Lots of Troops and Little Weaponry / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 2 January 2017 — The military
parade this Monday for the 60th anniversary of the creation of Cuba’s
Revolutionary Armed Forces concluded without the traditional display of
antiaircraft rockets, armored tanks and heavy artillery. The martial
parade, presided over by Raúl Castro, prioritized the display of troops
over any display of military hardware.
Still sleepy after the holiday season, many Havanans were awakened by
the noise of the salvos launched from the Plaza of the Revolution. With
that signal, at barely seven in the morning, the first military parade
after the death of former President Fidel Castro began, in a city
paralyzed by the closing of streets and the gigantic mobilization.
The display of military force comes at a difficult time for the
country’s economy. The recently concluded session of the National
Assembly has confirmed that GDP fell 0.9% in 2016, and forecasts for
2017 are also not favorable, a context that has increased people’s
criticism of the waste represented by this Monday’s military parade.
“They threw the house out the window,” complained Raymundo, a pensioner
who collects empty cans near the National Hotel to sell them as a raw
material and feels that “the way things are right now, better to save
even the last centavo.”
A little more than a mile away, thousands of uniformed soldiers marched
in lockstep, along with elementary school students with their
neckerchiefs and workers from different sectors under the motto “I am
The result was a peculiar combination of troops and civilians, a mixture
of military parade and people’s march that lasted for less time than in
previous years, barely an hour and 40 minutes.
Raul Castro remained on the dais for the entire exercise, surrounded by
senior government officials, but left the main speech to Jennifer Bello
Martinez, president of the University Student Federation (FEU). The
young woman, who has risen rapidly in officialdom, was named as a member
of the Council of State in December 2015.
“No one can make us forget our history, nor the symbols of this people’s
resistance,” bellowed Bello from the rostrum. She alluded to the words
spoken by Barack Obama during his speech at the Gran Teatro in Havana
last March when the US president said he knew the story of the long
dispute between the Cuban and US Governments but refused to remain
“trapped” in it.
Those who hoped that this Castro parade feature a proud display of
military paraphernalia had to content themselves with some modernized
AK47s and rifles with telescopic sight for the Special Troops. Apart
from that, the Cuban Army barely showed its armament.
Long gone are the times when the country could allow itself, thanks to
the free supply from the Soviet Union, to be the most well supplied
armed forces among Latin American countries. The great military
campaigns in Africa were also in the past, and the economic situation of
the island barely allows them to maintain their obsolete means of combat.
Nevertheless, Cuba continues to spend a huge amount of resources
sustaining its military apparatus. At the end of 2016, the Island ranked
79th in the list of military powers, according to the Global Firepower
site, a privileged position in the Latin American context, where it is
only surpassed by countries with much greater population and resources,
such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
In the absence of renewed armaments, officialdom has sharpened the level
of ideological discourse in the last half year. A turn of the screw that
has become more pronounced after the election of Donald Trump as
president of the United States and the recent death of Fidel Castro.
The younger generations are the main target of this offensive.
The daughter of Damaris, 38, is a fifth grader in Las Timba neighborhood
and was chosen to be part of the pioneers who surrounded the replica of
the yacht Granma. “She had to go to the three trial runs at the end of
December and today is the fourth time that she is in the Plaza for this
activity,” says the woman.
The participation of the girl in the parade caused some clashes in the
family. The mother did not want her to do it, but she does not want an
absence to “single her out so early.” She acknowledges, however, that
her grandfather is very proud she was chosen for the demonstration.
As they finished passing in front of the podium, the children hurried
along and continued to a school on Ayestarán Street. There they shared a
snack with soda, bread with a hot dog, and some goodies that revived
them after a long sleepless night. “Now we’re going to bed because we’re
dead,” confesses Damaris.
Source: Lots of Troops and Little Weaponry / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez
– Translating Cuba –