Drug-running: Latest psy-war smear against Cuba

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Jul 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/25/96
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[EDITOR'S NOTE: It looks as if the US propagandists are gearing up
for another run at attempting to smear Cuba with the "drug-running"
label. It's an old story; they've pulled this on countless "enemies"
from the Sandinistas to their old friend Manuel Noriega in the last
few years. This campaign was predictable, and indeed we did predict
it, especially after we noted with some amusement regular daily
visits to Prensa Latina's website from the UN Drug Control Program.
The CIA's criminal collective mind tends toward "drug-running" as a
psy-war device; it's an activity they know a great deal about, from
the poppy fields of Southeast Asia to the airfields of Mena, Arkansas.
This time, the CIA got its propaganda planted in the Miami Herald. Can
the NY Times' Howard French be far behind? -- NY Transfer]

Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 09:04:22 -0700 (PDT)
Posted in soc.culture.cuba by cub...@miles.netpoint.net

Traffickers Tie Castro to Drug Run.
By Jeff Leen, The Miami Herald. July 25, 1996

[A source said the investigation is important because for the
first time, agents have found someone who has had drug-related
meetings with the top level of Cuban officials.]

Several drug traffickers ensnared in a 5,828-pound cocaine bust
last January have told US drugs agents that they smuggled their
drugs through Havana with the personal approval of Fidel Castro,
sources close to the investigation have told The Herald. At the
time of the bust, agents searched one of the trafficker's cars
and found several recent photographs of the traffickers posing
with Castro at the time when the drug shipment was planned.

For several months, the allegations have been the focus of an
intense investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration. "This is the first time where they have got
someone who has had meetings with the highest levels of Cuban
officials all the way up to Fidel Castro," a source said. But
other sources say the investigation have not been able to obtain
a "smoking gun" that establishes Castro's involvement beyond the
word of the arrested traffickers. Without such conclusive proof,
an indictment naming Castro, even as only an unindicted
co-conspirator, is extremely unlikely, the sources said.

"You don't shoot the king unless you can kill him," a source
said.

The Cuban government strongly denied the allegations Wednesday.

"It's an outrageous lie," said Jose Luis Ponce, first secretary
of the Cuban Interests Section in New York.

So far, the case has not risen to the level of a federal grand
jury investigation, a stage that generally signifies that agents
have enough evidence for indictments.

Still, sources familiar with the investigation say that the
evidence against Castro is already greater than the evidence
that led to the drug indictment of former Panamanian strongman
Manuel Antonio Noriega in 1988. The Noriega indictment relied on
statements from six convicted traffickers as well as a
photograph signed by Noriega that was in the possession one of
the smugglers.

The Cuba case developed quickly --mere months after a single
seizure of drugs in January. The current witnesses were arrested
together in the same drag deal and the photographs of Castro
were found at the scene of the bust.

"There's a very compelling case that has been made against
[Castro]," a source said.

Sources say Cuban officials are aware of the Miami drug case and
staged a series of highly publicized drug busts in June to
dampen its impact.

"Cuba is very worried about this," said a source. "Castro knows
about this. That's what all those busts in Cuba were all about,
That wasn't some moral compulsion to do something about drugs.
That was a direct result of what's happening in this case.

The current case includes the testimony of at least four
cooperating witnesses, including several who say they personally
dealt with high-level Cuban officials when they brought a
massive l3,200-pound cocaine shipment from Colombia to Miami
through the Port of Havana in January. The bulk of the shipment
was never seized by U.S. officials.

"The other [Cuban drug cases] never came close to this, said
source. "Those guys were dealing with colonels. These guys were
dealing with Red Beard."

The informants say that the drugs came up from Colombia in early
January on a freighter loaded with soap, toilet paper, shampoo,
tooth paste and other scarce consumer products taken for granted
in capitalist countries. The freighter stopped at the Port of
Havana, where its prized cargo of toiletries was unloaded and
given to the Castro government.

The cocaine was allowed to proceed, unhindered, by speedboat
into the Florida Keys, the sources say. In one case, a Cuban
gunboat reportedly patrolled in a circle around a fishing vessel
that off-loaded to a waiting speedboat.

The men described a smuggling conspiracy that began about a year
ago, at a time when the U.S. trade embargo was tightening and
the Cuban government was seeking hard currency from foreign
investors.

"Cuba needs the dollars and perhaps some of the consumer goods
that are being offered by the Colombians," a source said. "And
the quid pro quo is allowing those [Colombian cocaine] factions
to flourish by doing their drug trade through Cuba."

The photograph of Castro and Cabrera, one of the detained men,
was taken when Cabrera and another man with a drug trafficking
past went to Cuba with a group of Cuban-American businessmen
from Miami in 1995.

The huge drug load was the third one the men brought through
Cuba. The previous loads were smaller, weighing in at a few
thousand pounds each. All together, the total smuggled
approached 20,000 pounds.

While the freighter sat in the harbor outside Havana, the
cocaine was off-loaded to Cuban fishing vessels. The smaller
vessels then ventured out into Cuban waters and handed the
cocaine to waiting speedboats, which took the drugs into the
Keys.

"This is new," a source said of the huge freighter shipment,
generally considered a high-risk method of smuggling cocaine.
"The Cuban protection made this a very feasible venture and way
to do it."

_________________________________________________________________________
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