Cuba’s armed forces are gearing up for their biggest military exercises in almost 20 years, with hundreds of thousands of troops and millions of civilians expected to take part, officials here said on Sunday.
General Leonardo Andollo told reporters on Sunday that MiG-29 jets, anti-aircraft batteries were to be deployed during the weeklong exercises meant to be a warning to Washington that Cuba would vigorously defend itself against US aggression.
The mass war games start on Monday and are due to run through to December 19.
Senior military and Communist government officials here warned that the administration of US President George W Bush should take note of the island’s war footing.
“The determination of the US administration to destroy the (Cuban) revolution however they can, including militarily, determines the necessity of conducting these exercises,” Andollo, the deputy chief of Cuba’s armed revolutionary forces (FAR), said.
His comments come days after President Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, warned Washington should closely observe Cuba’s military prowess and civil defences during the manoeuvres.
Raul Castro is the head of the Caribbean island’s armed forces.
Operation “Bastion 2004” will involve about 100 000 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel as well as 400 000 reservists.
Officials said the exercises would also involve several million civilians who will participate in two days of civil defence exercises, including a simulated aerial assault.
Raul Castro said last week the exercises had been planned in part so Washington “does not commit the errors it committed in Vietnam and that it is now committing in Iraq”.
“So that they (Washington) do not underestimate our people, who are united and more powerful than those in Iraq,” he added.