Cuba entered the Angolan Civil War in 1975 by sending military and humanitarian aid to the MPLA, on of the factions. During the long period of time in which Cuban forces stayed in Angola, there was not only war and destruction but also constructive efforts to establish social services like health care.
The defeat of the United States in the Vietnam War meant that America would not be able to find support to bring troops into Angola. Thus, the request for support by the MPLA was the perfect opportunity to increase Cuban influence without coming into direct conflict with the U.S., and the Cuban Government took it.
After Angola was freed from Portugal, various groups began to fight with each other. The FNLA, MPLA, and UNTA all struggled for power. Cuba backed the MPLA while the US supported the FNLA and UNITA received help from South Africa.
Cuba had as many as 36,000 troops in Angola fighting in the war at one point. The Cuban army was able to prevent South Africa from coming into Angola, and gained political influence in the region for both Cuba and the Soviet Union.
After the early victories, the war between UNITA and the MPLA went on without great success for either side. Fidel Castro stated that until the apartheid government of South Africa was destroyed, Cuban troops would be available to the MPLA. Along with that apartheid government, the United States began to support UNITA.
Cuba also gave non-military assistance to Angola. It brought in teachers and doctors to assist Angola. Cuban construction workers built houses, bridges, and other buildings. Many Angolans were brought to Cuba for schooling.
The Cuban Government made large profits off some of these services. Nevertheless, Angola would have had to pay more for private services, and recieved a lot of free support from Cuba.
In August of 1988, a cease fire was agreed upon.. Since then, elections have been held and the MPLA has become the dominant party. However, Angola deserted its Marxist-Leninist policies in 1991.