By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Cuba has ordered a study of its military recruitment program, hoping to enlist more young men in the armed forces during a period in which authorities say they are increasingly concerned about a U.S.-led military attack.
A special commission to “study, propose and control (military) recruitment policies and their ties with the nation’s education program” will be created under a decree signed July 2 by President Fidel Castro and his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro.
“In the last years, the politico-military situation has deteriorated considerably, creating a new situation that has elevated international tensions against our country,” the text reads.
Although the decree does not single out the United States, Cuban authorities in recent months have repeatedly expressed concern that the United States might attack.
Officials in Washington have repeatedly insisted that there are no plans for an American military attack on Cuba.
Current events have increased “the real possibility of an armed aggression, in whatever moment the enemy finds it convenient,” the text adds, an obvious reference to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The decree acknowledges a drop in recruits for career military service in recent years, in large part because of increasingly lower birth rates over the past two decades and a shortened period of compulsory service for young men.
Under Cuban law, men 18 and older must serve in the military 24 months, or 12 months if already enrolled in university. Little more than a decade ago, young men had to complete 36 months of service.
Military service for women is voluntary.
The decree said military recruitment and service would be studied by a commission comprised of officials from numerous ministries, including defense, education, economy and finance and public heath.