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Table of Contents
Country Reports
Cuba, Landmine Monitor Report 2004

Cuba

Key developments since May 2003: There have been media reports of Cuban militia training with and planting antipersonnel mines due to increased tensions with the United States.

Key developments since 1999: Cuba is one of the small number of countries that has abstained from the vote on every annual pro-ban United Nations General Assembly resolution since 1996. Cuba is one of only 15 countries in the world still producing antipersonnel mines. It has stated that it does not export antipersonnel mines, but has declined to institute a formal moratorium. The United States removed its landmines from around Guantánamo Naval Base from 1996-1999; Cuban minefields remain.

Mine Ban Policy

Cuba and the United States remain the only countries in the Americas region that have not yet joined the Mine Ban Treaty. Cuba’s opposition to the antipersonnel mine ban has been consistent over the past decade. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided Landmine Monitor with statements in November 1997, June 2000, and June 2003 detailing the government’s reasons for not joining the treaty. These include Cuba’s view that Mine Ban Treaty does not take into consideration its “legitimate national security concerns,” namely the threat posed by the United States.[1] While expressing its full support for “humanitarian efforts made by the international community to prevent or mitigate the effects of the indiscriminate use of this kind of weapon,”[2] Cuba states it will “continue to use antipersonnel mines exclusively for the defense and security of the country.”[3] These points were reiterated when an ICBL delegation visited Cuba in September 2001, following a formal invitation by the government.[4]

Cuba is one of the small number of countries that have abstained from the vote on every annual pro-ban United Nations General Assembly resolution since 1996, including UNGA Resolution 58/53 on 8 December 2003, calling for universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Still, Cuban has regularly attended Mine Ban Treaty meetings. Cuba participated in most of the Ottawa Process meetings, including by sending its then-deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, María de los Ángeles Flórez, to the December 1997 signing ceremony. Cuba participated in the first four annual Meetings of States Parties as an observer, but not the Fifth Meeting in Bangkok in September 2003. It attended all of the intersessional meetings in 1999-2002, one of the two in 2003, but neither meeting in 2004.

Cuba is a State Party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), but has not yet ratified Amended Protocol II on landmines. It attended the annual Conferences of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in November 2003 as an observer. In the past, Cuba has said it considers Amended Protocol II as “potentially the most effective legal instrument the international community could use to resolve the humanitarian problems caused by the indiscriminate use of antipersonnel mines.”[5]

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

Cuba’s state-owned Union of Military Industries (Unión de las Industrias Militares, UIM) is believed to continue production of antipersonnel mines, in the absence of any denial or clarification from the Cuban government. According to the US Department of Defense, Cuba has produced three different types of antipersonnel mines: the PMFC-1 and PMFH-1 fragmentation mines and the PMM-1 wooden box mine.[6]

Cuban antipersonnel mines have been cleared by deminers in Nicaragua and Angola.[7] Since 1996 Cuba has stated several times that it does not and has never exported antipersonnel mines. In April 2001 Cuban Vice President and Defense Minister Raúl Castro stated, “We manufacture them [landmines] of all types, but we never export them, nor are we going to.”[8]

In a June 2003 response to the suggestion that Cuba institute a formal moratorium on export of antipersonnel mines, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they government has “never exported nor exports these types of arms.”[9]

There is also no official information available on the size and composition of Cuba’s stockpile of antipersonnel mines. Landmine Monitor has reported that according to the military trade press, Cuba stockpiles the Soviet-manufactured OZM-4, POMZ-2, and POMZ-2M mines, in addition to the mines manufactured domestically.[10]

Landmine Use

In May 2004, measures by the United States to tighten its embargo on Cuba significantly heightened tensions between the two countries and reportedly led to an increase in Cuban military operations.[11] According to media reports, since the start of the war in Iraq in March 2003, municipal militia have been training every Sunday and have “planted landmines in fields.”[12] In December 2003, Vice President Castro reportedly told the press that “there would not be one square meter of the country where the aggressors would not find a mine that would burst them, an ambush that would annihilate them, and a permanent resistance.”[13]

There is no official information available on these reports of recent use of antipersonnel mines. Landmine Monitor did not receive a response from the government to requests for information on reports of recent use. Outside the country, Cuba is known to have used mines and provided mine warfare training in Angola.[14]

Both the US and Cuba planted landmines around the US Naval Base at Guantánamo in the southeast of Cuba. An estimated 735 acres of land was mined with approximately 70,000 antipersonnel and antivehicle mines in early 1961.[15] Cuba has described its minefields at Guantánamo as having “an exclusively defensive nature,” intended to prevent US troops from expanding the perimeter and launching offensive actions into Cuban territory.[16] According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, these minefields are duly “marked, fenced and guarded” as required by the CCW’s Amended Protocol II.[17] During the ICBL visit to Guantánamo in September 2001 it was evident that the minefields were well-maintained. Officials told the delegation they could not provide ICBL with details on the number and types of mines laid on Cuban territory but stated that fragmentation mines were not used.[18] Cuba has said it will not remove its mines “until the Americas leave the base.”[19]

In May 1996, the US announced that it would remove all of the more than 50,000 mines deployed on the US side of the Guantánamo buffer zone and replace them with “layered defense measures including some sound and motion sensors which will provide the appropriate security under present circumstances.”[20] The clearance of the twenty-one minefields started in September 1996 and was completed in 1999, with a three-stage verification process of mine clearance completed in May 2000.[21] Cuba described the “alleged” removal of US landmines from Guantánamo as a “measure of relative importance” since “that country has the necessary troops and means to quickly restore the deactivated minefields if it so wishes or deems it appropriate.”[22]

It is not known if the US maintains a stockpile of antipersonnel mines at Guantánamo.

Mine Action

Cuba is not known to be directly involved in any humanitarian mine clearance activities but it contributes to victim assistance through Cuban doctors working in mine-affected countries in Central America, Africa and Asia. In 1997 Cuba informed the United Nations of its willingness to participate in international humanitarian mine clearing operations and to assist landmine victims.[23] In 1998 Canada proposed a joint mine clearance program in Angola and Mozambique using Cuban expertise and Canadian funding, but the program was never initiated.[24]

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

The last known mine casualties in Cuba occurred in 2001. On 16 April 2001, a youth was killed when he reportedly stepped on a mine at Guantánamo in an attempt to reach the Naval Base and his two colleagues were injured.[25] On 5 June 2001, a youth from Santiago, reportedly in the Cuban military, lost both his legs when he stepped on a mine in Guantánamo.[26]

Between 1961 and 1990, at least 23 people were killed in Guantánamo Bay minefields, including 18 US servicemen (thirteen Marines assigned to maintain the minefields and five sailors who entered by mistake in 1964) and five Cuban asylum seekers.[27]

It is possible that Cuban soldiers participating in past conflicts overseas have been killed or maimed by antipersonnel mines, but no information is available.

Representatives of the Cuban Association of Physically Disabled Persons (ACLIFIM), a membership group of 50,000 people that provides a support network for people with disabilities, told ICBL in September 2001 that they had not encountered Cuban civilians with disabilities as a result of landmines.[28]

While there is no specific program to deal with Cuban landmine survivors, Cuba has a free and universal healthcare system described in detail in the June 2000 statement to Landmine Monitor. Cuban law prohibits discrimination based on disability.[29]


[1] See Statement of Directorate of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quoted in letter from Ambassador Angel Dalmau to Noël Stott, South Africa, 26 November 1997; Statement of the Directorate of Multilateral Affairs of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Landmine Monitor, sent by email 19 June 2000; Letter to Landmine Monitor (MAC) from Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Director, Directorate of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 June 2003.
[2] Statement of the Directorate of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 19 June 2000.
[3] Letter from Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 June 2003.
[4] Letter to Landmine Monitor from Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Director, Directorate of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 February 2001; Noël Stott and Diana Roa Castro, “Report of an ICBL Visit to Cuba,” November 2001.
[5] UN Disarmament Yearbook, 1998 (Geneva: United Nations, 1999), p. 123.
[6] US Department of Defense, ORDATA Online, http://maic.jmu.edu/ordata, visited 20 May 2004.
[7] Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, on-line update, 18 November 1999. See ORDATA Online, maic.jmu.edu/ordata for mines found in Nicaragua.
[8] “Cuba won’t renounce use of landmines as defense weapons: Castro,” Agence France-Presse (Havana), 26 April 2001.
[9] Letter from Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 June 2003.
[10] Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, on-line update, 18 November 1999.
[11] See “Cuba, on war footing, gears up for huge anti-US protest,” Agence France Presse (Havana), 12 May 2004; “Bush carece de autoridad moral para hablar de Cuba. Fidel encabeza gigantesca marcha en La Habana,” Granma (Cuban government periodical), 14 May 2004.
[12] Mike Blanchfield, “Cuba fears US embargo is election ploy: Ambassador to Canada makes reference to coalition invasion of Iraq,” The Ottawa Citizen (Canadian daily), 13 May 2004; “Cuba, on war footing, gears up for huge anti-US protest,” Agence France-Presse (Havana), 12 May 2004.
[13] “Cuba se ha convertido en una trampa para los agresores, afirmó Raúl Castro,” Granma (Cuban government periodical), 9 December 2003.
[14] A Cuban manual was the standard text for mine warfare for Angolan troops. See Alex Vines, Still Killing: Landmines in Southern Africa (New York: Human Rights Watch, May 1997), p. 37.
[15] Roger Ricardo, Guantanamo, the Bay of Discord: The Story of the US military base in Cuba (Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1994), p. 4.
[16] Statement of the Directorate of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 19 June 2000.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Noël Stott and Diana Roa Castro, “Report of an ICBL Visit to Cuba,” November 2001.
[19] “Guantanamo Mine-Clearing Nearly Complete,” Caribbean Update, 29 July 1999.
[20] Captain Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD, DoD News Briefing, 20 January 1998.
[21] Email to Landmine Monitor from JOC Walter T. Ham IV, Public Affairs Officer, US Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, 23 April 2001.
[22] Statement of the Directorate of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 19 June 2000.
[23] María de los Ángeles Flórez, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Address to the Ottawa Conference on Antipersonnel Landmines, Ottawa, 2-4 December 1997; “Cuba’s Policy Concerning the Issue of Antipersonnel Landmines,” Statement to the Brussels Conference, reprinted in Handicap International and International Campaign to Ban Landmines, “Conference Report: Brussels International Conference for the Total Ban on Antipersonnel Landmines, 24-27 June 1997,” p. 27.
[24] “Response by President Fidel Castro Ruz,” EFE, 19 April 2001; Granma International, 26 April 2001.
[25] “Cuban Escapee Dead by Cuban Mines at Guantanamo,” posted on 23 April 2001 to MgM Demining Network listserve, www.mgm.org .
[26] Ferdinando Castro de Lardiller, “The Mined Border of US Guantanamo Base Continues to Claim Victims,” 7 June 2001, posted on 11 June 2001 to MgM Demining Network listserve, www.mgm.org
[27] Andrés Oppenheimer, “US Removing Guantanamo mines,” Miami Herald, 16 January 1998; Lt. Jane Campbell, spokeswoman for the US Southern Command, quoted in Angus McSwain, “US Marines Clear Mines from Cuba Base,” Reuters (Miami), 10 December 1997.
[28] Statement made during the ICBL meeting with the Cuban Association of Physically Disabled Persons (ACLIFIM), Havana, 26 September 2001.
[29] US Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2003: Cuba,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington DC, 25 February 2004.