Today in History: Jamaica Severed Ties With Cuba Reply

Prime Minister Michael Manley’s close contact with Cuba was a key main issue in the 1980 election campaign. That October, Edward Seaga won a landslide victory after charging that Manley’s close relationship with Cuba resulted in Cuban support to leftist terrorists in Jamaica. In addition, Jamaican security forces had discovered large amounts of small arms ammunition in the aircraft bringing Cuban diplomatic missions to Jamaica. Concurrently, Jamaican youth sent to Cuba for vocational training returned to Jamaica reported that they also received political indoctrination and military training.

Following their victory, the newly elected Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) quickly moved to distance itself from Cuba. In January 1981, Kingston ended the “brigadista” program – a Cuban initiative wherein roughly 1400 Jamaican youths were trained to become construction workers. Jamaica ordered its remaining students to return. The JLP administration warned Cuba to cease its involvement in Jamaican affairs. At the time, Cuba had 15 Intelligence Officers assigned to its Embassy in Jamaica. Jamaica broke relations with Cuba on October 29, 1981.

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This Month in History: Senior Spy Appointed Ambassador to Manley’s Jamaica 2

July 1979:  Havana rewarded the success of career spy Armando Ulises Estrada Fernandez with  an appointment as Ambassador to Jamaica.  For the previous several years, Estrada, a Deputy Director in the America Department (DA) and one of Cuba’s best Central America specialists, had worked extensively to lead Havana’s Nicaraguan allies, the Sandinistas, into power.

Unfortunately for Estrada, Castro supporter Michael Manley lost Jamaica’s 1980 presidential elections in a landslide.  This shift in the political environment ultimately led to the two nations ending relations in late 1981.  Estrada was then reassigned as Cuba’s ambassador to South Yemen.

Editor’s Note:  The America Department (DA) was the name used by the intelligence wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from 1974 to the late 1980s or early 1990s.  The DA was heavily involved in supporting revolutionaries and terrorists, but has since become more focused on political intelligence operations. This service is now called the America Area of the International Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC/ID/AA).