Clinton Leaves Cuba Off of Drug Problem List

Clinton Leaves Cuba Off of Drug Problem List
Posted by FoM on November 10, 1999 at 17:42:30 PT
By George Gedda, Associated Press
Source: Fox News
Rejecting appeals by House Republicans, President Clinton on Wednesday declined to include Cuba on a list of countries used to ship illegal drugs to the United States. 
State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said an inter-agerncy assessment concluded there was no cocaine detected transiting Cuban soil or ports on the way to the United States during the first six months of 1999. The chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., reacted sharply to Clinton's decision. "Clear evidence shows the massive amounts of illegal narcotics bound for the United States transit the Cuban land mass, Cuban airspace and Cuban waters,'' he said. The list included 26 countries and territories— two fewer than last year — that are regarded as drug source or drug transit countries; Aruba and Belize were dropped. Countries included on the list can be subject to economic penalties if they are found not to be cooperating with U.S. counternarcotics efforts. An evaluation process is held each year and concludes in March. Gilman had joined with Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the Government Reform Committee, to demand that Cuba be added to the list of drug problem countries. They based their argument largely on information that a 7.2-ton cocaine shipment seized in northern Colombia in December 1998 was earmarked for the United States after a transit stop in Cuba. But Rubin said that because the shipment never arrived in Cuba it was not included in the government estimate of cocaine transiting Cuba. He said an investigation by intelligence and law enforcement agencies concluded that Spain was the ultimate destination of the shipment. Cuban President Fidel Castro has drawn the same conclusion. Rubin said the United States remains concerned about trafficking through and around Cuba and around Cuban waterways and airspace. "Yet, during this past year, we have seen an apparent decrease in the trafficking patterns,'' he said. All 26 countries on this year's list are repeaters: Afghanistan, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam. Clinton made known his decisions in a letter to key Senate and House committee chairmen. He noted that countries can be included on the list despite assiduous government efforts to control narcotrafficking. In this category, he mentioned Hong Kong and Taiwan. U.S. officials, speaking privately, said the decision on Cuba was a close call, with White House officials insisting that Cuba remain off the list and State Department officials arguing the opposite. In July, Castro urged the United States to set aside politics and join Cuba in the fight against narcotics trafficking. The United States sent a delegation to Havana earlier this year to talk about expanding counternarcotics cooperation. Rubin said Wednesday the administration remains interested in such cooperation. According to officials, the coast guards of the two countries communicate frequently to share information about suspected drug smuggling attempts. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., has objected strongly to the administration's interest in seeking cooperative ties with Cuba, saying it was preposterous for the administration to give Castro credibility on the drug issue. She said Castro is notorious for helping drug traffickers. Published: November 10, 1999comments© 1999, News America Digital Publishing, Inc. Related Articles:McCaffrey Hails Mexican Drug Fight - 11/10/99 News Clinton Related Articles:
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