While a democratization wave has swept away military regimes throughout Latin America during the last decade and the communist totalitarian edifice in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has crumbled, there has been no accompanying fundamental alteration in the militaristic and authoritarian traditions of Fidel Castro's Cuba. The Cuban leader was intransigent in responding to the political and economic reforms transforming the societies of his neighbors and former allies by vowing "socialismo o muerte" (socialism or death).
The Cuban revolutionary state has survived as the sole Marxist-Leninist regime in the Western Hemisphere almost exclusively on the basis of the overwhelming charismatic appeal of Fidel Castro, support from the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc nations, and the allegiance of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and other defense and security institutions. The collapse of the Soviet Union has meant the severing of Cuba's material lifeline. The military and the military-directed security apparatus will be critical in determining whether the Castro regime survives in the short term and in influencing future political outcomes. This chapter discusses the historical foundations of the contemporary militarized Cuban state, the evolution of civil-military relations, and the missions of Cuba's armed forces. The chapter also examines the impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union on Cuba's military and its future prospects.
The military has assumed a role of disproportionate significance in the development of most nations in Latin America. In a region that has experienced a colonial heritage, stifling the development of viable political institutions, military force has often served as the only source of stability and functional government. Caudillismo, or the supreme reign of the military strong man, has