HAVANA TIMES – Yohandry is 18. At the beginning of May, he received a notice to appear and register for his military service. It was hard for him to accept being recruited, he said, since he had an injured knee and also suffered from Chondromalacia, commonly known as runner’s knee. This complicated his mobility quite a bit.
He presented his clinical history with hopes of being excused, at least from the period of initial training, which consists in some 30 days of intense exercise, involving long hikes holding a rifle over the shoulders, plus marches, etc.
His medical report wasn’t approved, and as a result he was taken to the Managua military base in Havana.
Yohandry states that from the time he arrived, he was aware he’d be facing long and very hard days ahead.
On the first hike of about three kilometers, Yohandry told the squad chief that his leg hurt terribly. They didn’t pay any attention to this, but instead called him weak, a pussy, and forced him to keep going. This story continued for five straight days, until the youth fell down on his knees in front of everyone.
At the request of some of his fellow recruits, Yohandry was admitted to the base infirmary, but only for three days. Those there alleged he was fit for the training. He didn’t receive any medication at all, and the only benefit he received was some rest.
He was able to call his mother and ask her to send painkillers. He says he had to hide the medication under his pillow when they came through for inspection, so they wouldn’t take it away.
On visiting day (just before Mother’s Day) he was able to see his mom, who then complained to the higher officials about her son’s physical condition. They ignored her complaint.
A week later, Yohandry had to be urgently taken to the military hospital to receive arthroplasty, or knee repair surgery. He had fainted, just under a mile past the base.
Military service in Cuba isn’t a school – it’s a center for physical and psychological torture. The youths there are called offensive names, the food is scarce and of poor quality, the training is unbearable, and the negligence when the recruits are sick can be observed every day.
Added note: In May 2022, while the recruits were cutting the grass around the Managua military base with machetes, and the guards weren’t around, a machete fight broke out. One young recruit was wounded and another killed.