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 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    You don’t need a billion dollars if you can live anywhere you want, eat whatever you want, import whatever material stuff you want and do whatever you want and sign for it and the billion dollar regime you work for pays for it. I agree that living within hollerin’ distance of Punta Cero is still not Beverly Hills but I know first-hand how well these high-ranking guys live. With their second homes in Varadero, satellite dishes and cars chauffeured by Army captains, its “Viva la Revolucion” all day and night.

  • January 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Your biggest problem with your Cuban comments here is that you don’t know what the f*ck you are talking about. Cuba maintains, albeit poorly trained, a very large contingent of uniformed and street clothes-wearing military force designed specifically for crowd control. What else do you think their proportionally large ground troops are for? A young soldier who lives near my casa particular who is 6’3″ and about 250lbs. is part of a not-so-secret unit whose mission is to go to concerts, repudiation rallies and anywhere else a large unruly crowd may develop. His job is dimply to bust heads should a problem arise. The Castros know their regime would fold within days if a modern army invaded. Their focus instead is to contain and quell civil unrest. Lacking tanks with water canons and other more modern crowd-control weaponry, they rely on muscle to get the job done. My family and friends live in Cuba. I take offense that you would allege that I would support unnecessary bloodshed. Only a prick would say something like that.

  • January 22, 2014 at 5:05 am

    Fact check: Trayvon was not killed by police, as you claimed. He was killed by a civilian acting in self-defense after he was attacked by Trayvon.

    Cuban soldiers were recently used to put down public protests in Santiago de Cuba. MININT has well armed militarized “police” whose function it is to supporess the people.

  • January 22, 2014 at 5:00 am

    In the US, many retired military personal go to work for a corporation. In Cuba, active military officers run the numerous businesses which are owned by the military. The largest 2 corporation in Cuba, GAESA & CIMEX, are owned and directed by the military. This is a significant economic fact. This arrangement has allowed the FAR to become self-funding. They do not relay upon government budgeting to provide their funding. This is what is meant by “a state within a state”.

  • January 22, 2014 at 4:53 am

    Your comment does not refute any of the statistics I posted. Swing and a miss.

  • January 21, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    The Cuban people don’t have the ideological bent to mount the resistance you speak of. They would undoubtedly waive American flags.

    Also the repression of the Cuban people over the last 50+ years by the brutal Cuban communist thugs has been so complete as to have made impossible the sort of protests you speak of (well there have been a few, most notably the Maleconaso). Just as in the old Soviet Union and it’s vassal states there were no mas demonstrations against their government. Yet they are now in the trash heap of history. Cuba will follow in their foot steps soon enough.

  • January 21, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    No economic war by Obama on Cuba. The U.S. has lost interest. Communism, having been exposed as a failed system is no longer feared. Of greater concern is the rise of the dependency class that lives off the intended safety net and the national debt it drives.

    It is just a matter of time before the Helms Burton Act is history. The conditions in 1996 prevailing when Bill Clinton signed the law have changed. The international isolation the U.S. sought never worked out. The delay in repeal is the result of no pressing need to change the current state of relations.

    If Raul called Obama, he could work out a deal.

Leave a Reply

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