14ymedio, Madrid, 11 September 2023 — “If Cuba, as a sovereign nation, had decided to allow mercenaries to be hired within its borders, it wouldn’t be anything unusual,” said an anonymous Cuban government spokesperson who goes by the name Guerrero Cubano (Cuban Warrior) on his YouTube channel. During the Sunday episode, which once again focused on the claim that Cubans are being recruited to fight for Russia in its war against Ukraine, he raised the possibility that the Cuban government itself could be involved before immediately dismissing it. “We all know that Cuba does not do that,” he said, “that our island has signed on to the principal international conventions against it. But, listen, if it was done, [the government] would have had nothing to do with it.”
This official troll argued that thousands of Poles, Americans, British and Romanians had joined the ranks of the other side after after being recruited by Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February 2022. Guerrero Cubano accused Miami-based media outlets of being morally blind for pointing out the involvement of the Cuban regime in recruitment efforts while ignoring the fact that what is in dispute is not voluntary enlistment by individuals but rather possible government participation.
Sunday’s episode, which was devoted exclusively to this subject, was a hodgepodge of different topics, diverting attention away from the central issue. For long stretches of time, the program focused on information, allegedly leaked by the Cuban side, that had been obtained after a group calling itself Cyber Resistance hacked into email accounts of the Russian Armed Forces headquarters in the city of Tula. The information, which was handed over to and disseminated by another pro-Ukrainian group, InformNapalm, contained lists and passports of Cuban mercenaries and other documents.
Guerrero Cubano interspersed information about Julian Assange, who is accused of divulging secret documents that, among other things, endangered the safety of those whose identity was revealed.
Guerrero Cubano questioned, first of all, that there was ever any attempt to pull off a scheme of this magnitude. He then goes on to warn, however, how serious crime this would be if it were true. He interspersed information about Julian Assange, who is accused of divulging secret documents that, among other things, endangered the safety of those whose identity was revealed. As he sees it, media outlets in Miami have committed a similar legal violation by revealing the personal data of Cuban citizens.
Guerrero Cubano tried to point out allegedly inconsistent reporting by independent media and the international press, in particular Miami-based America TeVe. Among them was the accusation that authorities had not stamped the exit visas on Cuban passports to obscure the trail of Cuban combatants.
He pointed out that it had already been reported back in October that officials would not be stamping these visas unless there was a private request to expedite exit procedures because the process is now computerized. He mocked what he believes is intentional ignorance on the part of journalists, adding that it is obvious that the large number of people traveling between Havana and Moscow are taking advantage of a visa exemption that allows them to “go shopping.”
The broadcast claimed that politicians, journalists and influencers — it called them “ticks” — are trying to launch a new campaign against Cuba, this time taking advantage of a conflict in whose outcome, it said, they have no interest. Among those mentioned were U.S. congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, journalist Mario J. Pentón, activist Rosa Maria Payá, and online news publications Cibercuba and 14ymedio.
The regime’s interest in disassociating itself from the recruitment of Cubans to fight for Russia is so strong — thus far it has led it to the arrests of seventeen people accused of human trafficking, or “mercenarism” as the case may be — that today the Communist Party’s official newspaper, Granma, reposted the digital version of the annual government report, released in August, on human trafficking.
Several official media outlets reported almost a month ago that six people were tried for this type of crime in 2022, five of them linked to minors. The article reappeared today with its original date. Two new paragraphs were added, however, on the “new realities” of the “current year” and mention the seriousness with which which these mercenary-related cases were handled.
But there is no shortage of statements from those who doubt the official version. “All evidence points towards a collaborative and concerted effort between the governments of Russia and Cuba to organize a recruitment network of Cuban volunteers to join Russian troops in Ukraine,” texted Miami-based Juan Antonio Blanco, head of the think tank Cuba Siglo 21 (21st Century Cuba).
This is about “creating a smoke screen” to mask “the subsequent dispatch of regular forces to Ukraine.” All “in perfect agreement with Putin”
The organization maintains that denouncing this network as illegal allows Havana “to claim that any Cuban who is identified fighting in Ukraine was previously recruited privately in the territory of Cuba or Russia, unbeknownst to the Cuban government, and that they traveled there before the network was shut down on the Island.” It added that this is about “creating a smoke screen” to mask “the subsequent dispatch of regular forces to Ukraine.” All “in perfect agreement with Putin.”
Finally, after separating the island’s support for Russia from Joe Biden’s Cuba policy, the organization asked the European Union to abandon its Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Cuba, which it claims “has not advanced the goal of moving towards an open society but instead has delivered billions of euros to the Cuban government, which has used them for internal repression.”
It believes the accusation that Cuba is actively collaborating in the “genocidal war” against Ukraine that Russia began more than a year and a half ago is well-founded and asked that the funds earmarked for Havana be delivered instead to countries that “have had to urgently assimilate millions of displaced people and Ukrainian refugees.”
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.