Juan Juan Almeida, 26 October 2015 — Before the Special Period, the financial capacity of the country had already been reduced to a minimum, so reforms were being instituted that supposedly would “help” the nation cope with the economic contingencies of the time.
And when the situation reached that almost invisible point at which point any action or oversight could hasten the death of a terminally ill patient, circumstances forced the Cuban military to become productive by generating income from agriculture, transportation, tourism, construction, finance and commerce.
The armed forces of the world are divided into three main services — army, navy, air force — plus aerial defense.
Among the things the fall of the Communist bloc brought to Cuba was the Special Period. No one can forget the famine, polyneuritis or dramatic increase in illegal emigration, much less the events of 1994.
I think it is worth remembering that the crisis did not only affect the civilian population. It also impacted the institutions of government, especially those that were not productive, such as the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), which were preparing for a cataclysm. They had already experienced their own catastrophe in 1989, when soldiers, officers and even a few generals (some of out of a sense of duty, some out of convenience) left the institution.
Even before the Special Period, the economic capacity of the country had already been reduced to a minimum, so reforms were instituted that would supposedly “help” the nation cope with the economic contingencies of the time.
No crisis in the world explodes without prior warning, or at least not without some sort of clue. If instability had arisen, MINFAR would have been facing the prospect of being in a weak defensive position. Therefore, at a meeting of the Military Council, a well-known advisor to Raul Castro suggested scrapping the traditional organizational structure of the armed forces and consolidating the troops under one roof. As a result, air defense — a force much more expensive than any army — was merged with the ground forces while the various military headquarters were centralized under a single command. Contrary to appearances, this was more than just a word game.
Due to lack of supplies and obsolete technology, military maneuvers came to an end and a period of invention began. On orders from Raul a group of innovators emerged who used the nation’s financial resources to develop a radar system that did not work and a grotesque Cuban-made aircraft that did eventually fly but ultimately crashed. As might be expected, the crew died with no funeral being held.
And when the situation had reached that almost invisible point at which any action or oversight could hasten the death of a terminally ill patient, circumstances forced the Cuban military to become productive by generating income from agriculture, transportation, tourism, construction, finance and commerce.
It was at this time that the Business Administration Group (GAE) was created in an effort to control the corruption that resulted from this new military-commercial hybrid. While it did not function very well, it did at least appear to function, allowing the FAR to feign operational efficiency, safety and solvency.
To put it simply, any given screw factory has production costs which include workers’ salaries, equipment, electricity, raw materials and a few other things. All these contribute the final retail price. But the GAE screw factory — to use an example — has no fuel costs because this item is already covered in its budget. Besides getting the fuel for free, it can also avail itself of prisoners, soldiers and recruits in precarious employment situations to manufacture its product. On paper a military screw costs nothing to produce and is sold for hard currency. The never-ending story.
The Cuban government is expert at deception, using its know-how of illegal methods and its undeniable skill at fomenting gossip. These techniques, referred to as “active measures,” generate a fiction that is picked up by the press (both foreign and domestic), and used to sway public opinion, including our own. We then repeatedly echo the lie until it becomes the precarious truth. Besides being used as tool to control companies and ministries, its purpose is not only to generate profits but also torrents of uncertainty.