Victor Dreke Cruz was born in the old Las Villas province (today Villa Clara) on 10 March 1937. His revolutionary activity began in 1952, when he took to the streets to protest the US-backed coup of Fulgenico Batista. Following involvement in various student protests, Dreke joined the 26th of July Movement in 1955.
In October 1958 he came under the command of Ernesto Che Guevara in a unification of the guerrillas of the 26th of July Movement and the Revolutionary Directorate. He was active in the armed struggle against Batista’s dictatorship regime, finishing the struggle as captain in the Rebel Army.
On 17 April 1961, the first day of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he assumed command of two companies of the 117th Battalion, taking part in a clash with paratroops of Brigade 2506. On 19 April, he was wounded in combat and briefly captured after driving towards Girón in a jeep ahead of his tanks.
From April to November 1965 Dreke served as second in command, under Che Guevara, of the Cuba internationalist combatants in the Congo (today Democratic Republic of Congo). The volunteers went to the Congo under the request of leaders in the national liberation movement there were followers of Patrice Lumumba, the assassinated leader of the Congo’s fight for independence, where they helped train the forces combating pro-imperialist troops and mercenaries.
On this Congo mission, Che wrote about Dreke in his report to Fidel Castro: ‘He was...one of the pillars on which I relied. The only reason I am not recommending that he be promoted is that he already holds the highest rank’.
Dreke then went back to Africa in 1966-68 to head Cuba’s military mission in Guinea-Bissau in their fight for independence from Portugal. In 1969 he was head of the Political Directorate of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
In 1973 he was named chief of the newly formed Youth Army of Labour (EJT) in Oriente province, working on the most difficult and challenging agricultural developments in the area. In 1981 he graduated from the University of Santiago de Cuba with a degree in law.
In 1990 General Dreke retired from active military service. He is currently vice president of the Cuba-Africa Friendship Association and a member of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution. He has received numerous decorations in Cuba and Africa.