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.