U.S. report: Cuban media seldom fault military's role in economy
By JUAN O. TAMAYO
Cuba's government-run news media regularly praises the armed forces as a
model of efficiency, yet seldom mentions their powerful role in the
island's crippled economy, according to a U.S. intelligence report.
Raúl Castro has been increasingly presenting himself as a civilian
leader, the report added, appearing less frequently in his army
general's uniform and more often in suits or guayaberas.
The report was issued Feb. 26 by the Open Source Center (OSC), a U.S.
intelligence community branch that monitors foreign news accounts. It
was not publicly released, but a copy was obtained and published by
Secrecy News, a Federation of American Scientists program on government
Cuba's military, widely viewed as the most respected official
institution on the island, controls an estimated 60 percent of the
country's economy, hard hit by the global financial crisis, hurricane
damages and domestic failures.
Many of its top officers have studied business administration abroad,
and the management system it uses in its own enterprises in areas such
as tourism is portrayed in Cuba as a model to be followed.
The OSC analysis noted, however, that while Cuba's official media
frequently praised the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), it made little
mention of the military's leading role in the economy.
``State media portray the military as a model of collective and
individual performance [and] regularly find fault with civilian agencies
and workers .... but coverage of the military is generally ... silent on
the subject of FAR involvement in the Cuban economy,'' the report noted.
The state media in 2009 ``had only one mildly critical report on the
military: a call for improved living conditions for active duty
soldiers,'' added the report, titled ``Cuba -- Military's Profile in
State Media Limited, Positive.''
One Radio Rebelde broadcast on Sept. 2 directly contrasted what it
called the FAR's immediate response to the three hurricanes that
devastated Cuba in 2008 with the ``slow pace of civilian-led recovery
work,'' according to the OSC report.
``There's a disconnect here. They have a pretty large phalanx of
military people running the economy,'' yet they're spared blame for the
economic crisis, said Brian Latell, senior research associate at the
University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
``Maybe it's another reflection of the ... dysfunction of the regime.''
The OSC report added that Castro was ``atypically visible and engaged''
during the Bastión military exercise in November, ``but more commonly he
presents himself as a civilian rather than military leader.''
``Castro appeared in uniform in about one-fourth of his media
appearances during 2009, down from just over a third in 2008,''
according to the report, and he ``generally meets foreign visitors
wearing a suit or a more casual guayabera.''
Castro gave up his job as minister of defense and became president
ofCuba in early 2008, replacing his ailing brother Fidel, although the
Havana media still refers to him often as ``General Raúl Castro.''
Other top military officers, such as Defense Minister Gen. Julio Casas
Regueiro, his three three vice ministers and the commanders of Cuba's
three regional armies, had a ``largely ceremonial presence in state
media, where the military receives limited but overwhelmingly favorable
Their names appeared in the media less often last year than in 2008, but
that's probably because several were promoted in 2008, according to the
Vice Defense Minister Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias was the most visible
military leader in 2009, mentioned 17 times in the media, according to
the report, and was the only one reported to have traveled abroad.