreptitious plan was put into action. In a carefully planned diversionary maneuver, the soldiers left Cuba dressed in civilian clothes, with forged passports that identified them as university students. They traveled on separate flights to East Germany, where they made a technical stopover, before reaching their final destination: Syria.

Once on Syrian territory, Soviet military equipment, including modern T-62 tanks and SAM rocket artillery, was ready for operation. Figures vary, but it is estimated that between 1,800 and 4,000 Cubans were present in Syria during the 1973 confrontation.

The surprise of this operation resulted in a series of significant losses for Israel, both in human lives and military equipment. Some civilian areas were also hit during the clash.

On March 31, 1974, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan announced on US television that 3,000 Cuban troops had been dispatched to support Syria during the Yom Kippur War. The Economist published two articles in its Foreign Report in 1978 that highlighted Cuba’s role in Syria beginning shortly after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Cuban tank crews fought with Syrian troops. According to Foreign Report, 180 Cubans were killed and 250 were injured.

Continue reading HERE.

Barron’s, October 6, 2023

Young Cubans Spurn Role As Guardians Of The Revolution


October 6, 2023

In Cuba, thousands of neighborhood cells set up as the eyes and ears of Fidel Castro’s communist revolution are trying to find ways to lure young people who have little interest in the cause.

It has been six decades since Castro created the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution to keep watch for his then-shaky government, and the 138,000 CDR remain an enduring symbol of communism on the island.

However, enthusiasm for the neighborhood associations has waned in recent years, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, the boosting of American sanctions, and a severe economic crisis that has eroded purchasing power.

“The new generation wants nothing to do with all that,” a female student told AFP, asking not to be named.

Every citizen automatically becomes a member at 14, but getting them to engage is a challenge.

“Today, young people sleep with their phone in their pocket, and as soon as they turn it on, there is a media bombardment against our (socialist) process,” CDR national coordinator Gerardo Hernandez, 58, told AFP.

He was one of the “Cuban Five” spies who were imprisoned in the United States in 1998, and whose release helped pave the way for a 2014 thaw in ties between the Cold War foes.

A local hero, he has been given the tricky task of revitalizing the CDRs, at a time when the island is undergoing a transformation, opening up to private small businesses, allowing citizens to buy and sell houses, and the arrival of internet access.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have fled the economic crisis.

“We are trying to reverse this situation and make young people understand that the CDRs offer them an extraordinary opportunity to develop their vocation and to have an influence on their community,” said Hernandez, as the CDR held its tenth annual congress in September, at which it held a debate on how to make the cells “attractive to young people”.

Initially set up as a surveillance network to denounce “counter-revolutionaries,” the CDRs organize community projects and coordinate services like vaccination campaigns and blood drives.

The defense committees are particularly visible during elections, presiding over neighborhood meetings and scrupulously controlling citizens’ participation.

Surveillance is still a key part of their work, and they keep a lookout for drug trafficking, tax evasion, and other crimes.

Cells exist in every neighborhood and village, and the government counts around eight million members — more than three-quarters of the island’s population — including those who are not active.

Manuel Cuesta Morua is a dissident who suffered “acts of repudiation” in the 2000s, when large groups of CDR members would verbally and physically abuse opponents.

“Young people today are much more pragmatic, much more transactional,” Cuesta Morua told AFP. “They participate when it is to their advantage.”

“The youth are apolitical, they don’t identify with the government, which they associate with the CDR.”

He said no-one in his family had taken over from his mother, who he described as a “CDR activist”.

Seated at a cafe in  Old Havana, Lazaro, 43, who did not want to give his last name, criticizes the association: “The CDR has never helped me. I always had to get by on my own.”

Every year, on the night of September 27, CDR members get together in their neighborhood for a party around a stew cooked on an open fire. Everyone brings what they can.

Ernesto Lemus, 56, president of a CDR in Old Havana, said the party was an important “continuity” of the 1959 revolution which saw a radical shift to communism, heightening tensions with the United States during the Cold War.

“A few years ago, it was a party, but not anymore. Today there is nothing and everything is expensive, there is no more unity in this regard,” said gardener Rafael Caballero Lopez, 35, who is planning to emigrate to Colombia.

© Agence France-Presse

Reuters, October 3, 2023

Special Report: How Cubans were recruited to fight for Russia

By Dave Sherwood

October 3, 20239:40 AM EDT

LA FEDERAL, Cuba, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Cuban seamstress Yamidely Cervantes has bought a new sewing machine for the first time in years, plus a refrigerator and a cellphone – all on Russia’s dime.

She said her 49-year-old husband Enrique Gonzalez, a struggling bricklayer, left their home in the small town of La Federal on July 19 to fight for the Russian army in Ukraine. Days later, he wired her part of his signing-on bonus of about 200,000 roubles ($2,040) which she received in Cuban pesos, Cervantes told Reuters.

That represents a windfall on the economically stricken communist-run island. It’s more than 100 times the average monthly state salary of 4,209 pesos ($17 in the informal market), according to the national statistics office.

Few places feel the pinch more than La Federal, a community of about 800 people on the outskirts of Havana where one in four residents are unemployed, government data for 2022 shows.

On the 100-meter dirt road where Cervantes lives, at least three men have left for Russia since June, and another had sold his home in anticipation of going, she said.

“You can count on one hand those who are left,” the 42-year-old said as she surveyed the street from a small terrace where she’d repurposed two broken toilet bowls as flower pots.

“Necessity is what is driving this.”

Reuters traced the stories of those four men, together with more than a dozen other Cubans recruited to go to Russia from districts in and around the capital Havana, ranging from a builder and a shopkeeper to a refinery worker and phone company employee. Eleven of the men ended up flying to Russia while the other seven got cold feet at the last moment.

Interviews with many of the men plus friends and relatives, together with a trove of WhatsApp messages, travel papers, photos and phone numbers they provided to corroborate their accounts, paint the most detailed picture yet of how Cubans are flocking to shore up Moscow’s war machine.

The Kremlin and Russian defence ministry didn’t respond to queries about Cubans being recruited for their military. The Cuban government also didn’t respond to queries for this article.

News of Cubans ending up in the Russian military hit headlines this month when the Havana government – a longstanding ally of Russia that says it is “not part of the war in Ukraine” – said it had arrested 17 people connected with a human-trafficking ring that lured Cubans to fight for Moscow. Reuters could not establish the identities of those involved in the alleged trafficking ring and when or whether they were arrested.

The recruits identified by Reuters volunteered to go to Russia to work for the military following overtures on social media from a recruiter who identified herself as “Dayana”. In La Federal, for example, all nine recruits identified by Reuters signed up to fight in the war. In Alamar, an eastern Havana suburb, most of the five men signed up for non-fighting roles such as in construction, packaging of provisions and logistics.

Cervantes’ husband Gonzalez, speaking via video call from a Russian military base outside the city of Tula, south of Moscow, told Reuters he was one of 119 Cubans training there. When he arrived in Russia, he said, he had signed a contract to work for the military, translated into Spanish.

“Everyone here knew what they were coming for,” he said, smiling in military garb as he gave Reuters a digital phone tour of the camp, ringed by pine trees. “They came for the war.”

Gonzalez said the 119 Cubans there were being trained to fight in the war, though still wasn’t clear where they’d be sent.

“I have several friends in Ukraine, and they are in places where bombs are falling but they haven’t actually been in confrontations with Ukrainians,” he added. “Everything is good here, but when we go there, we will be in a war zone.”

Reuters was unable to contact any of the other men who joined the military, though confirmed via WhatsApp messages and photos that they had flown to Russia and two are now in Crimea.

Contacted for comment on the recruitment of Cubans into the Russian military, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said: “I can confirm that the Ukrainian embassy in Havana has reached out to the Cuban authorities on this matter.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the United States was monitoring the situation closely. “We are deeply concerned by reports alleging young Cubans have been deceived and recruited to fight for Russia,” the spokesperson said.


The Cuban recruitment activity identified by Reuters began weeks after a May decree issued by President Vladimir Putin that allowed foreigners who enlisted with the military on year-long contracts to receive Russian citizenship via a fast-track process, along with their spouses, children and parents.

In La Federal, word of the army work began to spread in June, according to the residents interviewed. Offers to join up, shared via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, became the talk of the town, with Dayana named as the contact.

More than two dozen young men interviewed by Reuters in and around Havana spoke of the scale of the exodus.

Cristian Hernandez, 24, broke into laughter when asked how many people had left the area around La Federal. “A ton of people,” he said. “Almost all of our friends have gone over there.”

Yoan Viondi, 23, who lives a few-minute bike ride up the road from the main drag, said he knew about 100 men in Villa Maria, the district that includes La Federal, had been recruited for the Russian war effort since June.

He said a friend gave him the WhatsApp contact for Dayana, a Cuban woman who he said bought plane tickets for recruits. Dayana was also mentioned as a key contact by most of the recruits and relatives Reuters spoke with.

Viondi wasted no time.

“Hi, good afternoon,” Viondi said to her in a July 21 message, viewed by Reuters. “Please I need information.”

Dayana, who appears in her chat icon as a dark-haired woman in a camouflage cap, responded with contract terms almost instantaneously, according to time stamps. The first line of the message states: “This is a contract with the Russian military by which you receive citizenship.”

The contract was for one year and offered a signing bonus of 195,000 roubles followed by a monthly salary of 200,000 roubles, plus 15 days of vacation after the first six months of work.

Those terms are in line with those relayed to Reuters by other recruits and their families.

“If you’re in agreement, you should just send (a copy of) your passport,” Dayana’s message read.

Within two minutes, Viondi had sent a digital copy of his passport. One hour later, Dayana responded in an audio message heard by Reuters: “Perfect, tomorrow I’ll be able to tell you what day you will travel,” she said.

Reuters was unable to reach Dayana for comment on the number used by Viondi and others, or to confirm her full name.


In the end, despite his initial enthusiasm, Viondi became anxious about going to Russia and cut contact with Dayana. He stressed that the people who signed up in La Federal knew they would be going to fight.

“It’s hard living here. Everyone said, ‘If I choose this, I won´t die of hunger in Cuba,” he said. “But they knew where they were going. I knew perfectly well where I was going too.”

Viondi told Reuters neither Dayana, nor anyone else, had asked him to keep their interactions a secret.

He said he maintained contact with at least four friends who had signed contracts in Russia with the army and that, as far as he knew, “they were fine”. Most, he said, were now in Ukraine.

Cuba is mired in its worst economic crisis in decades, with long lines for even the basics like food, fuel and healthcare, spurring an exodus of Cubans to the U.S., Latin America and Europe last year.

Alina Gonzalez, president of a neighborhood block committee in La Federal tasked with mobilizing support for the communist-run government, recalled the excitement stirred by the Russian military work.

Many men jumped at the opportunity in her neighborhood, she said, including her nephew Danilo.

“The one that lives over there? He went with his wife and two children. That one over there, with his wife. And the mother of another lives further down,” she said.

Roberto Sabori told Reuters that many of the men who left – including his 30-year-old son, Yasmani – had done so in a hurry, keeping their plans secret from even their families.

“I heard he was leaving the same day he left,” said the 53-year-old, who lives around the corner from Gonzalez, adding that his son had called him as he prepared to board a flight from the resort town of Varadero to Moscow.

“He never told me anything.”


Cervantes, the seamstress of La Federal, recalls the desperation her husband Gonzalez, now in Russia, had felt in the months before he left. “Work, work, work,” she said of his life. “One day, he said to me, ‘Mami, I just can’t take it anymore’.”

“One day he told me, ‘I’m going to Russia. He showed me the photocopy of his passport, and had the ticket and everything. That was the 17th (of July) and he left on the 19th.”

While Cervantes chose to stay behind, Reuters confirmed through WhatsApp photos and videos that at least three wives from La Federal had joined their husbands in Russia, as well as at least one child.

Cervantes said her cousin, Luis Herlys Osorio, had enlisted in the Russian army weeks after her husband departed, and that his wife, Nilda, was also now in Russia: “She went, and so did many of the women in the neighborhood.”

Reuters reviewed photos on social media of Nilda, with two other wives from La Federal, at a rented home in the city of Ryazan in western Russia. Osorio is in Crimea, Cervantes said.

Cuba has sent mixed messages this month about its citizens fighting for Russia.

On Sept. 8, when it announced the trafficking-ring arrests, it also said it was illegal for its citizens to fight for a foreign army, punishable by life in prison.

Days later, though, Cuba’s ambassador in Moscow said Havana didn’t oppose Cubans “who just want to sign a contract and legally take part with the Russian army in this operation.” Within hours, Cuba contradicted its envoy, reiterating that Cubans were prohibited from fighting as war mercenaries.

Gonzalez objects to being called a mercenary. The former bricklayer, who had received his Russian passport, likens his decision to fight with Russia to that of the Cubans who fought in a Soviet-backed war in Angola in the 1970s.

In that war in southern Africa, widely viewed as a Cold War proxy conflict, Cuba deployed tens of thousands of troops to fight for a communist guerrilla group supported by Moscow against a rival, U.S.-backed anti-communist movement.

“I’m following their example,” Gonzalez said of those Cuban fighters in Angola, adding Moscow had been a steadfast ally of Cuba for decades and the Soviet Union had provided economic aid to the island.

“Russia helped to maintain my family.”

Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Additional reporting by Alexandre Meneghini, Mario Fuentes and Carlos Carrillo in Havana, Matt Spetalnick in Washington, Tom Balmforth, Filipp Lebedev and Felix Light; Editing by Pravin Char