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Cuba announces nationwide military exercises

Published 09/11/2016

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, with Barack Obama. (AP)
Cuban President Raul Castro, right, with Barack Obama. (AP)

Cuba has announced the launch of five days of nationwide military exercises to prepare troops to confront what the government calls "a range of enemy actions".

The government did not link the exercises to Donald Trump's US presidential victory but the announcement of manoeuvres and tactical exercises across the country came almost simultaneously with Mr Trump's surprise win.

It is the seventh time Cuba has held what it calls the Bastion Strategic Exercise, often in response to points of high tension with the United States.

The first exercise was launched in 1980 after the election of Ronald Reagan as US president, according to an official history.

Mr Trump has promised to reverse President Barack Obama's re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and the ongoing normalisation of the relationship between the two countries.

An announcement by Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces in red ink across the top of the front page of the country's main newspaper said the army, Interior Ministry and other forces would be conducting manoeuvres and different types of tactical exercises from November 16-20.

It warned citizens that the exercises would include "movements of troops and war materiel, overflights and explosions in the cases where they're required".

News of Mr Trump's victory hit hard among ordinary people and experts in US relations with Cuba, which has spent the last two years negotiating normalisation after more than 50 years of Cold War hostility.

Normalisation has set off a tourism boom and visits by hundreds of executives from the US and dozens of other nations newly-interested in doing business on the island. Mr Trump has promised to reverse Mr Obama's opening unless President Raul Castro agrees to more political freedom on the island, a concession considered a virtual impossibility.

Speaking of Cuba's leaders, Communist Party member and noted economist and political scientist Esteban Morales told the Telesur network: "They must be worried because I think this represents a new chapter."

Carlos Alzugaray, a political scientist and retired Cuban diplomat, said a victory for Mr Trump could please some hard-liners in the Cuban leadership who worried that Cuba was moving too close to the United States too quickly.

"There's been a lot of rejection of what's been done with Obama," Mr Alzugaray said. "Many Cubans think that a situation of confrontation is better for the revolution."

Many Cubans said they feared that a Trump victory would mean losing the few improvements they had seen in their lives thanks to the post-detente tourism boom.

"The little we've advanced, if he reverses it, it hurts us," taxi driver Oriel Iglesias Garcia said. "You know tourism will go down. If Donald Trump wins and turns everything back it's really bad for us."

AP

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