Editor’s note: read updates here on Cuban and ICCAS statements since this story broke.
EspañolRussian President Vladimir Putin has made waves of late with his military offensive in Syria, and now he has on-the-ground backing of the Cuban variety. One of the world’s leading centers for research on Cuba has released breaking details of the Castro regime’s presence in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation.
The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami shared via email on October 13, 2015, that General Leopoldo Cintra Frías, head of the Cuban Armed Forces, had already landed in Syria. He is, they write, “leading a group of Cuban military personnel … in support of Syria’s dictator Assad” and, in Cold War fashion, the Russian contingent.
The ICCAS researchers shared with the PanAm Post that the intelligence came directly from a spokesman of the US Defense Department, and is corroborated by an unnamed but friendly military in the Middle East. They report two Russian-made planes arriving in Syria carrying approximately 300 Cuban soldiers.
They further detail that the Cuban soldiers will man Russian tanks that have been provided to Syrian head-of-state Bashar al-Assad. Their duty will be to fight Islamic State forces and others who threaten Assad’s grip on power.
This development has not necessarily come out of the blue. In recent days, Cuba’s official media have declared support for the Russian venture in Syria. Further, Cuba has a history of backing her communist allies abroad, and even sent troops to Syria way back in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War with Israel.
The ICCAS statement notes that in the 1970s Fidel Castro sent “several hundred thousand troops to Angola and other African countries, while the Soviets provided weapons to support African leaders attempting to gain power in their countries.”
They state that this military initiative indicates the low priority of US relations to dictator Raúl Castro. He is, they contend, “more interested in supporting his allies, Russia and Syria,” as opposed to “modernizing Cuba and helping the Cuban people rise above their current misery.”
Editor’s note: updated at 2 p.m. EDT, October 14, 2015.
EspañolThe Castro regime has a record that stretches back decades of threatening, brutalizing, and murdering women who speak their minds and demand that human rights be respected in Cuba. Back on September 17, 2013, the PanAm Post published my op-ed that explained how the Castro brothers got a pass for terrorizing and killing women. Unfortunately, the situation has gotten worse. The December 17, 2014, announcement of normalized relations between Cuba and the United States has been accompanied by new accounts of regime violence against women that have escalated in severity. Meanwhile, the international community have been complicit in their silence. Consider Sirley Ávila León, an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly of Majibacoa. She joined the democratic opposition after she was driven out of her position for trying to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored her, and when she went to the international media she was removed from office. Following escalating acts of repression by state security, the mother of two, aged 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. The enforcer was Osmany Carrión, who had been "sent by state-security thugs," Ávila León explains, for an act of aggression that "was politically motivated." Ávila León suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand, and could still lose her right arm. Although Carrión was the principal assailant in the coordinated attack, his wife forced Ávila León's hand into the mud to compound the injury with infection. Sent home from hospital, Ávila León remained in this critical state without the proper medication. Five months have passed, and she still needs medical attention, completely incapacitated, demanding justice, and denouncing irregularities in the judicial process against her assailant. On September 2, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concurred that she was in a "serious and urgent situation, since her life and physical integrity are at risk." In a democratic country, Sirley would be a political leader in government representing her constituents, but in Cuba she is a target of brutal repression. Let's just say she has yet to find support from UN Women, the agency of the United Nations that claims it is "for gender equality and women's empowerment." They are even promoting Raul Castro on their twitter stream. https://twitter.com/UN_Women/status/651827434078228480 This ignores that the government in Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship in which the rule of law is non-existent. Since 1959, the ultimate authority has resided in two brothers: Fidel and Raúl Castro. Women in Cuban government structures have no real power other than to rubber stamp the decisions of the Castro brothers or face the consequences. UN Women should be helping women like Sirley Ávila León not legitimizing their oppressors.