Miércoles, 18 de Septiembre de 2019
Última actualización: 18:50 CEST
Economy

The role of Cuba’s military companies' is not provided for in the Constitution

Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski in Havana. (SKYSCRAPERCITIY)

There is no doubt that the main economic entity in Cuba today is the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). Officially no data has been disclosed, but some experts estimate that military companies already account for about 70% of the national economy, while the most important and lucrative sectors, offering safe profitability, boast a privileged, even monopolistic position.

However, after a brief analysis, there is nothing in the new Constitution that even addresses this vital reality. Article 221 says: "The Armed Forces' essential mission is to protect and maintain the independence and sovereignty of the State, its territorial integrity, its security and peace." It makes no mention of any mission to interfere or participate in or assume leadership of the national economy. It is not even cited in the text as an "economic actor."

In Section II, referring to economic fundamentals, there is nothing about any role for the FAR in this regard. And in Article 22 of said section, where the different types of property are recognized, there is no provision for military ownership of the means of production, or profit.

It cannot be considered to be included in subsection a) on "socialist ownership by the whole people" because the representative is the State, which does so through the Government, and, although the FAR is a government ministry, its mission is made clear in Article 221, in no way related to the economy. Neither can it be found in section f) on the "ownership of institutions", as it clarifies that they have a non-profit purpose.

Apparently, in the drafting of the new Constitution an effort was made to conceal the key role of the military in the Cuban economy – perhaps because the US has recently intensified its economic embargo, focused much more on military companies, which it considers responsible for financially underpinning the regime, and a dark source of corruption and the illegal appropriation of resources by the politico-military elite and its privileged offshoots. But in this eagerness to distract attention from the military, they left the main economic actor with no legal justification.

The Cuban military controls, through the GAESA Group, the tourism sector, with the company Gaviota SA, the largest in Cuba and that which has grown the most in recent years, covering sectors such as air and land transport for tourism, and almost a complete monopoly on the stores collecting foreign currency through the CIMEX. Likewise, through the latter company they control the sale of fuel in all the country's gas/service stations.

But there are many other highly prominent military companies in the Cuban economy, such as Unión de Construcciones Militares (UCM), which has a monopoly on commissions for the most important and strategic works in the country, such as hotels for international tourism, reservoirs, and channels.

Recently, the Havanaguex business group, headed up Eusebio Leal, dedicated to the restoration and exploitation of the historical heritage elements of Old Havana, came under GAESA's control, as part of an evident trend towards the militarization of the Cuban economy.

However, the new Constitution does not assign this economic role to the military institution, thereby creating a legal vacuum that deprives the military's hegemony of any legal foundation. However, this, of course, does not represent a problem for its functioning within the authoritarian system of the Communist Party.