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Karp, Aaron. 2012 ‘Country Analyses: Cuba.’ Measurement and Use of Statistical Data to Analyze Small Arms in the Caribbean and Latin America; Section IV, pp. 20-21. Mexico City: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Center of Excellence, National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI). 28 April

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In lieu of hard data on Cuban civilian firearms ownership, the level has been estimated by the author at 2 firearms for every 100 residents, or 220,000 in all. This is a low rate, consistent with the extremely low rates of firearms homicide; the lowest in the region. But this also is essentially an informed guess, and should be careful interrogated as evidence becomes available.

In 2010 Cuba announced a major revision of its arms registration law, with an amnesty to encourage registration. Media coverage of the new rules did not indicate the scale of civilian inventory being regulated.(47) What was the impetus for the reform? While the specifics remain completely unknown, it would appear that Cuba is not completely insulated from the illegal firearms trade that lassoed the rest of the Caribbean. The low rates of firearms homicide suggest Cuba's gun proliferation problems are not severe, and its civilian inventories small, but the government appears to be very sensitive.

Another source of uncertainty is the nation's massive Territorial Militia, a force of roughly one million. Developed during the 1980s with large-scale Soviet support, it is one of the largest paramilitary organizations in the world. It has a reputation for fanatical loyalty to Castro and the revolutionary ideals, but otherwise is very poorly understood. Some authors see it as a forced designed to defend the territory of the country at a time when the Revolutionary Armed Forces were increasingly distracted with military assistance in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.(48) Relying on People's War tactics to defense the homeland, it can be presumed to be well equipped with infantry weapons.

While Costa Rica has the lowest rate of state-owned small arms in Latin America, Cuba has the highest rate in the hemisphere and one of the highest rates in the world, with 13.6 state firearms for every 100 residents. By comparison, the rate of civilian ownership, estimated here at 2/100, is very low but not extraordinary. It is the unusual balance between state and civilian inventories, reversing more common patterns from society in favor of state dominance, which makes Cuba a curiosity.


47) Alfonso Chardy, "Cuba ordena registro de armas de fuego en poder de civiles", El Nuevo Herald, 2 February 2010; and Will Weissert, "Cuba gives its citizens 2 months to register guns," Associated Press, 1 February 2010.

48) Georges A. Fauriol and Eva Loser, Cuba: The International Dimension (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1990), p. 277.

ID: Q9511

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