Erasmo Calzadilla 

Photo: Michelle Rankin

Military service in Cuba is mandatory – unless you’re gay, crazy or have enough money to pay off a corrupt official to get you out of it.

I don’t know anybody who has ever voluntarily gone to sign up at the recruitment office.  Who the hell wants to go around marching and cutting weeds under the August sun or taking absurd orders like: “Don’t scratch yourself standing at attention!”

I know people who have played crazy, acted gay, left the country (to their regret), mutilated themselves and even taken their own life with a bullet rather than join our “boys in green.”

I have no doubt about the importance of being prepared for war, especially now with NATO attacking wherever it wants and doing whatever it pleases.  But what type of war is FAR (Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces) preparing the young people for who are inducted into its’ ranks every year?

It’s known that people in the Third World, lacking sophisticated armaments, can only resist modern armies by adopting Gandhi-like approaches, availing themselves of each element of nature as a weapon.  But to achieve this we would have to be closely integrated with our environment so as not to be as foreign in our own land as any invader.

What would the preparation for this type of war be like? 

As for me — someone who’s no soldier, and who doesn’t want to be — it came to my mind that they could push themselves a little and take the recruits to the mountainous areas of the country, of which there are more than a few, some not so far away.

In those areas, in addition to teaching them combat tactics (and leaving them to train each other), they could go over practical questions: those related to geography, how to orient themselves in the woods without the need of equipment, various healing techniques, how to identify eatable and poisonous plants, or intoxicants and entheogens (these could end up being necessary in certain circumstances), or how to obtain drinking water and some of the thousands of tricks that campesinos know well.

It would be an amusing and an appropriate way for those of enlistment age to train and learn useful things, and not only those for waging war.

It wouldn’t be bad to teach them about the culture and spirituality of people who live in the remote areas of the country and to stimulate respectful human contact between the locals and the recruits.

They could include history classes on military conflicts fought by our people or other peoples in the face of imperialistic aggression.  It would be important for the recruits to feel good, for them to get into the mood and connect with the environment.

In passing, they would get to visit the country’s beautiful areas, those with aesthetic and ecological value that go beyond mere utilitarian aspects.  They would learn how to love this island and its people, which is what is fundamental for them to later want to defend it.

It’s good that they learn how to handle an AKM rifle, but there are also alternative weapons, ones that anyone with knowledge of the land can master without having to rely on very many resources.

It would be important to teach them to be disciplined, to obey those orders imposed from above, but also to be organized independently, know how to act autonomously, take initiative and trust themselves.  These are vital abilities in a war where small dispersed units would play a primordial role.

I believe that only in this way would it will be possible to organize a resistance capable of taking on GPS equipment, night vision glasses, satellites, smart bombs and Lord knows how many other infernal and sophisticated devices the invaders might bring.

Obedience training 

A friend of mine told me that after several weeks, the only things they made them do was march under the sun in a polygon formation, cut weeds and to take “political” classes.

Learning how to march and to move around in rigidly organized groups is — in addition to being useless and dangerous in an actual war-time situation — an extremely boring and tiresome activity for restless youth who have barely left adolescence.

It is, however, the perfect training if what one seeks is to atomize, to annul horizontal relationships, depersonalize, homogenize and train obedience to a central command.  It is ideal for subordinating people to officials and professional specialists with power and rank but devoid of moral authority.

As these youth understand nothing about why there’s so much senseless waste, they end up embittered, hating the instructor-sergeants and the whole machinery that sustains them.

Added to this are the political classes that, according to my friend, no one pays any attention to.  Some deal with our national symbols (a topic that couldn’t be more abstract and alienating).

On another occasion they alerted the troops of the delicate military situation that the nation was experiencing because: “at the root of the marches by the Ladies in White is the United States, which is plotting an act of aggression.”

It’s easier to dominate these kids by filling them with the fear of an attack, and in doing so trying to generate a subliminal association between their anxieties and the street demonstrations of these women.

This treatment of these recruits by FAR is typical of how elites respond to the “masses” – a body that they underestimate and fear at the same time.

The populist authorities here publically flaunt the concept of the “War of the People,” but what they understand by this is the subordination of ignorant peons to the orders of a professional army that keeps all of the weapons and knowledge of war under lock and key.

These are the Revolutionary Armed Forces.  Let’s see whose side they take if the party heats up.


Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

One thought on “Reflections of a Green Recruit in Cuba

  • I like many of these ideas for running the F.A.R. In fact–“Back to the Future”–many seem to be the very ones used by the rebels in Oriente and Las Villas during the late 1950’s! On the other hand, during my U.S. Navy “boot camp” experiences i of the early 1960’s I really LIKED marching and especially of reaching the point where our unit could perform in perfect precision, and–I may get in trouble for admitting this–I even marveled at the perfectly marching columns of the mass formations in an infamous documentary from the mid-1930’s!

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