Cuba Shouldn’t Have an Army

por Alfredo Fernandez

Cuban soldiers on parade.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba shouldn’t have an army.  From my point of view, that would be the most important step we Cubans would take if we wanted to build a nation with a future, a country with opportunities.

A brief review of our national past would show us that we are by no means a peaceful people. Our achievements as a nation, in all cases, came at the hands of war, with the War of 1895 being perhaps the most notable example. It was a war that wound up bringing us neo-colonial rule (“the Republic”), though Jose Marti saw it as necessary since it proved impossible to talk with a despotic and monarchic Spain.

In Marti’s judgment, the conflict would have to be short and effective to prevent victims and to minimize the nation’s grief, factors inherent in war.

Then, in another war, that of the 1959 Revolution, the Batista dictatorship was overthrown to establish a government that has known only four presidents in 53 years.

Achieving the status of a US-backed “republic,” by way of the combination of tenacity and courage of Marti’s ideas, made it impossible for nascent Cuban civil society to rid itself of the excessive military presence of the military leaders of the War of ’95 in the nascent government of the nation.

On the contrary, they and the academic bureaucracy made up what novelist Carlos Loveira later referred to as “the Republic of Generals and Doctors.”

How much of this has prevented our military destiny from us recognizing ourselves as a nation? The climax was reached in 1975, and until 1990, when Cuba’s military was officially involved in separate wars in Angola and Ethiopia. This left the country unprotected due to the excessive presence of Cuban troops in both conflicts.

This was when the White House was occupied by no other than the warmongering Ronald Reagan. Therefore the argument that the military exists to protect the nation is becoming untenable because of the circumstances outlined above. What would have happened if military aggression by the US against Cuba had occurred in the 1980s?

Last year, when I saw three obsolete MiG-23 aircraft fly over my house en route to a military parade for the 50th anniversary of the victory of the Bay of Pigs invasion by US-sponsored exiles, I could only feel sorry for the Cuban army. As an army with a Cold War era infrastructure, it would have very few options in a military confrontation with any similar contemporary fighting force.

The truth is that when you look at the history of countries like Switzerland and Costa Rica, which have no armies, the observer will note that no one has attacked them. Hitler didn’t even think of bothering the former. As for Costa Rica, when the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza had the intention to attack it, this generated solidarity between the countries of the region as never before. In virtually hours, they put together an army that was ready to invade the bold dictator had he attempted his planned assault on Costa Rica.

Finally, the fact that disturbs me most about war was seeing an incident that occurred back in January 1993. This was when my police officer uncle, who had died two days earlier in a traffic accident, was buried in the pantheon of the armed forces of the city of Palma Soriano. This was when I saw how heartbroken an elderly neighbor was left when the vault was opened and he again saw, after several years, the crypt of his son who died in Angola a few years earlier.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces represents an unsustainable expense for an island nation that is inexorably aging every day. Its disappearance would add numerous direct advantages to the country’s productive capacity, which could greatly help the national economy.

Personally I would leave only a strong police force in the cities and a coast guard to monitor the sea against intrusions into the country by drug cartels.

In a recent letter by some Cuban professionals, of which I’m also a signatory, I found its most dubious aspect in the section that asked the government to make available “The army to participate in international conflicts only at the request of the United Nations.”

After analyzing it, I am going further and asking the nation to rid itself, for once and for all, of the heavy burden of our expensive and ineffective army, thus placing all citizens of the country under equal conditions that can only be brought about by a civilian status.

author photo

Alfredo Fernandez: A balance scale in a state of equilibrium is an illusion, because such harmony in a universe where stillness is unknown is doubtful. This is why I believe that justice is nothing other than a mental circumstance that is attained by humanity only on occasion. The words that my writings present here convey what there is of equilibrium within me, along with my more natural state – that of perennial restlessness. My imprudent fingers strike a keyboard anchored here on an island, so that when hitting each key — indistinctly — they leave or make permanent what I love and hate. The truth one might find in my writings is that which is somehow snatched from my fears, although to search for the truth on an island can wind up being as an illusory adventure as balancing a scale. The island I have within me does not know serenity either.

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