March 24, 1981: Colombia expelled Cuba’s entire diplomatic staff and severed relations after Havana was forced to confirm its involvement in a failed government overthrow by the urban guerrilla group, the 19th of April Movement (M-19).
Several weeks earlier, M-19 had flown approximately 150 of its Cuban-trained members to Panama. Castro ally and senior Panama Defense Force (PDF) officer, General Manuel Noriega, along with other PDF members, armed the M-19 guerillas and sent them by boat to two locations on Colombia’s Pacific coast. However, the poorly planned operation failed and most of the invasion force was captured. During questioning, the captured guerrillas told Bogota of their three-month training regimen in Cuba and the means that Havana used to secretly return them to Colombia.