From: "Pedro Martori"
Subject: DRUG TRAFFICKING THROUGH CUBA ON THE RISE, INVESTIGATORS SAY
charset = "UTF-8"
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2002 01:44:30 -0500
NNTP-Posting-Date: Sun, 08 Dec 2002 01:44:32 EST
Organization: Bell Sympatico
DRUG TRAFFICKING THROUGH CUBA ON THE RISE, INVESTIGATORS SAY=20
HAVANA -- Cuba, once considered off-limits to drug trafficking, is
confronting a noticeable narcotics problem amid signs that the island
has become a conduit for multi-ton shipments of cocaine.
At first, police in Colombia thought it was an anomaly on Dec. 3 when
they seized a 7.2-ton load of cocaine packed in shipping containers
and bound for Cuba.
But Colombian authorities are now certain that smugglers have utilized
Cuba as a major transshipment point for cocaine before.
"No one dares to send 7 tons at one blow unless they've tested the
route," said a Colombian law enforcement source who spoke on condition
He said investigators looking into the Barranquilla, Colombia,
shipping firm that dispatched the drug-laden containers in December
found that the same company had shipped containers via Cuba on seven
previous occasions in 1997 and 1998.
"How much cocaine was sent? We don't know," the source said.=20
In the past, a few senior Cuban military officials have been accused
of helping to facilitate the flow of drugs through Cuban waters or
airspace, but this case is bigger and the drugs involved were touching
down on Cuban soil.
President Fidel Castro, admitting that the latest shipments may have
passed through Havana, recently demanded the death penalty for drug
"The harm that this is causing us, that this is beginning to cause,
isn't only a matter of prestige but also the foothold that this mortal
poison is gaining among our youth," Castro said in a tough speech on
crime Jan. 5.
Drug arrests increase=20
Reading from an Interior Ministry report, Castro said drug arrests and
seizures had almost doubled in 1998. Authorities seized 234 pounds of
cocaine in 101 busts, and 177 pounds of marijuana in 978 incidents
inthe first 10 months of 1998, he said.
"For possession and trafficking, 1,216 people were arrested, which
indicates the rise in this criminal activity," he read from the
Given Cuba's vaunted system of state security, the sale of cocaine and
marijuana was growing surprisingly common in Havana discotheques until
authorities flooded streets with police early this month, residents
say. The presence of narcotics has risen alongside Cuba's booming
tourism and the opening of the economy to foreign investors.
Castro accused two Spanish investors of masterminding the 7.2-ton
cocaine shipment seized in Colombia, saying Jose Royo Llorca and Jose
Anastasio Herrera fled Cuba for Spain because Colombia did not notify
his government quickly enough.
The two men are in Valencia, Spain, and have been notified by a court
in Madrid that they have become part of a criminal inquiry, their
lawyer, Salvador Guillem, told The Herald.
Guillem said neither Spaniard had anything to do with the cocaine and
that Havana may be seeking to confiscate some $550,000 in assets they
invested in a small factory that makes plastic souvenirs, ashtrays and
"Strains had developed with the Ministry [of Light Industry] and they
were in the process of negotiating the factory's closure. It's
possible this [drug allegation] is being used as an excuse by the
Cuban government to seize my clients' assets," Guillem said.
The cocaine seized Dec. 3 was packed in compartments hidden in six
shipping containers, police said. The containers were routed to
Havana via Kingston, Jamaica. The Barranquilla shipping company, E.I.
Caribe, had sent 20 containers in 1997 and 1998 to Royo's Havana
factory, Artesania Caribe Poliplast & Royo, Colombian authorities
Still unclear is any role Cubans may have had in facilitating the drug
In his speech, Castro maintained that Cubans were not involved: "No
signs have occurred that implicate Cubans in international narcotics
trafficking, although a few [Cubans] have not followed norms and
established procedures, thus allowing the activity to occur."
Castro said the two Spaniards rented 14 cabanas at Rio Cristal, a
palm-fringed resort near Havana's airport, for months at a time, and
sometimes hosted expensive and unruly parties.
He also said they had set up a financing office in Panama, GFA
Financial Group, that was offering $12 million in credit lines to
Cuban state companies in an apparent money-laundering scheme.
Not well known=20
The Spaniards kept a low profile in Havana's small business circles.=20
A French motorcycle vendor who visits Cuba often and is friends with
Royo and Herrera voiced shock at Castro's allegations.
"They are not guilty. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I am 99 percent
sure," Jean Louis Honteberi said in a telephone interview from
Biarritz, France. Of Royo, he added: "He doesn't have much money.=20
When I heard what Fidel Castro said about him, I thought, `This isn't
The drug seizure in Colombia was the second-largest in that country
last year, slightly surpassed by a bust four months earlier of drugs
bound for Mexico, police said.
Concern about the use of Cuba as a transshipment point led Cuba and
Colombia to sign a drug cooperation accord during a visit to Havana by
Colombian President Andres Pastrana this month. Colombia's national
police chief, Rosso Jose Serrano, told The Herald later that
cooperation between the two countries "is going well."
Charges of complicity in drug trafficking by Cuban officials have
surfaced occasionally. U.S. officials say they believe drug-laden
airplanes from Colombia have dropped cocaine packets in Cuban
In November 1982, a federal grand jury in Miami indicted four Cuban
government officials, including a vice-admiral of the navy, for
allegedly permitting smugglers to use the island as a transshipment
point for Quaaludes, marijuana and cocaine. The accused were never
In 1989, Cuban authorities ordered the firing squad executions of army
Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa and Interior Ministry Col. Antonio de la Guardia
for drug trafficking and treason.
And just two days before Castro addressed police, in early January, de
la Guardia's 34-year-old daughter, Ileana, filed suit in Paris, where
she is living in exile, charging that Castro knew of cocaine shipments
through Cuba by the Medellin Cartel in the late 1980s.