As we learned in Cold War Cuba: Institutional Changes in the Cuban Military (Part 1), the military was increasingly professionalized.
After the military’s reorganization in 1972, only individuals with good military qualifications were allowed to remain in the structure of the regular Armed Forces (FAR). Greater emphasis was put on professional military education, and many officers were sent abroad for specialized training “such as that provided at the F.V. Military Academy and the K.E. Voroshilov General Staff Academy in the Soviet Union.”
The Professional Military
Most of the graduates of Soviet academies remained in the FAR, concentrating on strictly military tasks, and by the end of the decade “hundreds of FAR personnel were being sent each year for advanced training in Eastern Europe as well as in the Soviet Union.”
As previously mentioned, the officer corps had their ranking system reorganized into a hierarchy more equivalent to that of the USSR and international standards. Moreover, the military was now closely linked to the Communist Party.
Following the same pattern of the Soviet military and its Eastern European allies, the Cuban military maintains political sections throughout the entire military organization down to the squad level. Political commissars are tasked with the education of the rank and file in Marxist doctrine and maintain a high level of discipline and loyalty to the government and the Communist Party. As in the Soviet military, the political commissars have a high degree of authority which rivals that of the military commanders at all levels. All the flag rank officers are members of the Communist Party Central Committee. According to Fidel Castro . . . in December of 1975, 85% of the members of the Armed Forces were either members of the Union of Communist Youth or the CCP.
Each of the actions described above contributed to an increasing professionalization of the army which, as Fidel Castro argued
made possible an increase in the armed forces’ defensive power while at the same time maintaining their participation in economic tasks.
The growing expertise of the armed forces was accomplished primarily with the assistance of resident Soviet military personnel and hardware.
Conflict Among the Military Officers
It is important to note, however, that the increasing professionalization did not eliminate military conflict among the officers. There was an on-going friction among three groups:
- graduates of the Frunze Military Academy
- graduates of Cuban military academies
- veterans of the Sierra Maestra.
These groups differed greatly in power and status, with graduates of the Frunze Military Academy in the Soviet Union holding the most important posts, including control of missile and radar bases. Graduates of Cuban military schools held secondary positions, with Sierra Maestra veterans at the bottom of the hierarchy.
The Military Penetrates Every Sector of Society
After 1973, the military — under the advice and consent of the Soviets — increased its penetration of every sector of society and, at the same time, political control penetrated the military. According to Horowitz
The accelerated movement of the Cuban Revolution into militaristic forms reflects the multiple needs of the Cuban Regime. First, the regime employed the military . . . for internal police functions, through the CDRs. Second, it used the military to mobilize the population after the less than successful phase in which moral incentives were used to spur economic development. During this phase, the youth brigades in particular were converted into a paramilitary fight force subject to military discipline and at the same time able to perform as labor shock troops in the event of any decline in sugar production. Third . . . the regime encouraged the rise of a professional attitude in the military so that it could perform on international terrain . . . .
Military Impact on the Cuban Educational System
Strong military impact was also seen in the Cuban education system where a “fully articulated system of military schools” began to be established in the 1960s and had high level influence as the military became increasingly professionalized in the 1970s.
The education system included a tracking mechanism (beginning at the junior high school level) whereby the best students were either placed in a university preparatory school or sent to provincial military schools where they were trained to enter the senior military academies. Active participation in pro-regime youth groups was also required for admission. Those students with lover academic performance were sent to vocational schools.
The military schools graduated their first students in the 1971 school year.
Internal security forces were also reorganized in the early 1970s under the supervision of the Soviet Union. The two principal organizations that were reorganized were the Ministry of the Interior’s Directorio General de Investigaciones (DGI) and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.
The DGI began to coordinate its activities much closer than in the past with Soviet intelligence services.
The CDRs were given expanded responsibilities while remaining “an instrument of the party, unable to set its own fundamental policies.” Also, most bars to membership were dropped and the CDRs ” sought to encompass virtually the entire adult population.”
If you want to learn more about the Cuban military, you might find the following books useful.
Dominguez, Jorge I. “Institutionalization and Civil-Military Relations in Cuba” Cuban Studies Volume 16 nos. 1-2 (January and July 1976).
Fermoselle, Rafael The Evolution of the Cuban Military: 1492-1986. Miami: Ediciones I Universal, 1987.
Horowitz, Irving Louis,ed. Cuban Communism 1959-1995 8th ed. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1995.