14ymedio, Havana, January 6, 2022 — Despite their legendary secrecy, the Cuban Armed Forces showed off two of their brand new Ural-4320 trucks, a Russian-made military SUV whose latest model has already been received by the Island. The images of two troop-transport Urals, crowded with young soldiers — or ’pioneers’ [students] with flags, in some towns — and published by the official press, did not go unnoticed by fans and weapons specialists.
The Ural-4320 went out “for a walk” during the so-called Caravan of Liberty, a kind of symbolic reproduction of the route followed by Fidel Castro in January 1959 to Havana, and which several historians describe as a “theatrical” delay to increase the effect of his arrival in the capital.
Televisión Cubana filmed in detail the journey of the two trucks through municipalities in the east of the Island. Gleaming, they presided over the fleet of smaller military vehicles that, on both sides of the street, were received by a crowd sympathetic to the regime. The SUVs parked in the central square of the town and waited for the local secretary of the Communist Party — or the municipal governor — to commemorate Castro’s passage in a ceremony.
More discreet, behind the Ural, came Sinotruck Howo tactical trucks — made in China — of the ZZ-2167M4327A series, which until now were not known to be in the possession of the Cuban military. There is no public record of the purchase of these machines, and this is the first time that the Armed Forces has exhibited them.
The Russian company UralAZ has been manufacturing heavy trucks since 1941, during World War II. Castro was responsible for his Soviet allies systematically sending him the trucks that, in the opinion of the experts, make up the now-deteriorated motor pool of the Armed Forces.
Cuba has, according to observers, old Ural-375, ZIL-131 and other Ural-4320 trucks, but of an earlier model — although quite recent — that it has now received from Russia. They also have Ukrainian KrAZ-6322 trucks, invoiced after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The model that circulated in eastern Cuba is identical to that used today by the Russian army for tactical and transport work in Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The 4320 series has been manufactured since 1978, for transport, cargo and as tractors. Its automotive drive is 6×6 (three axles and six wheels), and uses the YaMZ-236 (V-6) or 238 (V-8) engine, powered by diesel fuel. The most recent model, however, uses a Ural-375D engine. These can carry 5.5 tons of weight.
In addition to Cuba, there are several countries that buy Ural-4320 trucks. Russia has also sent them to Angola and Greece, and in Latin America to Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Uruguay.
The Cuban Armed Forces do not usually renew their weapons, and the official data are extremely ambiguous; however, several reports from other countries have revealed that Cuba has regularly requested defensive material, riot gear and weapons from other nations.
In December 2022, a report for the first half of that year revealed that the Government of Spain blocked the sale to Cuba of 2,500 cartridges of tear gas and 40 anti-riot light, sound and smoke devices, for a combined value of 350,000 euros. The reason for the refusal was the “lack of respect for human rights” on the part of the Government of the Island.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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