5
The Cuban Armed Forces and Transition

Phyllis Greene Walker

The momentous changes that have swept the socialist world since the late 1980s have had a dramatic impact on the Cuban people as well as on the nation's armed forces. Buffeted by the loss of critical economic and political support provided by the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies, Cuba has been plunged into its gravest economic crisis since the early 1960s. At the same time, its increasing political isolation--it has one of the world's last Marxist-Leninist governments--has enormously complicated its prospects for the near future. As a result of these changes in the global environment, the situation of the Cuban military institution is now, perhaps more than at any other time in the history of the Revolution, in a state of flux. It has been hard hit by the loss of foreign military assistance and training once provided by the Warsaw Pact nations and has witnessed the effective elimination of its "internationalist mission," as former Third World allies have abandoned Marxism for democracy. In addition, the crisis has led not only to personnel and spending cuts, but also to a reorientation in the armed forces domestic role that has emphasized the attainment of economic goals as part of their revolutionary mission.

Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, or FAR) has thus far maintained its loyalty to the defense of the Revolution. Nevertheless, it is being obliged to redefine its national role in order to adapt under the new circumstances. In what ways, then, has the FAR been affected by the changing environment? What have been the implications for the role of the military as an institution? And more important, how have these developments affected the military's long-prominent role as a national actor? In addressing these questions, this chapter considers the present situation of Cuba's Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, or MINFAR) and the personnel

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