Agostinho Neto

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Agostinho Neto
Neto agostinho.jpg
Full Name: António Agostinho Neto
Origin: Ícolo e Bengo, Portuguese Angola
Occupation: President of Angola (1975 - 1979)
Goals: Eradicate followers of Fractionism (successful)
Gain Angola's independence from Portugual (successful)
Crimes: Mass murder
War crimes
Type of Villain: Communist Tyrant

Because it is not possible, comrades, to work with a security that offers doubts about protection to our compatriots and resists our policy of clemency. How many people are complaining about DISA today? Fairly or unfairly ... But they complain. Not a week goes by without receiving letters from relatives saying that 'my son has disappeared'. Later, comrades, I do not know what I will answer. What am I going to say? I am responsible. When a son, a father, a grandfather, a woman, a brother-in-law, etc. disappears, I am responsible. And what am I going to say? Some who are in jail are doing very well there; it is better to be there than outside. But not all ... We need to resolve this situation.
~ Agostinho Neto

António Agostinho Neto (September 17, 1922 – September 10, 1979) served as the first President of Angola (1975–1979), after having lead the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the war for independence (1961 - 1974). Until his death, he lead the MPLA in the civil war (1975-2002). His birthday is celebrated as National Heroes Day, a public holiday in Angola.

Early life

Born at Ícolo e Bengo, in Bengo Province, Angola, in 1922, Neto attended high school in the capital city, Luanda; his father, also called Agostinho Neto, was a Methodist pastor. The younger Neto left Angola for Portugal, and studied medicine at the universities of Coimbra and Lisbon. He combined his academic life with covert political activity of a revolutionary sort; and PIDE, the secret police force of the Estado Novo regime headed by Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, arrested him in 1951 for his separatist activism. Seven years later he was released from prison, and he finished his studies, marrying a white 23-years-old Portuguese woman who was born in Trás-os-Montes, Maria Eugénia da Silva, the same day he graduated. He returned to Angola in 1959.

Political career

In December 1956 the Angolan Communist Party (PCA) merged with the Party of the United Struggle for Africans in Angola (PLUA) to form the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola with Viriato da Cruz, the President of the PCA, as Secretary General and Neto as President.

The Portuguese authorities in Angola arrested Neto on June 8, 1960. His patients and supporters marched for his release from Bengo to Catete, but were stopped when Portuguese soldiers shot at them, killing 30 and wounding 200 in what became known as the Massacre of Icolo e Bengo. At first Portugal's government exiled Neto to Cape Verde. Then, once more, he was sent to jail in Lisbon. After international protests were made to Salazar's administration urging Neto's release, Neto was freed from prison and put under house arrest. From this he escaped, going first to Morocco and then to Zaire.

In 1962 Neto visited Washington D.C. and asked the Kennedy administration for aid in his war against Portugal. The U.S. government turned him down, choosing instead to support Holden Roberto's comparatively anti-Communist FNLA.

Neto met Che Guevara in 1965 and began receiving support from Cuba. He visited Havana many times, and he and Fidel Castro shared similar ideological views.

Following the Carnation Revolution in Portugal during April 1974 (which deposed Salazar's successor Marcelo Caetano), three political factions vied for Angolan power. One of the three was the MPLA, to which Neto belonged. On November 11, 1975, Angola achieved full independence from the Portuguese, and Neto became the nation's ruler. His government developed close links with the Soviet Union and other nations in the Eastern bloc and other Communist states, particularly Cuba, which aided the MPLA considerably in its war with the FNLA, UNITA and South Africa. However, while Neto made the MPLA declare Marxism-Leninism its official doctrine, his position was to favour a socialist, not a communist model. As a consequence, he violently repressed a movement later called Fractionism which in 1977 attempted a coup d' état inspired by OCA (Organização dos Comunistas de Angola). An estimated 18,000 followers (or alleged followers) of Nito Alves were killed in the aftermath of the attempted coup, over a period that lasted up to two years.

Neto died in a hospital in Moscow, while undergoing surgery for cancer, shortly before his 57th birthday. Jose Eduardo dos Santos succeeded him as president. But the Angolan Civil War continued to rage for almost a quarter of a century more.