Subject CUBA + DRUGS Written 901 pm Feb 27, 1991 by devenson in cdpreg.cuba Topic Response
Subject: CUBA & DRUGS
Written 9:01 pm Feb 27, 1991 by devenson in cdp:reg.cuba
Topic: Response to Frontline
The following letter was sent to Frontline in response to the February 5,
1991 airing of "Cuba and cocaine."
February 18, 1991
Boston, MA 02134
Re: Cuba and Cocaine
As a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Cuban Studies in
New York, I write to express profound disappointment in the Frontline
production of "Cuba and Cocaine" which aired in Chicago on February 5, 1991.
This report was clearly biased and short on the kind of investigation which
has been the hallmark of Frontline presentations.
As sources of authority on Cuba, the program relies exclusively on the
expertise of two persons closely associated with the political right: Rachel
Ehrenfeld, who did her research as a Freedom House Fellow which has close
connections with the right wing Cuban American National Foundation, and
Roger Fontaine who was an adviser to the National Security Council during
the infamous Oliver North tenure. The statements by Cuban officials who
appear in the report were apparently filmed during the United Nations
Conference on Criminal Law which took place last August in Havana. Not only
do the filmmakers not identify the context in which these statements were
made, but they leave out significant statements made during the Conference
in which the Cuban authorities discussed the efforts they were making to
curtail drug trafficking. In fact, hundreds of drug traffickers have been
caught trying to transship through Cuban waters and have been arrested by
Moreover, when one of the producers contacted Sandra Levinson, Director
of the Center for Cuban Studies, he did not even mention the story on drug
trafficking, nor ask for information on that subject. Given that the Center
has been a major source of information and expertise on Cuba for almost 20
years, it might be expected that Frontline would at least check the
resources there. I, myself, have collected a substantial amount of data on
drug trafficking related to Cuba and have published on the subject. Nor did
the producers include statements by current and former US officials, such as
Congressman Charles Rangel and Former Ambassador Wayne Smith, persons who
have had direct contact with Cuba on the issues raised in the report. For
years, Cuba has sought formal cooperation with the US on drug interdiction
efforts. After a meeting in Havana, Congressman Charles Rangel urged
approval of such cooperation, but his proposal was rejected by the State
Department, apparently for political reasons.
Such deficient investigation is not only a disservice to the public but
also reflects badly on the quality of Frontline presentations. I urge you to
contact the Center and a broader range of experts when investigating
subjects related to Cuba.
Professor of Law, DePaul University College
For the Board of Directors
Center for Cuban Studies
Topic: Drugs and Cuba
The following article was published in Covert Action Information Bulletin,
Fall 1989. It provides information which demonstrates the one-sided,
distorted reporting displayed in the recent Frontline feature "Cuba and
(Footnotes which appear in published article do not appear here. For
footnotes, write for hard copy.)
DEALING WITH DRUGS IN CUBA
by Debra Evenson
Associate Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law,
President, National Lawyers Guild
"That's a Cuban cigar. You see where it come from? Havana." Reinaldo
Ruiz, an imposing man six feet four in height and 270 pounds with a white
beard, sat in the Miami office of a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) informant
in mid 1987 and bragged about transporting cocaine shipments from Colombia
through Cuba with the help of "top" Cuban officials. The DEA informant, Hu
Chang, was well aware of Ruiz's contacts in Cuba since he himself had flown
the first successful transshipment for Ruiz from Colombia to Cuba on May 9,
1987. Nor was Chang new to the drug trade. A former Nationalist Chinese air
force pilot who had worked as a contract pilot for the CIA in Southeast
Asia, Chang had been arrested on drug smuggling charges shortly after
immigrating to the U.S. in 1979. The collaboration between these two men
initiated the first proven involvement of Cuban officials in international
For years the U.S. accused Cuba of trafficking in drugs but never had
evidence to back its accusations. Reinaldo Ruiz provided that opportunity.
When Ruiz persuaded a young relative working for the Cuban Ministry of
Interior (MININT) to arrange use of Cuba as a transit point in 1987, U.S.
law enforcement officials tracked the operation from its inception, taping
the conversations among the participants.
The information DEA obtained was never shared with the Cuban government
which did not uncover the drug dealing operations on its own until spring of
1989. Then the Cuban government moved quickly to expose the scandal and to
prosecute the officials involved. But rather than praise the Cubans for
taking decisive steps to stop drug trafficking, the Bush administration
harshened its public repudiation of Cuba and rejected Cuba's offers to
cooperate in drug interdiction.
The facts raise many questions about the involvement of U.S. agencies in
the Cuba drug operation. They also call into question whether the Bush
administration is more concerned with anti-communism than it is with
interdicting drug traffic.
Reinaldo Ruiz left Cuba in 1962 at about age 25. By 1986, he was living
comfortably in Los Angeles where he owned two homes worth more than
$800,000. One apparent source of income was a business he operated out of
Panama called Colombian Tours, S.A. which arranged travel to and from Cuba.
To carry out some of his business arrangements with Cuba, Ruiz contracted
for the legal services of Interconsult, a Cuban office in Panama.
Coincidentally, Miguel Ruiz Poo, the 34 year old son of Ruiz's cousin,
happened to be a captain in the Cuban Ministry of Interior functioning as
manager of the Interconsult office in Panama. In fall 1986 Ruiz went to the
Interconsul offices to look up his young relative.
After establishing a relationship with Ruiz Poo, Reinaldo began to
suggest business deals in which he would acquire various blockaded equipment
for the Cubans, proposals which Ruiz Poo passed on to his superior, Amado
Padron, who was in charge of Cuban intelligence activities in Panama. As
these discussions progressed, Reinaldo introduced the idea of drug shipments
through Cuba. He told Ruiz Poo that his girl friend Ligia Cruz, a Colombian,
could obtain cocaine through her connections to Gustavo Gaviria, a cousin of
Medellin cartel boss Pablo Escobar Gaviria, and through contacts in Miami
Ruiz could arrange for the drugs to be picked up by speedboats and taken to
Florida. Thus, if Miguel Ruiz Poo could arrange a transshipment base in
Cuba, Reinaldo Ruiz could take care of getting the drugs to and from Cuba.
Ruiz Poo took the proposal to Padron, and the three met in Panama in late
1986 to discuss the scheme.
A few weeks later, Ruiz flew to Cuba to meet with Padron and Tony de la
Guardia, the chief of the special MC department set up by the Cuban Ministry
of Interior in 1986 to break the U.S. trade blockade by obtaining U.S. goods
in Miami and elsewhere and getting them into Cuba. These operations
frequently involved receiving clandestine shipments by plane or by speed
boats coming from Miami. On La Guardia's order alone, the coast and landing
strips were cleared for recipt of these shipments which were unloaded only
by members of the MC department. So the mechanism by which Cuba could be
used as a transit base for drugs without the knowledge of officials outside
the MC department was already in place when Ruiz proposed his deal.
Arrangements were made for a first operation to take place in January,
1987. Ruiz purportedly sent his plane to Colombia for the drugs, the speed
boats arrived from Miami, but the plane never came. Perhaps, Ruiz was just
testing his Cuban counterparts; he told them problems with the airplane
caused the operation to be aborted.
A second operation was planned for April 10, 1987. As early as October,
1986 Ruiz had established a relationship with Hugo Ceballos, a Colombian
living in Miami who was looking for ways to transsip cociane from Colombia
to Florida. Ceballos worked with a group of Miami based speedboat operators.
According to U.S. legal documents, Reinaldo's son Ruben Ruiz and an American
co- pilot named Richard ZZie flew Ruiz's plane from Florida to Panama on
March 28. On April 10, they flew from Panama to Colombia, picked up about
400 kilos of cocaine and landed the shipment at Cuba's Varadero airport
concealed in boxes of Marlboro cigarettes. The boxes were then loaded onto
speedboats which had arrived from Florida. The U.S. coast guard intercepted
the boats as they entered U.S. waters.
Later, in a "secretly" recorded videotape, Ruben Ruiz brags about how the
Cubans "tricked" U.S. customs officials in Fort Lauderdale by calling ahead
and reporting that Ruiz's plane had had engine difficulty forcing it to land
in Varadero. Thus, according to Ruben, customs did not give them any trouble
for coming in from Cuba. However, given the constant accusations of Cuban
complicity with drug trafficking, it is inconceivable that U.S. customs
would not closely scrutinize an unscheduled plane coming from Cuba no matter
what reason were given for it. The most plausable explanation is not that
the Cubans were able to give Ruiz cover, but that U.S. officials knew full
well where the plane had been and were not going to interfere with the
activities of Ruiz.
Only on the third try in May 1987, did the operation succeed. This time
DEA agent Chang co-piloted the plane with Ruben Ruiz. The drugs arrived in
Cuba packed in Epson computer boxes, were repacked into cigar boxes and
loaded onto waiting speedboats which took the shipment to Florida. The plane
flew from Cuba to Merida, Mexico before returning to Miami. After this
operation, the MININT officials involved decided to stop the operation for
the rest of the year, Ruiz ceased his dealings with Cuba and moved his
operations to Haiti. The four Cuban officials involved had received a total
of approximately $400,000 from their deal with Ruiz.
The DEA, and probably the CIA, were both involved in and knowledgeable of
these operations as early as summer, 1986, when a DEA undercover agent
infiltrated Ceballos's organization. Coincidentally, in late July Ruben Ruiz
purchased a Cesna 401 aircraft which was used to transport the drug
shipments. It is not clear from the court documents in the case how Ceballos
was put in contact with Ruiz, but according to the documents, U.S. law
enforcement officials were that Ceballos made contact with Ruiz at least as
early as October, 1986, which is about the same time that Ruiz approached
his Cuban relative Ruiz Poo. Meetings among the participants were held at
Chang's offices in Miami which were recorded on videotape.
In February 1988 Ruiz and his co-conspirators including his son Ruben
Ruiz were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Miami. At the same time, Hugo
Ceballos and 10 others were arrested under a separate indictment. In July
1988, Ceballos and his cohorts involved in smuggling the drugs into Florida
were convicted. Ruiz and his son plead guilty in early March 1989, but were
not sentenced until late August, more than a month after the Cuban
government had convicted and sentenced the officials involved.
Although the February, 1988 indictments in the Ruiz/Ceballos cases
alleged use of Cuba as a transshipment point, the Cuba government denied the
allegations of official involvement as just so much more U.S. propaganda.
There was nothing to distinguish such allegations from the barage of
previous accusations which the Cubans claimed were patently false. Among the
evidence proferred to show the Cuban connection was one of the "secretly"
recorded videotapes made at Chang's office. In the portion of the tape which
was played at Reinaldo Ruiz's bond hearing in March 1988 Ruiz says "the drug
money went into Fidel's drawer." Though Ruiz admitted afterwards that he had
no actual knowledge of Fidel Castro's involvement, the taped statement made
headlines in the U.S. press. To the Cubans, however, the specious allegation
was convincing evidence that the charges were unfounded.
It was not until the trial of Hugo Ceballos in July 1988 that Cuban
intelligence began to take interest in the allegations. Ceballos did not
have direct contacts with Cuban officials, but evidence presented at his
trial suggested use of Cuban territorial waters for drug shipments. Although
the testimony regarding Cuban connections was not very specific, Cuban
diplomats nevertheless approached officials of the DEA to request an
exchange of information. DEA officials in Maimi were interested in exploring
such an exchange and took the proposal to the State Department where it was
tacitly rejected. The rejection may have further convinced the Cubans that
the U.S. had no concrete evidence to share. In any event, left with nothing
more than unsubstantiated general statements in the context of a virulently
hostile propaganda campaign, Cuba undertook no further investigation of its
own at that time.
According to GRANMA, the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, Cuba
began its investigation when it received reliable information from friendly
diplomats in March 1989. State Department representatives in Havana have
claimed that they had attempted to provide information to the Cuban
government in 1988, but that their warnings were ignored. However, in
briefing a House Narcotics Subcommittee delegation bound for Cuba to discuss
drug related issues with Fidel Castro, State Department officials in
Washington advised in December 1988 that the U.S. was not cooperating with
the Cubans on narcotics matters either officially or unofficially.
Obviously, if the Bush administration was interested in furthering its
purported effort to inform the Cubans, it would have solicited the aid of
the House delegation, and at a minimum advised them of the situation.
It is evident that the U.S. did not want to hasten the Cuban probe into
drug dealing, and some U.S. law enforcement officials have expressly stated
that the Miami investigation did not provide the informational basis for the
Cuban investigation. Indeed, only after Cuba completed its own investigation
did the DEA admit that although it had the names of the Cuban officials
working with Ruiz, these names were never released in public documents nor
given to Cuba. DEA's claims that it had uncovered these names by October,
1988 are disingenuous. Since its own agents were involved even before Ruiz
made contact with the Cubans, DEA knew the names of these contacts from the
In June 1989, the Cuban government arrested 14 military officials
including 11 Ministry of Interior officers on charges of corruption and drug
trafficking. Among those arrested were the three officers who dealt with
Reinaldo Ruiz in 1987. Despite the substantial amount of information
compiled by DEA from July 1986 to the present on the Ruiz/Cuba connection,
Johnny Phelps, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA office in Maimi,
told the press after announcement of the Cuban arrests that "there's nothing
at this point to say that there is [a connection between the two
operations]." The U.S. continued to conceal the facts it had in its
An explanation for the Reagan/Bush administration's refusal to share
information with the Cubans surfaced on the editorial page of the Wall
Street Journal on September 26. According to an op ed piece by , the CIA
sent operatives into Cuba on several occasions after the arrest of Reinaldo
Ruiz in attempts to get Tony de la Guardia and Miguel Ruiz Poo out before
they were arrested by the Cuban government. Rescuing drug traffickers from
trial in their native country is an odd tactic in the "war on drugs," but it
is consistent with the objective of preventing Cuba from learning the full
facts about the drug operations. When Cuba arrested 14 officials, the Bush
administration had the audacity to insist it had a right to interview the
Not only did Cuba uncover the facts despite the U.S. concealment, but the
Cuban investigation went much further than the DEA's and uncovered
operations involving other Cuban Americans based in Miami who had engaged
the cooperation of the Cuban officials convicted. There have been no reports
that these Miami dealers have either been arrested or indicted in the U.S.
In the more than eight days of televised court proceedings, the Cuban
population learned in detail how the special MININT division secretly set up
to break the U.S. trade blockade became involved in drug smuggling. At the
same time evidence described how three members of the Cuban armed forces
(FAR) assigned to Angola, including popular military hero Division General
Arnaldo Ochoa, unsuccesfully tried to arrange a drug deal with Medellin drug
cartel boss Pablo Escobar in an escapade which seriously threatened Cuban
national security. Although all the defendants confessed to the charges,
under Cuban law, like some other civil law systems, a guilty plea does not
obviate a trial. The state must still demonstrate independent evidence of
guilt and present argument for sentencing.
At the end of the trial, the prosecutor requested the death penalty for
seven defendants. The 3-judge military court sentenced to death the four
highest ranking officials who had directed the operations, and with one
exception sentenced the others to 25-30 years imprisonment.
In Miami, both Reinaldo and Ruben Ruiz was given reduced sentences for
their "cooperation" with the prosecution. For his part, Reinald Ruiz who
initiated the operation was sentenced on August 21 to seventeen years with
the possiblity of parole in 1993. Under the new sentencing guidelines which
went into effect on November 1, 1987 Ruiz should have received life in
prison, but government lawyers moved that the guidelines not apply to Ruiz
arguing that his criminal activity ended prior to that date. Interestingly,
the indictment alleges criminal activity through mid-February, 1988. Ruben
Ruiz was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The record suggests, however, that
the information yielded by Ruiz was available to DEA from the beginning of
their criminal activities. No significant new information emerged after
arrest. Could it be that Ruiz's "cooperation" began in 1986 before he
contacted his Cuban cousin?
The Disinformation Campaign Continues
In the tradition of spurious allegations and exaggerations which has
characterized the U.S. propaganda campaign against Cuba since 1960, some
U.S. officials, anti-Castro exile groups and members of the establishment
press launched an attack marked as much by inconsistency as by preposterous
lies and speculation. Among the lies and baseless allegations most
popularized by the U.S. media were charges that 1) the prosecutions were
merely a "show" trial to cover up a political purge; 2) the trafficking was
directed or at least condoned by Fidel Castro himself; 3) the Cubans knew of
the Cuban involvement in 1988 when the U.S. based connections were indicted
in Miami and did nothing to stop the operations; and 4) Cuba continues to
cooperate with drug smuggling operations.
Among the more specious invectives was the charge that the Cuban
prosecutions were merely a "show" trial to cover up a political purge.
Although the evidence manifestly contradicts such speculation and State
Department officials were reported by Newsweek International to have
rejected such assertions as unfounded, U.S. funded Radio Marti broadcast
daily bulletins to Cuba alleging that the drug charges were spurious and
that Ochoa and the others were being pillored for plotting against Castro.
That Radio Marti would broadcast such an obvious lie to the very audience
with which it tries to establish credibility is astonishing. But, then, the
U.S. national press spewed forth similar allegations as news reporting.
The proponents of the "purge" theory apparently want it both ways: they
chastise Cuba for refusing to acknowledge drug trafficking by its officers,
but when Cuba prosecutes drug traffickers, they accuse Cuba of masking a
political plot against the government. If Fidel Castro wanted to purge
officers, he did not need to risk his credibility by exposing Cuban
involvement in drug trafficking which he had long denied. Moreover, much of
the evidence in the case against the MININT officers closely paralelled
evidence in the Ruiz/Ceballos cases, and prosecution was limited to the
MININT officers working for the special MC department and three FAR
officers. The evidence of drug trafficking was both detailed and compelling.
A prominent component of the propaganda campaign is the assertion that
the trafficking was directed or at least condoned by Fidel Castro himself.
According to this theory, the prosectuion of high ranking officials was,
therefore, just a maneuver to dissociate Castro from the drug activities. No
evidence has been offered to substantiate such a claim. Indeed, the facts
make such a charge highly implausible and it has been rejected by one
prominent Castro biographer, Tad Szulc.
First, the quantity of drug transshipments by way of Cuba even at the
height of the operations was relatively insignificant, hardly worth the
effort given the likelihood of detection. If Fidel Castro was really engaged
in drug trafficking, why wouldn't he make the most of it? Cuba lies directly
in the path of Latin American cocaine producers and the primary port of
entry into the United States, Florida. Why be involved in penny-ante
isolated efforts which could not in the least give the Cuban economy the
support the U.S. claimed it was seeking through such illegal activity? The
evidence at the recent trial in Cuba suggests that from 1987 to April 1989,
Cubans received only $3 million dollars for all their efforts and much of
this was taken for the private use of the officials prosecuted. Castro could
never have risked his prestige and the prestige of the revolution for so
Moreover, it is no secret that where there is drug trafficking the CIA is
often close at hand. The CIA was undoubtedly aware of the MC operations to
break the blockade. In late 1986 and 1987, contacts in Panama and Miami
suggested to the MC officials that the MC initiative could be aided
financially by allowing Cuba to be used as a transshipment base for drugs.
To permit Cuban territory to be used as a transshipment base invites CIA
involvement and infiltration. And indeed, a CIA agent flew one of the first
cocaine laden planes which landed at the military airport at Varadero Beach
Further, it appears that Ruiz, if not an agent himself, cooperated with
the CIA to send an operative to Cuba to attempt to get Tony de la Guardia
and Miguel Ruiz Poo to defect before they were arrested. It is not
inconceivable that some of the drug operations were initiated by CIA
connections, but it is inconceivable that Castro would willingly compromise
Cuban security to such an extent.
Second, those involved had a convincing cover which hid their drug
activities from higher officials. As director of the special MC department
the mission of which was to bring blockaded goods into Cuba, Tony de la
Guardia and other members of the department established operations in Panama
to purchase U.S. goods. Since sale of such goods to Cuba violated U.S.
Treasury Department regulations, the goods had to be gotten through secret
channels. Some of the goods came into Cuba by speed boat from Miami and by
air from Panama and Colombia. In order to achieve their objectives in
secret, La Guardia and company had to have authority to permit such boats
and planes to enter Cuban territory without interference by the coastguard.
To further the cover, drugs arrived in boxes marked "Epson Computers" or
other blockaded goods. After reviewing the evidence, even U.S. diplomats in
Havana gave credence to Cuba's claim that Castro did not know about the
Third, such involvement is contrary to Cuban interests in maintaining
international prestige and in improving relations with the United States.
Since Cuba is hopeful of loosening the trade embargo to help its economy, it
would be irrational to play into U.S. propaganda used to justify the
continuation of the blockade.
The latest version of the "Castro connection" asserts that Raul Castro
took part in the operation. The support for this accusation came from
confessed smuggler Reinaldo Ruiz as he was about to be sentenced this past
summer. Ruiz, who initiated the first drug operation with the Cubans, was
purportedly facing a life sentence for his involvement but after his
"cooperation" with prosecutors he received only 17 years with eligibility
for parole in 1993 (only four years time) and a promise from the judge that
his sentence could be further reduced if he continued his "cooperation". How
coincidental that as he is about to be sentenced months after he plead
guilty he suddenly remembered that he saw Raul Castro at the airport when
one of Ruiz's cocaine shipments was unloaded at a military airfield in 1987.
With Cuba now taking firm measures to prevent any reoccurrences of Cuban
nationals cooperating with drug traffickers, the Bush administration will
probably stretch spurious charges as far as it can. And with nothing to lose
but time in jail, Ruiz will probably come forth with additional revelations
which cannot be corroborated.
Is Cuba now engaged in drug trafficking?
Although there appears to be some evidence that drugs have been
transported near or through Cuban territorial waters and over Cuban airspace
since June, such facts alone do not implicate Cuban involvement anymore than
they would implicate the governments of all countries lying along known drug
shipment routes. There is no evidence of any Cuban cooperation with these
shipments. The harm done to Cuba by the recent scandal was substantial. To
risk additional harm to national security and prestige by continuing such
operations simply does not make sense. The harsh sentences handed down by
the Cuban military court were a clear warning to any others who might engage
in such ventures.
Elliot Abrams suggests that if the Cubans are really serious about
stopping drug trafficking, they should shoot down planes flying over their
territory without authorization. It is not difficult to predict the U.S.
reaction here if Cuba shot down an innocent plane.
Cuba persists in its effort to enter into cooperative agreements on drug
interdiction with the U.S. The Bush administration has responded by
tightening the economic embargo and seeking further restrictions on travel
between the two countries. In criticizing the Bush administration for
rejecting Cuba's offers, Representative Charles B. Rangel, chair of the
House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control put the issue bluntly:
"It's time for the State Department to stop playing anti-Communist politics.
It's drugs, not Communists, that are killing our kids."
Cuba's Policy Against Drug Trafficking
Cuba has taken considerable pride in the fact that soon after the triumph
of the revolution in 1959 it completely eliminated the U.S. based mafia
which had made Cuba a major drug center. Even before taking power, the
revolutionary forces issued a proclamation in 1958 stating its objective "to
completely eliminate hard drugs and illicit gambling." Making note of the
ways in which drug trafficking can corrupt social institutions, the
revolutionary Cuban government took a very puritanical stance with respect
to narcotics. Drug dealing in Cuba today is a rare occurence and involves
almost exclusively small amounts of home grown marijuana. The Cuban criminal
justice system has achieved what U.S. law enforcement has not-- swift and
certain prosecution even for small dealers.
In the area of international drug trafficking, Cuba has played a role in
interdicting shipments. Since Cuba lies directly in the path of drug
producers and the Florida coast, smugglers frequently use routes through
neighboring waters and the country's airspace. According to Cuban reports,
its coastguard arrested 328 drug smugglers in 83 violations of Cuban
airspace and territorial waters between 1970 and March 1986. Most of those
captured strayed accidentaly onto the Cuban coast, broke down or landed
because they were out of fuel.
In 1978 and 1979 the Cuban and U.S. coastguard services held two rounds
of talks during which they agreed upon cooperative measures in the attempt
to interdict drug trafficking. Although no official document was signed, DEA
officials have publically acknowledged the collaboration. Cuba renounced the
agreement in 1982 in response to the U.S. federal indictments of four Cuban
officials on drug trafficking charges which the Cuban government labelled
Even so, Cuba continued to arrest drug traffickers caught within its
territorial waters or whose planes landed on the island. DEA officials
concede that as many as 18 U.S. citizens arrested on drug charges are now in
The U.S. Propaganda Campaign Against Cuba
More aggressively hostile in its policy toward Cuba than the previous
administration, the lies of the Reagan administration were unabashed.
Shortly after Reagan's innauguration, UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick told a
Washington audience that Soviet submarines were operating out of Cuba.
According to Wayne Smith, who was chief of the U.S. Interest Section in
Havana at that time, no Soviet nuclear or missile submarines had docked in a
Cuban port since 1974. Similarly, Smith denounced as false Reagan
administration accusations that Cuba was arming the Salvadoran rebel forces
in 1982. In fact, Smith had informed Washington that Cuba had stopped such
shipments in hopes of engaging the U.S. in negotiating an end to the armed
Accusations of Cuban drug dealing have been part of the U.S. government's
claims of Cuban wrongdoing since the 1960s. In 1966, a Senate report charged
Castro with smuggling "Red" Chinese heroin into the United States to finance
its guerilla activities. The Reagan administration intensified the
accusations of Cuban drug trafficking. In 1982, based on testimony of
convicted drug smugglers, four Cuban officials were indicted by a federal
grand jury in Miami. The indictment accused the Cubans of making a deal in
1980 with reputed Colombian drug smuggler Jaime Guillot to give safe passage
to Guillot's shipments to the U.S. in exchange for the transport of arms to
the M-19 guerillas operating in Colombia. The Cuban government vehemently
denied the charges.
Based on the alleged brief arrangement between the then Cuban ambassador
to Colombia and Guillot, the Reagan administration along with the extremist
anti-Castro Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) began coupling Cuba
with both drugs and terrorism. The primary premise of the allegations were
that Cuba was engaged in drug trafficking to earn hard currency to support
terrorist forces operating in any number of Latin American countries. An
even more repugnant allegation repeated ad nauseam in CANF literature was
that Cuban officials were given specific orders by Fidel Castro to
"penetrate and addict U.S. youths with drugs."
U. S. efforts to prevent drug trafficking through Caribbean air and water
routes have failed, in some measure because of its own cooperation with
known dealers. When revelations of CIA and contra involvement in drug
trafficking surfaced, both Congress and the administration looked the other
way and actively removed evidence from public view. Since a substantial
portion of U.S. based drug traffickers and money launderers have been Cuban
Americans operating out of Miami, it is advantageous for the CANF and State
Department to continue to point the finger at Cuba particularly during
Further, to avoid some of the embarrassment of the significant
involvement of Cuban Americans in illicit drug related activities, rumors
were spread in the early 1980s that Castro had infiltrated over 400 agents
among the Mariel emigrees in order to start U.S. based drug operations. In
response to a Senate subcommittee question regarding such rumors, acting DEA
director Francis M. Mullen, Jr. testified in 1983 that no evidence had been
uncovered to substantiated such charges. Asked again in 1984, he gave the
In fact, until 1987 few drug shipments, if any, were reportedly making
their way to the United States with the cooperation of Cuban nationals. In
hearings before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in February 1984, DEA
director Mullen reported two isolated instances of drug shipments allegedly
made with Cuban cooperation since 1982. In both instances the evidence was
inconclusive as to whether Cuba was in fact involved. Searching for more
damning evidence, Congressman Smith asked "Is there anything more? I
mean...are we all just running around here shooting ourselves in the foot in
terms of having one isolated incident here, one isolated incident here, but
not enough to really put together something which might be...som kind of
operation to break down?" Mullen replied, "We are looking for that
pattern....We have not reached that point yet."
Although the harangue of accusations of Cuban drug trafficking continued
unabated, drug enforcement officials had no substantial evidence of Cuban
involvement until 1987. Investigations leading to the February 1988
indictments of Cuban exile Reinaldo Ruiz and Colombian Hugo Ceballos on
charges of smuggling drugs into Florida by way of Cuba, provided the first
real evidence that Cuban officials were actually cooperating with drug
smugglers. Jack Hook, a spokesperson for the DEA in Miami, was quoted as
saying, "This is the first time we've had evidence that Cuba--like other
Caribbean countries--is being used as a transshipment base.... Before this,
it's only been rumors."
Moreover, statements made by law enforcement officials at the time of the
Ceballos trial in Miami in July 1988, suggest that they believed Cuba had
not previously been used as a shipment base. Some U.S. officials considered
the evidence in the Ceballos case significant because it signalled that
cocaine traffickers were turning to Cuba as a transit point as other routes
through the Bahamas were choked off.
United States repudiation of Cuban offers of cooperation have hurt
efforts to stem the flow of drugs into this country. According to Mullen,
only a very small portion of the cocaine, marihuana and methaqualone coming
through the Caribbean was believed to pass through Cuba: "If Cuba were
completely neutralized as a transit point, the effect on drug availability
would be minimal. On the other hand, if Cuba were to cooperate fully in
international drug interdiction efforts,...a more significant impact could
be made on the drug traffic through the Caribbean." The amount of cocaine
trafficking in which Cuban MININT officials participated between April 1987
and 1989 was indeed minimal. Now it has been stopped altogether.
[ To the readers: I realize now that the above is a draft which has
grammatical errors. The substance, however, is accurate. The published
version is error free - I hope. D Evenson ]
End of text from cdp:reg.cuba
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