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Youth Labor Army [Ejrcito Juvenil del Trabajo]

In time the militia was so greatly expanded by recruitment under pressure that its revolutionary zeal was considerably diluted. By 1961 Castro transferred his favor and reliance to the newly organized Rebel Youth, who were by then his most fanatical followers. In general, the Rebel Youth, a part-time force, has only light arms which are issued to them only on occasion. They are not capable of sustained combat, but are effective for controlling and coercing the general public. In addition, some selected units of the Rebel Youth are specially armed and trained and are, in effect, army units specially dedicated to Fidel Castro.

The Youth Labor Army (EJT) is, by law, a paramilitary organization under the direct control of MINFAR. It was formally established on 3 August 1973 by combining two similar organizations: the Centennial Youth Column (CJC) and the Permanent Infantry Divisions (DIP). The consolidation enabled the Cuban Government to eliminate existing duplication and manage the large labor force more efficiently.

Also in August 1973, the Cuban Government expanded its compulsory service laws to require all male citizens to serve for 3 years in either MINFAR (including the EJT) or in MININT. Those who obtain deferrals for technical or advanced training are obligated to "social service" for up to 3 years in one of several government agencies. Under the 1973 Law of Compulsory Military Service, draftees receive a heavy dose of ideological instruction. Other military institutional mechanisms that are used to attempt to socialize male youths not deemed fit for regular service - whether for ideological orientation, social attitudes, or poor academic preparation - have included the notorious Military Units in Support of Production (Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Produccion-UMAPs).

The intent of the UMAPs' forced labor camps, while they were operational in the 1963-65 period, was to punish and modify the behavior of "antisocial" individuals, including religious believers and homosexuals. In more recent years, many draftees have been made to serve in the EJT (Youth Labor Army). These militarized but poorly trained units perform primarily economic tasks, such as sugarcane harvesting and construction work.

Military service has acted as a socialization agent since mandatory male military service began in 1963. As part of the professionalization effort, the Youth Labor Army (EJT) was established in August 1973 as a paramilitary labor force. The formation of the EJT allowed the regular military, which had devoted a significant part of its manpower to civic action projects since the advent of compulsory service in 1963, to devote full time to military matters.

The Youth Labor Army (EJT) comprises of the terrestrial troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and has the following main missions:

  • To make productive activities in interest of the economic-social development of the country. The first, and most important mission is to contribute to the country's economic development. This is accomplished by having EJT members work in the sugar industry, on the railroads, and in the construction industries. The EJT is accomplishing its assigned economic missions. Its personnel harvested about one-quarter of the sugarcane that is cut by hand by 1980. It also executes measures for the protection of the environment and the rational use of the natural resources.
  • To contribute to the education and patriotic, military, labor, sport and cultural formation of the young people. The EJT's second mission is the indoctrination and education of all its personnel. All FJT members receive indoctrination and are expected to have at least a sixth-grade education upon completion of their FJT service.
  • To prepare militarily to its members and to participate in the accomplishment of the armed warfare. The third mission of the EJT is to assist with territorial defense. In wartime, the FJT would supplement the regular and reserve ground forces. However, EJT members have received only training in elementary infantry subjects, and do not participate in military exercises with the regular and reserve forces. Therefore, their potential effectiveness is questionable.

The EJT is structured in divisions, regiments and battalions. The EJT National Headquarters directs regional headquarters, of which there are at least six. The regional headquarters structure is similar to that of the National Headquarters. Units subordinate to the regional headquarters are organized along military lines; however, units do vary greatly in organization and strength and should not be compared to regular and reserve Army units of the same designations. Most EJT units are stationed in the eastern half of Cuba.

EJT units use 5-digit Military Unit Numbers (MUN). Some battalion-size units also are identified either by a one-digit ordinal number (example: First Battalion) or by a location (example: the "Jaitibonico Battalion") or both. Units above battalion are also frequently identified by location. The sugarcane-cutting "brigades" (platoons) are named in honor of a Cuban or foreign martyr or after an historic Cuban event (example: the "Victoria de Giron Brigade," commemorating the Bay of Pigs victory in April 1961).

The EJT is composed primarily of personnel inducted under the compulsory service laws. There are also a number of volunteers who are mostly women. Some of the cadre are members of the regular Army. Most of the inductees are less qualified, particularly educationally, than those who enter the regular armed forces. Some of them are required to serve in the EJT because of their "antisocial behavior." The EJT rank system, modeled after the regular Army, ranges from "EJT private" to "EJT colonel." The EJT, like the regular Army, also has technical ranks. Regular Army officers who are occasionally assigned to the EJT retain their regular rank. The EJT's work uniform is a beige shirt with green pants.

Their members completely receive the wages or salaries established for the work that make, like the rest of the workers of the country. EJT members receive a salary commensurate with the quality and quantity of work performed and comparable to civilian pay scales. They also receive a 1-month vacation each year. Most live in barracks in military camps where they are fed and clothed.

The EJT is responsible for its own training. The recruits receive 1 month of military training upon induction and periodic refresher courses thereafter. The training is limited to indoctrination, physical training, military discipline, some small arms instruction and small unit (squad and platoon) tactics. The EJT has small arms. They may have some crew-served weapons such as mortars. Upon completion of service in the EJT, members are required to register for the reserves. Their elementary military training serves as a basis for the more advanced training they receive in the reserves. Those members who are trained in technical skills are expected to continue using them in civilian life.

Paramilitary forces in general include a civil defense force of 50,000 and the Youth Labor Army (Ejrcito Juvenil de Trabajo EJT). The EJTs membership has ranged from 65,000 to 100,000, depending on the source, but was approximately 70,000 in 2006. Primarily an organized labor force under the control of the Joint General Staff, the EJT has military training and equipment. Cuba's paramilitary units, such as the Youth Labor Army devoted to agricultural production, have suffered considerable degradation of morale and training. However, their core personnel still have the potential to make an enemy invasion costly.

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