In communist Cuba, military service is mandatory for men once they turn 17. This has provided trained soldiers for Russia to use as mercenaries in its war with Ukraine. Despite the Castro dictatorship’s denials, they are fully aware Putin is enlisting Cuban men to fight in Ukraine and is likely involved in the recruitment.
Cuba’s Mandatory Military Service Delivers Cannon Fodder for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Hundreds of Cuban men have enlisted as mercenaries for Russia ostensibly colluding with Cuba’s leadership. With most of the population mired in poverty and the average monthly salary of just USD 17 per month, they are willing to risk their lives by signing a one year contract for a bonus of USD 2,000 plus USD 2,000 a month, residence in Russia with their families, and several other benefits. Russia, meanwhile, gets men with military training for its invasion of Ukraine, and a bankrupt Cuban regime strengthens its alliance with Putin to get desperately needed oil, food and, perhaps, a commission.
Cuba is reportedly one of about 25 countries with compulsory military service, and one of two with North Korea that obligates minors. Males 17 to 28 must serve two years in “Active Military Service” and may be mobilized up to a year until age 45 in the mandatory reserve; the law forbids them from leaving the country without a special authorization. Children as young as 12 receive military “pre-training” in select boarding schools run by the Armed Forces. Even youngsters with physical and psychological limitations are forced into service; evasion calls for a 5-year prison sentence, and deserters are severely punished. According to Cuba’s official data, in 2021, it had 1,033,123 males ages 15 to 29, a large and captive pool that has military training or is eager to avoid the harsh mandatory service in Cuba’s Armed Forces.
Cuba’s young men have long been cannon fodder for the regime’s opportunistic international interventions since 1959. The one in Angola (1975 to 1991) set a particularly frightful precedent. At the expense of young men forced into military service, and with the former Soviet Union providing the military equipment, the Castros turned it into a profitable business. It sent 377,033 soldiers and 50,000 civilian collaborators as Angola reportedly paid Cuba monthly around USD 1,000 per soldier and USD 2,000 per officer. Cuba reaped an estimated USD 4.8 to USD 9.6 billion for the 16-year conflict without counting its lucrative business looting ivory, diamonds, precious woods, and more. Meanwhile, most of the soldiers were paid as if they were completing their mandatory military service in Cuba, a paltry seven Cuban pesos per month for privates (USD 0.71 cents) and fourteen pesos for sergeants (USD 1.43), or USD 8.5 to USD 17 a year. Some, perhaps most, were in the battlefront for three years, unable to go home on vacation for the entire period. Officially, fatalities were 2,085 but the list has never been published and specialists believe the tally was much higher. Soldiers returned mutilated, traumatized, or mentally ill and today, many live in misery.
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