News.com.au - Herald Sun from Australia - From correspondents in Havana
Cuba has been upgrading its military arsenal since President Fidel Castro fell ill 13 months ago, to defend itself against a possible US invasion, senior officers said today.
“In the irregular combat we would face in Cuba in case of an invasion, the engineering, infantry and artillery systems we produce and repair here are of vital importance, because they’re designed for the aggressor’s direct assault,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Pascual Machado, chief coordinator of Cuba’s Military Industrial Firm (EMI).
EMI director Colonel Arturo Torres told the Trabajadores newspaper the facilities he runs “have increased their production level since 1998 more than fourfold”.
Weapon systems that have been upgraded in precision targeting and destructive capabilities include munitions, grenades, land mines and anti-tank rockets, Trabajadores said.
As an example, the weekly said a laser-guided targeting system called VLMA, has boosted the AK-M automatic rifle’s precision by 80-90 per cent, regardless of the shooter’s skill level.
Interim Cuban President Fidel Castro, on Cuba’s July 26 national day, urged the successor of US President George W. Bush to seek an end to more than a half century of US-Cuban enmity through dialogue.
Washington said talks would be possible only if Cuba turned to democracy.
Raul, 76, who was appointed to Cuba’s top post after Fidel, 81, underwent delicate surgery on July 31, 2006, also warned that Cuba was ready to defend itself if needed.
Raul said special military operation Caguairan, put in place following Castro’s illness, would finish at the end of next year - US presidential elections take place in November next year.
Fidel Castro, who has been writing regularly in Cuba’s leading newspapers since March, in a June article said Cuba should continue producing and buying weapons to defend itself from the “growing aggression” of the Bush administration.