December 3, 2001

Cuba News


Yahoo! News December 3, 2001.

Cuba sued over firing-squad execution

MIAMI, 18 (AP) - The family of an American killed by a Cuban firing squad in 1961 filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in hopes of winning financial damages under a 5-year-old federal law.

"I'm angry,'' Bonnie Anderson said in announcing the lawsuit Friday with her mother, sister and two brothers. "We're all older than he was when he was killed.''

The Andersons moved to Cuba in 1947, but most of the family left in 1960 after the Cuban revolution. At the time, Howard Anderson stayed behind to run the family's service stations.

In 1961, he was accused of smuggling arms into Cuba. His trial started on the same day as the Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles backed by the United States, and Anderson was executed two days later. He was 41.

A Swiss diplomat who attended the trial said the prosecutor was "flinging himself about like a madman and passionately demanding the death sentence'' even though the crime carried a maximum nine-year sentence, the lawsuit said. Anti-aircraft fire and air raid sirens could be heard in the courtroom.

The lawsuit in state court is based on a U.S. law that allowed the families of three U.S. fliers killed when their planes were shot down over Cuba in 1996 to recover $97 million in Cuban funds from frozen U.S. accounts.

The Cuban government will be served with a copy of the new lawsuit through diplomatic channels, said Fernando Zulueta, the Andersons' attorney. He said he hoped the case could come to trial in four to six months.

Cuban military fight economic battle

By Anita Snow, Associated Press Writer

SANTIAGO, Cuba 3 (AP) - With the Angolan war long over and their Soviet comrades long gone, Cuban commanders who oversaw tanks and troops on the battlefield now watch over the bottom line.

A past supporter of foreign rebel movements, Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces celebrates its 45th anniversary Sunday focused on the battle for the island's economic health.

Revolutionaries who fought in Cuba's mountains and supported independence battles on Africa's plains now bring military leadership to key parts of Cuba's economy: tourism, sugar, citrus, electronics.

Declaring that the military's mission is now purely defensive, Defense Minister Gen. Raul Castro, President Fidel Castro (news - web sites)'s younger brother, said in an interview published Saturday in the Communist Party daily Granma that Cuba is "a peaceful nation'' without offensive weapons.

"That mission is long over,'' Gen. Roberto Legra, director of the Antonio Maceo officers' school, said of the African battles during a rare media tour of the academy outside Havana last week.

"But our overall mission remains the same: to prepare officers to defend the country and to defend the gains of socialism,'' Legra said.

That defense apparently includes ensuring officers not only are able to defend themselves with rifle and machete but also compose a letter and manipulate a computer spreadsheet program.

During the visit, one group of cadets practiced hand-to-combat on a lawn while another sat at rows of computers in a classroom, determinedly copying revolutionary sayings from workbooks.

The armed forces, collectively known as the FAR, are among Cuba's most powerful institutions, rooted in the 1959 revolution that overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista. Active and retired FAR officers hold more than a quarter of the seats on the Communist Party's ruling Central Committee.

Generals run many powerful ministries - defense, interior, transportation and sugar, which is Cuba's most important export crop.

Officers with posts that would go to civilians in most countries were revolutionaries who fought in the late 1950s alongside President Castro and his brother, who is next in the line of presidential succession.

The FAR dates its founding to Dec. 2, 1956, the day when the boat Granma landed 82 revolutionaries who had organized in Mexico. Less than two dozen - including the Castros - survived to reach the mountains where their battle was launched.

Anniversary celebrations include a military parade Sunday in Santiago - the FAR's first in five years. The last such parade, in 1996 in Havana, was smaller than past Soviet-style displays.

The FAR has shrunk considerably since peaking at 300,000 personnel in the early 1960s.

After decades of supporting rebels around the world, the last Cuban units left Africa in 1991 and aid to insurgent movements ended in 1992.

The FAR doesn't release figures on troops and equipment. But it now has an estimated 46,000 servicemen in all branches, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, which studies world armies.

There are also 39,000 reservists and a militia of at least 1 million trained to take up arms against any U.S. invasion - a lingering fear despite the Cold War's end.

Hardware and tactics were emphasized during last week's media visits to the academy, a tank division and a military high school.

But military men now wear business suits as easily as olive green uniforms, operating hotels and a domestic airline as well as the FAR's own construction company, which builds tourist facilities in joint ventures with foreign companies.

Its Youth Labor Army annually produces tons of crops to feed a nation dependent on imported food a decade ago.

"It sounds like they are taking a page out of China's book,'' said Philip Mitchell, an analyst at the London-based institute. "The Chinese military in the past has been heavily involved in industry and farming.''

Castro salutes troops on anniversary

By Anita Snow, Associated Press Writer

SANTIAGO, Cuba 2 (AP) - Fidel Castro saluted his troops as MiG fighter jets zoomed overhead, just like in the old days. But Cuba's military celebrated its anniversary Sunday with a parade that reflected the diminished firepower of a country once on the Cold War's front lines.

Unlike its martial parades of the 1970s and 1980s, when Communist Cuba was flush with Soviet weapons it pointedly displayed 90 miles from Florida, the Revolutionary Armed Forces marched on its 45th anniversary without tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, mortars or other big guns.

Instead, there were three combat jets and three helicopter gunships that buzzed by as the parade wrapped up with a crescendo from a brass army band. Less than half the 6,040 marchers carried rifles.

The scaled-down ceremony pointed to the shrunken military mission of a country that once supported rebel movements abroad but has been forced to turn inward and nurse its own struggling economy - though its leader has lost none of his revolutionary rhetoric.

"There exists no weapon more potent than profound convictions and clear ideas of what should be done,'' Castro, the commander in chief, said in a speech in this southeastern city before the parade.

"For this type of weapon you don't need fabulous sums of money, only the capacity to create and transmit just ideas and values,'' he said. "That will make our people more armed than ever.''

Sitting next to the 75-year-old leader was his brother, Gen. Raul Castro, 70, Cuba's Defense Minister and the president's chosen successor. The brothers rarely appear together.

Raul Castro did not speak, but the Communist Party daily Granma quoted him Saturday as saying Cuba is a "peaceful nation'' that does not need offensive weapons.

For that matter, he said it has acquired no new ones in recent years, and has cut troop strength by tens of thousands. The defense budget has nearly halved since the mid-1980s, he said.

He said Cuba's leadership concluded that masses of heavy weapons "wouldn't do much in the case of an armed attack,'' and both Castro brothers emphasized the importance of civilians in the island's defense.

In the parade, battalions of government support groups marched with regular troops, reserves, cadets and militia - among them the Federation of Cuban Women, the Federation of University Students, the Cuban Workers Federation and the Pioneers Communist Youth group.

The colorful procession started with machete-wielding men on horseback, wearing white outfits and straw hats with the brims pressed back in the style of Cuban soldiers who fought for independence from Spain.

The military has been shifting its focus to defense in the decade since the Soviet collapse in 1991. The last Cuban units left Africa that year after fighting in Cold War struggles, and Cuban aid to insurgent movements ended in 1992.

Despite its retreat abroad, the military remains one of Cuba's most powerful institutions internally, rooted in the 1959 revolution that overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Active and retired military officers hold more than a quarter of the seats on the Communist Party's ruling Central Committee, and generals run important ministries.

The military has assumed a role bolstering the economy, operating a major tourism company and a construction enterprise that builds hotels with foreign partners. It has also become a major food producer.

Cuba's military dates its founding to Dec. 2, 1956, when 82 revolutionaries who had organized in Mexico landed on the island. Less than two dozen - including the Castros - survived to reach the mountains where their battle was launched.

Troop strength reached a peak of about 300,000 in the early 1960s. The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London estimates there are now 46,000 active troops, as well as 39,000 reservists and a militia of at least 1 million trained take up arms against any U.S. invasion.


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