How Cubans are recruited to fight for Russia in Ukraine

From our Bureau of Twenty-First Century Neocolonialism

Granma Euro-Lite (Reuters) has published a lengthy account of Russia’s recruiting methods in Cuba. Both countries continue to deny that there is any active recruitment going on, but the real truth is easy enough to discover.

It seems Cuba is a perfect place for finding desperate young men who are easily lured by money and the promise of Russian citizenship.

Cuban seamstress Yamidely Cervantes has bought a new sewing machine for the first time in years, plus a refrigerator and a cellphone – all on Russia’s dime.

She said her 49-year-old husband Enrique Gonzalez, a struggling bricklayer, left their home in the small town of La Federal on July 19 to fight for the Russian army in Ukraine. Days later, he wired her part of his signing-on bonus of about 200,000 roubles ($2,040) which she received in Cuban pesos, Cervantes told Reuters.

That represents a windfall on the economically stricken communist-run island. It’s more than 100 times the average monthly state salary of 4,209 pesos ($17), according to the national statistics office.

Few places feel the pinch more than La Federal, a community of about 800 people on the outskirts of Havana where one in four residents are unemployed, government data for 2022 shows.

On the 100-meter dirt road where Cervantes lives, at least three men have left for Russia since June, and another had sold his home in anticipation of going, she said.

“You can count on one hand those who are left,” the 42-year-old said as she surveyed the street from a small terrace where she’d repurposed two broken toilet bowls as flower pots.

“Necessity is what is driving this.”

Reuters traced the stories of those four men, together with more than a dozen other Cubans recruited to go to Russia from districts in and around the capital Havana, ranging from a builder and a shopkeeper to a refinery worker and phone company employee. Eleven of the men ended up flying to Russia while the other seven got cold feet at the last moment.

Interviews with many of the men plus friends and relatives, together with a trove of WhatsApp messages, travel papers, photos and phone numbers they provided to corroborate their accounts, paint the most detailed picture yet of how Cubans are flocking to shore up Moscow’s war machine.

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