House Committee Looks into Cuban Role in Drugs

House Committee Looks into Cuban Role in Drugs
Posted by FoM on January 03, 2000 at 18:26:17 PT
By Associated Press 
Source: Boston Globe
Members of a House committee heard testimony Monday from witnesses who claim the Cuban government has been involved in efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States. Jorge Masetti, a former Cuban intelligence agent, and Ileana de la Guardia, the daughter of a Cuban colonel executed in 1989 for drug trafficking, gave their testimony, adding to what some House members say is a growing account of the island nation's role in the drug trade. 
''Cuba used the drug trafficking route to send weapons to Colombia and in exchange they paid them with favors; for example, many of them bring the drugs through Cuba,'' Masetti, who now lives in Spain, told the committee. Masetti, who claims the Cuban government helped finance a 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo armored truck in West Hartford, Conn., which netted $7.2 million, also told committee members he saw diplomatic pouches filled with dollars presumably drug profits in low denominations brought into Cuba. ''These bags were brought, one half to the Ministry of the Interior, the other half to Jose Naranjo, aide to Fidel Castro,'' Masetti said. De la Guardia, the daughter of Cuban Col. Antonio de la Guardia, testified that her father took the fall for higher-ups in the government. She said her father did not have the rank to give drug traffickers' planes free passage through Cuban air space. ''This had to come from a higher level of authority, namely, Raul Castro,'' she said. Cuba has denied the allegations. But committee members said there is evidence the Cuban government has been involved in drug trafficking. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., cited the seizure of a 7.5-ton cocaine shipment by Colombia's narcotics police Dec. 3, 1998. House committee members said they believe the shipment was destined to pass through Cuban waters before reaching the U.S. The House committee members want Cuba added to the U.S. government's so-called ''Major's List'' of drug-trafficking countries. The campaign for Cuba's inclusion on the list is being led by Reps. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, and Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has said there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that Cuban leadership is involved in drug trafficking. Cuba maintains it does not have the resources to patrol these large areas, especially its territorial waters. But those on the congressional panel scoffed at that assertion, saying the fact that the Cuban government was able to send two MiG fighter jets to monitor the flight of an American pilot in a civilian plane over Havana this weekend, indicates Cuba is able to monitor its territory. ''I've been convinced for a long time, but it was important to hear a witness who could directly corroborate the Cuban government's participation in drug-trafficking activities,'' said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. Ros-Lehtinen said she wants criminal charges brought against Cuban President Fidel Castro. ''The only way to get to that point is to have an investigation that the U.S. Justice Department has to undertake, but they are unwilling to do it,'' she said. Jim Kennedy, a White House spokesman, said the issue is a top priority for the president. ''We have helped push federal spending to combat drugs by nearly 40 percent,'' said Kennedy, who denied the president is hedging in pursuing an investigation. ''(The) allegations have absolutely no basis in reality.'' Published: January 3, 1999 Copyright 2000 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing, Inc. Related Article:Clinton Leaves Cuba Off of Drug Problem List - 11/19/99
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Comment #1 posted by Chris Campbell on January 03, 2000 at 19:29:22 PT:
Glad to hear the war on drugs is helping to put more arms in the hands of Cubans. I wonder if they still remember the Bay of Pigs?
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