Cuba’s Military: A State Within a State

Pedro Campos

The top brass celebrating the 55th FAR anniversary. Photo: AIN

HAVANA TIMES — I first found out that there was a state within the Cuban state in the mid-80s, when I learned that the Military Counter Intelligence (CIM) of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) was conducting espionage and counterespionage work throughout Cuban society and especially against the very State Security and Political Intelligence branches of the Interior Ministry.

If there was any doubt, the trial in 1989 against General Ochoa, a small group of senior Interior Ministry officials, the Interior Minister Jose Abrantes and some of his generals, showed that the intelligence apparatus of the FAR had acted against MININT.

What came next, the “taking” by the MININT by the FAR, is known history, but only in part. The commanders and officers of the CIM and the DIM (Military Intelligence) were appointed chiefs and officers at various levels of all organs of the MININT, whose chiefs and officers were massively dismissed, retired or sent to carry out other “important missions.”

Since then, all the Interior Order, Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, are directed by the FAR. Their successes and failures, since late 1989, are their sole responsibility, especially including the disaster of the Wasp Network and the arrest of numerous Cuban intelligence agents in the bowels of the Empire. Was it due to errors or betrayal? The result has been the same.

Thus, some of the officers I met with the rank of General in the MININT, could be seen renting their Russian cars or offering accommodation to tourists at their homes. Others, the majority, who did not have Ladas or houses to rent, had to cope as they could, working for other state institutions that accepted them or doing some self-employment option.

Colonels, Majors and junior officers of the old MNINT, persecuted for their positions critical of government policies, could not find work, or received offers of very low paid jobs or if they began a small business, for some “strange” reason, went broke.

With the arrival in the presidency of General Raul Castro, after the sudden illness of his brother Fidel, the FAR had been already working to become financially independent of the state, appropriated all the important levers of the Communist Party (PCC), the state, the government and the economy; but even so, they have managed to maintain their independence within the recognized and established state.

The Politburo of the PCC, the State Council and the Council of Ministers are full of generals and officers of the FAR. The program director of updating the economic model, Marino Murillo, is a former Colonel in the FAR. The Director of the Ideological Department of the PCC for more than a decade ago is a Colonel in the FAR. The most important agricultural plan for soybean production is run by another General.

The most important economic plan of the government of Raul Castro, the Mega project of the El Mariel container port and special trade zone, is led by General López Callejas, Director of the GAE (Economic Activities Group) of the FAR and the son-in-law of the President.

CUBALSE the business corporation in hard currency that previously belonged to the State Council, was handed to TRD, (Hard currency recovery stores), the commercial FAR corporation that monopolizes the domestic  hard currency retail market.

The FAR also took control of the ETECSA telephone monopoly. Gaviota, the FAR tour operator, expanded operations and controls not only hotels and tourist facilities, but also an aviation company completely independent of Cubana Airlines, which in turn is under military control.

The statutes of the Comptroller General of the Republic establish that its scope is civil and the finances of the FAR are not under its jurisdiction.

I merely mention some very significant facts. I could fill several pages with names of institutions of all types being managed or run by officers or former officers of the FAR put there by the respective higher ups.

There is no doubt: Whatever happens in Cuba today, in any sphere, is decided by the military.

So when someone refers to the Cuban state, you should keep in mind that it is controlled by another state that is independent of the other.

It is independent because the National Assembly of People’s Power (parliament), constitutionally the supreme organ of power in Cuba, does not have any jurisdiction over the military apparatus, its main officers, businesses, salaries, privileges, living standards, etc.

I do not judge the officers of the FAR, I know there are many true revolutionaries, patriots and communists who gave and sacrificed their lives for the socialism they believed in. And it is they that may be the source that one day contributes to the rebirth of another democratic, free and socialist Cuba.

Today the FAR are a state within a state, independent and at the same time dominant.

32 thoughts on “Cuba’s Military: A State Within a State

  • January 21, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Wow! Calm down. You defend Cuba by saying the US has big problems too? OK, I agree with you. Criticisms of the Castros need not come from perfect people who live in perfect countries. On the contrary, as a African-American, I consider myself an expert on oppression and the denial of rights. What goes on in Cuba is not acceptable regardless of how imperfect other countries are.

  • January 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I was wondering where you get your statistics which are so skewed, if you look at OECD reports (not the CIA) you will find how incorrect the data you quote is. For 2010, compared to its 30 fellow members of the OECD, the U.S.
    trailed only one other member nation, Israel (at 8 percent of GDP,
    compared to 4.3 percent for the U.S.). In fact, the U.S. rate is double
    the rate of many of its peers. We also looked at China and Russia — two
    nuclear powers that do not belong to the OECD — and both of them also
    trail the U.S. in this measurement.

    Interesting quote by an expert, referring to Sara Palin’s comments US was 25th in the world, is this where you get your facts? Todd Harrison, (referring to Palin’s mistake or lie) is a fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said other factors set the U.S. apart.

    absolute dollars, we spend almost as much as all other countries
    combined,” Harrison said. “So saying we are 25th is a bit misleading and
    a selective use of facts.”

  • January 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Fidel & Raul have known since the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis that there would never be an invasion of Cuba by the US military.

    Ironically, the Castro regime is now begging for an invasion of US tourists.

  • January 21, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    So Cuba is like the US where military end up in corporations? Wow! Don’t forget to add the reserves and the national guard….

  • January 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    That is why the US has the largest percentage of poor children among OECD nations, and is always involved in a war, just because you don{t see many US soldiers on the streets is because they are elsewhere killing other people. When has the Cuba army shot against a crowd of people protesting like US national guard has done in Detroit, Los Angeles and other areas of social protests. US is the most militarized country in the world, not police department are using armored carrier, high velocity rifles, stunt grenades etc. When have you read or heard through the grapevine (radio bembas is very good in Cuba) of police officers killing young black men like Oscar Grant in Oakland, Trayvon, Kelly Thomas in California and the list goes on and on…by the way, do you see those kids wearing olive green uniform carrying an AK 47 like in the US? You should visit Arizona and Texas…..

  • January 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I use DRAGON,a dictation software, to submit most of my comments to HT. One of the bugs in the software is similar sounding words or homonyms. I am grateful that you caught the error so that other readers would not misunderstand. I absolutely meant “principles”.

  • January 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    There are no large scale troop deployments in Cuba because the people have little to no interest in overthrowing their government or revolution. and there are no large demos against the Cuban government such as they have in the U.S . that the Cuban government has to worry about .
    The Cuban revolution depends on its citizenry to fight any invasion from the U.S knowing full well that:
    1) the U.S will invade with overwhelming force and any formal resistance by the FAR would be smashed flat
    2) that the people of Cuba will fight any invading force from the U.S. door to door, street to street and all across the island
    3) the U.S armed forces would have to kill such a high number of Cubans to win a victory that it would be unacceptable to the world and perhaps all Americans except Moses and I.C.

  • January 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    You made an error in your use of the English language that was purely unintended to show the truth as it did.

    You used the word principals when you really meant to use the word principles.

    Your quote:

    “Americans recognize the sacrifice our military makes around the world on behalf of our PRINCIPALS” ( emphasis mine JG)

    Here’s the definition and how true it is in context:




    plural noun: principals


    the person with the highest authority or most important position in an organization, institution, or group.

    synonyms:chief, chief executive (officer), CEO, president, chairman, chairwoman, director, managing director, manager, head; More


    a sum of money lent or invested on which interest is paid.

    You got it right by mistake Moses .
    The U.S military fights strictly for the benefit of the MIC and the wealthy corporations and individuals .
    Anyone can go to the “Killing Hope ” website and review just about half of the interventions made by the U.S . none of which had to do with high-minded principles as a read of the book’s introduction clearly will show anyone open-minded enough to read it.
    Why won’t YOU read it Moses /

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *