Operation “Mar Verde” Echoes in Portuguese (3/3): After the operation

On November 22, 1970, an alliance of Portuguese guerrillas and Guinean dissidents landed in Conakry to try to overthrow the Guinean regime, neutralize the rebellion of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Cape Verde-Bissau of Guinea and free the Portuguese prisoners it had captured. Guinean memory baptized this episode “Portuguese Aggression”. The Portuguese in charge of the operation christened her Mir Vert, “Mar Verde”. RFI’s Portuguese-speaking service returned to the Portuguese and Guinea-Bissau ruins for this story. In this third and final part, we return to the story of an exceptional witness, Amilcar Cabral’s widow, and the aftermath of the operation.

Lisbon targeted Conakry to strike a blow at the PAGICA’s support, because Amílcar Cabral’s independence movement’s base was located in Guinea. The attack was witnessed by Ana Maria Cabral, the wife of the leader of Guinea-Bissau. She believes she narrowly escaped and reveals to RFI, through exclusive testimony, how it all happened. ” I woke up my children, Says. We were just a target for bombing. A shell was fired, it just fell into the bathroom, the whole house shook. So I was alone with my children in the house and the guards said to me: “Take your children and leave immediately, without further delay.” We went out and spent in nature, in the surroundings, until the early morning. Because the Vietnamese Embassy was not far away, some comrades asked if we could stay there, but it was too small in their house. Finally, we left to go to the Soviet Union Embassy, ​​which was a huge building, and it was called “Little Moscow”. We took refuge there.

We stayed in Little Moscow. Ana Maria Cabral continuesUntil the return of Amilcar Cabral, who came to take us from there. Our house was completely damaged, and there was a lot of damage. They blew up the front of the house, the secretariat was next door, it was one block away. It was a thing, it’s really a stroke of luck that we didn’t get killed because they bombed everything! If they had bombed a little bit we would have been shot in our room. Amilcar asked that we leave this big hole in the bathroom as a memory of that night, because the shell landed right next to the bedroom. “.

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Amilcar Cabral was not in Conakry during the attack. Ana Maria Cabral says that is why he cannot be arrested. ” He wasn’t here. He was in Europe. At that time, Europe was divided: there were “capitalist” countries and “socialist” countries. And he was in one of those countries asking for help, because we couldn’t make weapons ! »

The six Portuguese ships quickly left Conakry without being able to overthrow Sékou Touré, or capture Amílcar Cabral. ” The only thing they could haveAna Maria Cabral concludes, was the release of Portuguese prisoners. We had a house on a hill. As in Guinea, there are almost no mountains, our people called them “the mountain”, although it was more of a hill than a mountain, but hey, let’s move on …! »

According to one of the Portuguese officers who took part in the operation, the Guinean Air Force intervened during this withdrawal, but were unable to touch the Portuguese boats. ” We were not sure if there were military aircraft or not, says Costa Correa, commander of the large landing craft Montante. But yeah, he had a flyover, probably around 10am when we were checking out. II There was a plane that fired. We don’t really know how or why… It seems to me that she did some damage to a merchant ship ».

Released prisoners are given very strict instructions as to what they can say about the process, in an effort to maintain secrecy. ” Prisoners were told to report that they had escaped themselves. It was the official version that they had to tell their families, says Commander Costa Correa. They fled and reached the border. Obviously, no one believed them. Moreover, the statements of the captured African troops in Conakry before the UN Commission of Inquiry were very clear, with a lot of detail. They also said that the mission was prepared and carried out with the help of Portugal “.

Portuguese silence

Portugal has not, until today, acknowledged its responsibility for the operation. Mar Verdi ». Commander Costa Correa is skeptical that this situation can ever be revised, more than 50 years after the fact. ” I doubt Portugal will come along and say, “Yes, of course, it was us.” Because it wouldn’t make sense anymore. If Portugal were directly questioned by an international organization, the country would be obliged to accept it, even in respect of all items published by the United Nations. This investigation collected sufficient elements to confirm that the operation was engineered by Portugal. and that if the operation was not successful, it was due to the shortcomings of the Directorate General of Security, Portuguese Political Police, formerly known by the acronym PIDE. They could not provide the right information to properly assess and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a process of this kind.. »

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In the face of the PAIGC, Lisbon, after the operation, did not manage to break away from the military approach. ” in 1971, Historian José Matos says, There is a meeting of the Supreme National Defense Council, a few months into the process, during which it becomes clear that Spinola is in favor of a new position. Then, in 1972, the general attempted, through the mediation of President Senghor, to reach a negotiated solution for Guinea. This possibility is rejected by Marcelo Caetano, the head of government, because he believes that the independence process being negotiated with Guinea would endanger Portugal’s presence in Angola and Mozambique. It will be a precedent! And when the general from Bissau comes to Lisbon to talk to Marcelo Caetano about this proposal, he is refused. Marcelo Caetano even said (a phrase that has become famous) that it would be better to suffer a military defeat than to negotiate with terrorists. Spinola is still dumbfounded by this sentence from Marcelo Caetano. This is where the general realizes that there is really no political solution and that Marcelo Caetano’s solution is to continue the war! »

strategic Mar Verdi »Commander Alboim Calvão and the governor of Portuguese Guinea, General Spinola, settled their scores after the failure of the operation. ” Commander Calvao was not very happy with the operation Commander Costa Correa says, Especially because the coup, a defining part of the operation, failed. And of course it was a huge disappointment for him. For him and, of course, for General Spinola as well. Spinola even had a quarrel with Commander Calvao accusing him of not giving enough importance to the coup, as a priority, leaving behind the idea that the main goal was only the release of prisoners “.

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Commander Costa Correa also testifies to the disappointment of the Guinean opponents, the FLNG officials who failed to overthrow the Conakry regime. ” during the return trip, The officer remembersThey told me about their disappointment with the help and preparation for the operation. Even if they also realize that they do not have enough internal resources to accompany them in the process. General Diallo was bitter and disappointed by the fact that he had not joined the group he was supposed to find Sékou Touré to serve as his “call to leave power”. Relegated to a second-class role, he only participated in the attack on one of the barracks. He told me: As a candidate for the presidency, I should have participated in this process. Or be part of the person who went to the radio to send a message to the Guinean people.” »

Clean up the regime in Conakry

Sekou Toure retains power and carries out a real purge of all those he considers his opponents. ” defectors tracked down, Historian Jose Matos explains, with many dead, countless people arrested. I remember, for example, the Archbishop of Conakry who was imprisoned, although he had nothing to do with the operation. Unfortunately for him, before going to Sekou Toure’s house, the Portuguese soldiers went to the Archbishop, looking for Sekou Toure’s house. Since they got the necessary information there, the poor archbishop was involved in the conspiracy. He was imprisoned for years in the 1970s, and what happened after Mar Verdi was very sad. The level of repression by the regime was terrible! It shows the nature of the Seiko Tori system! »

On the other side of the border, in “Portuguese Guinea”, the liberation war of the African Party against the Portuguese army intensified: “Nino” Vieira, in 1973 in the city of Du Puy, read out the unilateral declaration of independence for Guinea. -Bissaw. The Carnation Revolution, the following year in Lisbon, precipitated the recognition of independence and the withdrawal of Portuguese forces from the territory.

To (re)read: Operation Mar Verde, Echoes in Portuguese (1/3): A Very Strange Alliance

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About the Author: Germano Álvares

"Desbravador de cerveja apaixonado. Álcool alcoólico incurável. Geek de bacon. Viciado em web em geral."

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