The Cuban general who defected to the United States last month has told U.S. officials that 10,000 Cuban troops have been killed in Angola since 1976, according to senior Administration officials.
The estimate by Brig. Gen. Rafael del Pino Diaz is the first authoritative figure the United States has received on Cuban casualties in Angola, but the officials said it was roughly the same as American calculations.
Over the years, the Havana government has kept a tight hold on information about casualties in Angola, never referring to the subject publicly.
If the estimate of Del Pino is accurate, it would mean that Cuban losses in Angola are proportionately much higher than American fatalities in Vietnam. There were slightly more than 50,000 U.S. servicemen killed in Vietnam, but the U.S. population is about 22 times the size of Cuba's.
Jonas Savimbi, leader of the U.S.-backed anti-Communist rebels in Angola, said last year that the number of Cuban dead in Angola totaled 6,200 as of 1984.
Because of the absence of diplomatic relations with Angola's Marxist government, U.S. information about developments there has always been fragmentary, and officials have been hopeful that Del Pino would provide them with a full account.
A decade ago, Del Pino reportedly served as chief of the Cuban air and anti-aircraft forces in Angola.
Del Pino fled Cuba aboard a twin-engined Cessna 402 with his wife and three children May 28, and shortly thereafter the family was flown to a secret location in the Washington area.
The formal debriefing of Del Pino began a week ago after a 10-day rest period. Much of the early questioning of the former Cuban general has focused on the Cuban presence in Nicaragua, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity.
On arrival at Key West Naval Air Station, Del Pino is said to have told U.S. officials that he defected because he believed the Cuban revolution was leading the country to ruin.
Cuba's military presence in Angola has fluctuated over the years and is now believed by U.S. officials to be at a high point of 37,000. Cuban troops were initially sent to Angola in the mid-1970s to help that country's defend itself against military attacks by South Africa.