On 14/12/2011 18:22, Viejo Vizcacha wrote:
> On Dec 14, 9:46 am, PL<pl.nos...@pandora.be
>> Ex narco colombiano implica a Fidel y Raúl Castro en narcotráfico
> Se creen que somos todos tontos.
Tu crees que la gente son tontos.
09/08/2005 - 00:02
Vinculan a Castro con el narcotráfico y revelan la fortuna del dictador
El libro "El gran engaño", que comenta el Nuevo Herald, denuncia las
relaciones del cubano y su hermano Raúl con la droga, y revela la fortuna
del dictador, estimada en u$s1.400 millones.
Raúl con el narcotráfico internacional volvió al ruedo con la reciente
publicación de "El gran engaño", un libro que otorga al gobierno cubano el
apelativo de Cartel de La Habana.
El libro del analista político y periodista internacional alemán-uruguayo
José Antonio Friedl asegura que Cuba nada tiene que envidiarle a otros
carteles de la droga.
El Nuevo Herald dijo ayer que para Friedl, Fidel Castro se encuentra entre
las personas más ricas del mundo, de acuerdo con la revista Forbes, con un
patrimonio estimado en u$s1.400 millones, y ocupa el décimo lugar entre los
200 hombres más acaudalados de la Tierra.
Esa fortuna de Castro, dice Friedl citando a Forbes, está representada en
depósitos en diferentes países y bancos a través de testaferros.
El libro editado en Buenos Aires por la Editorial Santiago Apóstol ofrece
evidencias y narraciones sobre los vínculos con el narcotráfico por parte de
Raúl Castro y del propio Fidel.
Quien fuera secretario privado y jefe de seguridad del extinto
narcotraficante Pablo Escobar Gaviria, había anticipado en mayo que
revelaría cómo Raúl Castro, vicepresidente cubano y hermano de Fidel Castro,
mantuvo estrechos y constantes contactos con el cartel de la cocaína de
Medellín y protegió durante años embarques de droga que llegaron a Miami a
través de Cuba.
El que estaba enterado era Raúl, nunca se supo si Fidel sabía, aclaró, quien
tras un silencio de 12 años en prisión acaba de propiciar el arresto del ex
senador liberal colombiano Alberto Santofimio Botero al que acusa de haber
convenido con Pablo Escobar el asesinato, en 1989, del candidato
presidencial Luis Carlos Galán.
El libro de Friedl es una compilación de publicaciones y documentos
oficiales dispersos y algunos inéditos, en su mayor parte norteamericanos,
que en diversas épocas se ocuparon de recoger información sobre el tráfico
ilícito de drogas y el gobierno cubano.
"El gran engaño" revela cómo Fidel Castro y su régimen se alimentó por
primera vez en 1956 con dineros del tráfico de marihuana.
En los archivos del FBI figura, a partir de 1958, documentación según la
cual desde La Habana ya se articulaba por entonces una primitiva red de
narcotráfico que fue llamada Medellín-Habana-Conection, presuntamente ligada
a la desbordante causa revolucionaria cubana.
Friedl cita informes desclasificados de agencias de seguridad
norteamericanas, según los cuales desde los años 60 Fidel Castro comenzó a
servirse del dinero de la cocaína.
El libro cuenta con informes y reseñas sobre las ya conocidas relaciones
entre el narcotraficante colombiano Carlos Lehder, los hermanos Castro, el
ex dictador panameño Manuel Antonio Noriega y el régimen sandinista de
Entre las principales bases que Raúl Castro puso en Cuba a disposición del
cartel de Medellín, a lo largo de los años 80, figuran la de Cayo Largo y la
del pueblo de Moa, provincia de Oriente, donde funcionó una de las plantas
Cuba and Cocaine:
Original Air Date: February 5, 1991
Written, Produced, and Directed by Stephanie Tepper and William Cran
Gen. del PINO:
Several times I received orders from Raul Castro's office and also from
General Abrantes's office to let the airplane cross over Cuba.
Mr. de BEUNZA:
[through interpreter] Perez Betancourt told me that Aldo Santamaria was
involved in drug trafficking. He said Aldo was following Fidel and Raul's
orders but he was doing it reluctantly whereas he, Perez Betancourt, say
that if he were the boss of the navy, he would be happy to do it because
they were Fidel's orders, and that surprised me.
Tony de la Guardia knew that Fidel was involved in drug trafficking. He was
the only living witness except perhaps Raul Castro and Abrantes who knew
that Fidel was involved in drug trafficking. Fidel had to get rid of him.
Note: video available at the site
CASTRO'S DRUG-RUNNING LINKS PART 1
By Ernesto Betancourt
The New Australian
Agosto 28, 2001
Castro's links to drugs go back to the time when he was in the Sierra
Maestra. When he survived the disastrous landing of the Granma in 1956, the
first local protector he had was Crescencio Perez, a local peasant "capo"
who controlled production and marketing of many crops, including marihuana.
When some of the revolutionaries realized who their savior was and
complained to Castro, he told them that for the time being they had to
depend on him. Such issues would be dealt with afterwards. Later on,
Crescencio became a peasant revolutionary hero.
Once in power, Castro was not, and still is not, averse to associate with
drug or any illegal or unsavory activity as long as it helps him stay in
power. There are four drug cases involving Cuban officials at the highest
level which have resulted in U.S. grand jury indictments:
a. In 1982, four high ranking Cuban officials were indicted by the Guillot
Lara Gran Jury for arranging a drug smuggling operation through which drugs
were brought into the U.S. in exchange for smuggling weapons to the M-19
guerrilla movement in Colombia, which was being supported by Castro. The
officers indicted included Admiral Aldo Santamaría, who was the Cuban Navy
Chief and one of the closest Castro collaborators; Fernando Ravelo,
Ambassador to Colombia and later to Nicaragua; René Rodríguez Cruz,
President of the Cuban People's Friendship Institute, a close Castro
collaborator, since deceased; and, Gonzalo Bassols, a Cuban diplomat
accredited to Colombia at the time. The most important of them in terms of
relevance to the issue under discussion is Admiral Santamaría. He was a
member of the Honor Tribunal condemning Gral. Arnaldo Ochoa!
b. One of the central events in the Noriega indictment and trial involved
Castro's mediation between Noriega and the drug cartel over the seizure of a
cocaine laboratory in Panama which Noriega had allowed to operate there in
exchange for a payment of $4 million dollars. According to the indictment,
Noriega traveled to Cuba on June 27, 1984, at Castro's request, on his way
back from Paris. Castro offered his good offices to settle the disagreement
between the drug cartel and General Noriega. A mediator role that requires
good relations with the drug lords. Good relations that extend to the
c. In 1989, Robert Vesco was indicted by the Carlos Lehder Grand Jury in
Jacksonville, Fla. for arranging safe passage for drug planes over Cuban air
space. According to the indictment, Vesco obtained approval from Cuban
authorities for this arrangement. Later on, in an interview over Radio
Martí, former Cuban Air Force Deputy Chief, General Rafael del Pino, who
defected in 1987, reported that all the planes flying over Cuba which veered
off from the approved air corridors for commercial and private aircraft, had
to be cleared with the office of Raúl Castro at MINFAR.
In a program broadcast over Cuban TV on the Ochoa trial, one can see an
indignant Fidel Castro calling SOBs those who pointed out Raul's involvement
in drug traffic. But, his indignation does not explain away the truth: only
Raúl Castro had overall command of the forces which allowed the smugglers to
land in Cuba and provided them radar assistance and protection from U.S.
Coast Guard cutters.
d. But the most worrisome of all the indictments for Castro was the one that
ended in the conviction, on April 23, 1989, of Reinaldo Ruiz and his son
Rubén. Reinaldo Ruiz was a cousin of Captain Miguel Ruiz Poo of Cuba's
Ministry of the Interior. The Ruizes were allowed by Cuban authorities to
land their plane at the Varadero Beach airport for refueling after dropping
their drug cargoes off the Cuban coast near the Bahamas. Drug smuggling
motorboats (lancheros), would come from Florida to pick up the cargoes.
Cuban Coast Guard radar monitored U.S. Coast Guard cutters and helped the
Alancheros evade them.
These four indictments provide ample evidence, from US judicial sources,
that the Castro regime, at the highest level, was involved in drug-running
activities. It has been claimed that these activities may have been
undertaken by rogue Cuban government officers on their own and without
Castro's knowledge or, much less, approval. Nobody who has the most limited
inkling of how the Cuban regime works could give credit to this explanation.
True, Castro wants the world to believe there is such a possibility because
he is in utmost fear of meeting the Noriega fate.
As will be shown in the next section, a search for the ability to deny any
potential Castro involvement in drug traffic was one of the reasons for the
Ochoa trial. Although, in order to avoid falling into the trap of
reductionism to a single cause, it is acknowledged that the need to dispose
of an emerging highly popular rival also played a role. Ochoa's actions
reveal the intention to challenge Castro's power monopoly in many
directions, in Cuba's relations with the Soviets, in directing military
operations overseas and in managing the drug traffic.
The Ochoa Trial, Drugs and the Castro Brothers
The implications of the last US indictment, the Ruiz case, require some
amplification because it is the central event leading to the Ochoa trial. It
is precisely the use of Cuban air space and refueling facilities, as well as
providing drug smugglers radar support to evade the US Coast Guard that was
one of the central issues raised during the trial against Ochoa. This,
despite the fact that, at no time during that period, was Ochoa in command
of the forces involved in controlling Cuban air space, territorial waters
and shores in the areas where these operations were taking place.
However, this does not exonerate Ochoa. He just did not realize the
consequences of becoming entangled with Ministry of Interior operations
fully approved by Fidel Castro and directed by his brother Raul. Once
discovered, Ochoa, along with some other key operatives, were to be made
sacrificial lambs to save Castro's good name and the reputation of the
Radio Martí was able to interview Reinaldo Ruiz in prison shortly after he
was sentenced in 1989. We were told we had to wait for the sentencing to
avoid the implication that what he said was the result of some plea
bargaining. In the interview with our reporter, Ruiz explained that he had
been involved in a MININT people-smuggling operation through Panama and
wanted to make use of it himself to get some of his relatives out of Cuba.
It was while he was engaged in this effort that he claims he was approached
by his cousin, Captain Ruiz Poo, to use his people-smuggling network for
drug smuggling into the U.S.
At the time, Captain Miguel Ruiz Poo was working for the convertible
currency (MC) operation of Cuba's MININT, which was headed by Colonel Tony
de la Guardia, another of the officers executed by Castro. Reinaldo Ruiz
claims he agreed to do it after some hesitancy. His son flew as copilot of
the planes landing at Varadero and he himself went into Cuba on various
occasions, enjoying VIP treatment from Cuban authorities. Reinaldo Ruiz
stated that, in some occasions, the Cubans even took him to Havana as a
government guest. Mr. Ruiz claimed in the interview that he had no doubt
that what he was doing had the approval of Castro. As an exile, he would
have never taken the risk of going into Cuba had he had any doubt about who
was behind those activities. A most plausible explanation.
But the Ruiz operation had been infiltrated by the DEA. The pilot of the
plane was an undercover DEA agent and he recorded in videotape many of the
conversations they had. The U.S. requested the extradition of Reinaldo Ruiz
from Panama early in 1988. According to Reinaldo Ruiz, he was surprised when
Panama granted the request. However, he was convinced all along that the
Cubans would get him out somehow before his being convicted. According to
the Norberto Fuentes report, Fidel Castro considered this setback was a
consequence of Raul's incompetence in handling the operation.
As far back as 1980, the Minister of Interior at the time, Ramiro Valdez,
stopped marihuana smuggling operations ordered by Fidel when Castro refused
to issue written orders to him to undertake them. In early 1983, the
Minister of Interior ordered Tony de la Guardia to make a feasibility study
for a drug money laundering center at Cayo Largo, south of Cuba, and de la
Guardia is also asked by Fidel to establish contacts with Pablo Escobar, the
Colombian drug cartel head. Castro initially delayed a proposal from the
Colombian M-19 movement to engage in an exchange of weapons for coca because
the proposal had been addressed directly to him by Jaime Bateman. Evidently,
after Bateman's death in an airplane accident, a more discrete arrangement
was made - leaving Castro out of the loop - that led to the above mentioned
Guillot Lara Grand Jury.
In the Fall of 1983 Fidel told Abrantes, who was really acting as Minister
of Interior, and two MININT officers, Jose Luis Padron and Tony de la
Guardia, that he wanted to be shown the feasibility of undertaking drug
operations while overcoming three obstacles: the requirements established by
Ramiro Valdez of written orders, the clumsiness of the Chief of the Navy,
Aldo Santamaria and other Raul collaborators, already indicted in the US, or
the level of formal commitment expected by the Colombian M-19. In other
words, as Fidel Castro was moving towards expanding his involvement in the
drug traffic, he wanted to ensure deniability for himself.
When Reinaldo Ruiz was convicted on April 23, 1989, the contents of some of
the videotapes recorded by the DEA undercover agent were given ample
coverage by mass media, among them one in which Reinaldo Ruiz is seen saying
that the money they were paying "went straight into Castro's drawers." He
also alleged that, on one occasion, while they were waiting at the Varadero
Airport tarmac, Raúl Castro was at the airport and one of his bodyguards
approached them requesting marihuana.
One can imagine the panic this caused among Castro and his collaborators.
Neglect of the fate of a low minion in the drug operation being run by Cuban
intelligence all of the sudden had entangled directly the revolutionary
leadership. And in an American court of all places. Plausible denial was no
CASTRO'S DRUG-RUNNING LINKS PART 2
By Ernesto Betancourt
The New Australian
Septiembre 1-2, 2001
According to one of the Cuban TV tapes of the Ochoa trial, it is precisely
on April 24, 1989, the day after the conviction of the Ruizes, that Captain
Miguel Ruiz Poo got a call from Major General Abelardo Colomé, a close
collaborator of Raúl Castro, who is now Minister of Interior and at that
time was head of MINFAR intelligence, inquiring on what was going on. In his
testimony, Colonel de la Guardia stated that he tried to calm down Captain
Ruiz Poo by explaining that General Colomé was inquiring about the status of
collections from the operation.
It is this conversation that led to the dramatic testimony seen later on in
the TV program covering the trial, showing Captain Ruiz' pathetic effort to
save himself by referring to comments by other accused officers about higher
ups being involved in the drug operation. After Captain Ruiz started sobbing
uncontrollably in the witness stand, he is hurriedly removed from the court
and the next day he is not allowed to expand on his clarification by the
prosecutor, while other witnesses are brought to deny that any involvement
at the highest level was ever discussed and to question that anybody had
grounds to even think of such a possibility. The reaction to the highly
emotional revelation of a clearly terrified witness reveals that the higher
ups involvement issue was central to the rationale for the trial.
One version of the Ochoa trial, which reached Radio Martí at the time, was
that Ochoa was preparing to challenge Castro. He had discrete encouragement
from the Soviets, Gorbachev had visited the island earlier in 1989, and was
not very pleased with Castro's defiant stance towards Glasnost and
Perestroika. General Ochoa twice attended Soviet military schools and
developed close links with Soviet generals when he commanded Cuban forces in
Ethiopia and Angola. Under this version, knowing about Castro's plans to
cooperate with the drug cartels in exchange for massive investments in Cuban
tourism, Ochoa sent his aide Captain Martínez, also later executed by
Castro, to meet Pablo Escobar in Colombia to get evidence for the challenge
he was planning.
Another, much more plausible version, emerges from the Norberto Fuentes
report. It reveals that Ochoa was distrusted by Raul, who sent General
Leopoldo Cintras Frias as Ochoa's deputy in Angola to try to control him. In
a preview of the trial that took place later on, on May 28, 1989, Raul gave
Ochoa a dressing down, while already under preliminary arrest, in the
presence of Grals Ulises Rosales del Toro and Abelardo Colome. Raul raised
with Ochoa, for the first time, the issue of sexual orgies, while adding as
factors under consideration that he:
i) openly disobeyed Fidel's orders in waging the last phase of the war in
ii) was developing too close a relationship with Soviet generals there (at a
time when Fidel had given orders to Minister Abrantes to start watching
Soviet contacts with Cuban officials);
iii) had supported the attack on La Tablada garrison in Buenos Aires by
Argentine guerrillas without having cleared it with his superiors; and,
iv) more worrisome of all, had established his own connection to Pablo
Escobar to engage in drug operations.
This last issue involved a project to build a coca laboratory in Angola in
association with Pablo Escobar; for which, Ochoa had asked Tony de la
Guardia to take charge of developing a marketing network in the US and
Western Europe. Up to that time, the drug smuggling operations undertaken by
Tony de la Guardia on behalf of the Ochoa/Escobar group, which had started
early in 1987, had generated small amounts of money, the rate was about
$1,200 per kg of coca, and were aborted on several occasions due to
sabotage, apparently encouraged by Castro. As a result, Ochoa was moving to
set up his own smuggling operation independent of the MININT MC Department.
From the Fuentes report, it is evident that Castro was engaged in many
simultaneous drug smuggling arrangements. In the end, Fidel emerges as a
distant Godfather, always in the background, having the final say in deals
with Vesco, Ledher and others. Some of the deals proposed involved
substantial amounts. For example, through one of Tony de la Guardia
subordinates, Lt. Col. Rolando Castañeda Izquierdo, Carlos Ledher proposed a
$ 7 million a week arrangement for regular shipments. That would generate a
flow of $ 364 million dollars a year. It is deals of this magnitude that
could explain how Cuba finances the gap in its balance of payments. In
another such deal, Abrantes, under Fidel orders, instructs Tony de la
Guardia to find buyers in Europe for $ 50 million dollars of coca.
Of all the sins of Ochoa, challenging Castro as the Cuban Godfather, was his
worst offense. It was not only a threat to Castro's absolute rule, it also
endangered his careful efforts at covering up Cuba's involvement in drug
smuggling. The Ruizes sentence precipitated events.
With his obsession to give a legal cover to the most arbitrary actions he
wants to undertake, Castro decided to orchestrate a trial to eliminate the
threat Ochoa presented to his leadership of the regime and, in the process,
to cleanse himself from any involvement in drug traffic. To ensure their
silence, he executed the four that not only knew about his entanglement with
drug trafficking, but were closely involved in Ochoa's operations.
Later on, he would also get rid of the Minister of Interior, Jose Abrantes.
Abrantes was dismissed as Minister of Interior as a result of the Ochoa
trial, but not because he was involved with Ochoa. Quite the contrary. He
was the executor of the Castro orders in relation to drug operations. It is
quite possible that Raul saw in the whole mess the opportunity of bringing
the MININT under this control. He was able to do so by placing Gral.
Abelardo Colome, one of his most trusted officers, in charge of the MININT.
After his dismissal, Abrantes was tried and sentenced to prison for omission
in preventing the corrupt activities of his subordinates. While in prison in
Guanajay, on January 18, 1991, he had a confrontation with Gral. Patricio de
la Guardia, Tony's twin brother, one of the defendants at the Ochoa trial
sentenced to prison. According to the Fuentes report, Abrantes told Patricio
that Fidel had authorized everything. Patricio was indignant upon the
confirmation that his brother was executed for having undertaken tasks
ordered by Fidel. On January 21, 1991, three days later, Abrantes died in
prison. +Granma reported he had a heart attack. Actually, it is reported he
died as a result of an overdose of a heart medicine he needed, a frequent
outcome in Castro's jails.
Those defendants in the Ochoa trial serving time in prison got a warning:
revealing the involvement of Castro in the drug operations could be a fatal
indiscretion. Meanwhile, as recent events reveal, Castro continues
tolerating drug traffic through Cuba, the crime for which he executed Ochoa,
free of any local competition in his role as Godfather.
For example, in January, 1996, Jorge Gordito Cabrera, was arrested in the
Florida Keys and charged with importing 6,000 pounds of cocaine. At the time
of his arrest, El Nuevo Herald reported he was carrying a photo of himself
with Fidel Castro. Later that year, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to
19 years in prison. To make the matter more bizarre, during the campaign
finance scandal, it was revealed that three weeks before his arrest, in
December, 1995, Mr. Cabrera had pictures taken of him with the First Lady,
Mrs. Hillary Clinton, at a White Hopuse Christmas party.
Before meeting with Hillary Clinton he had pictures taken with
Vice-President Al Gore at a Miami fund raising party. It turned out Mr.
Cabrera had made a $20,000 contribution to the Democratic Presidential
campaign at the urging of Mrs. Vivian Mannerud, a pro-Castro activist in
Miami who owns a company that provides travel services to Cuba. She had
approached him during a visit both had made to Havana earlier in 1995. The
funds were returned, of course, but the scandal remains.
A more recent drug incident took place on December 3, 1998 in Cartagena,
Colombia. That day the Colombian police seized 7 tons of cocaine bound for
Cuba to be transshipped later to Europe and the United States. According to
the head of the Colombian National Police, drug runners Aare employing a new
trend of loading cocaine into containers transported initially to Cuba for
distribution in smaller shipments to the United States and other
international consumer markets.
In this case, the shipment was made under the disguise of raw materials for
a plastic factory owned by two Spanish investors in a joint venture with a
Cuban government enterprise, which had 51 per cent ownership. Later on, the
Colombian police announced records of the firm involved revealed that there
have been seven or eight earlier shipments following a similar pattern.
Castro was enraged at the Colombians over making this incident public. In a
speech in January, 1999, he quoted drug arrests statistics to prove how hard
Cuba is fighting drugs. That Cuba is fighting drug smuggling is another
theme of Cuba's current propaganda. Unfortunately, there are some in the US
Government who believe that. They are even willing to share with Castro US
drug smuggling intelligence. However, others, in Colombia, claim that those
Castro is arresting are from rival cartels.
This idea is not as farfetched as it may appear. At the trial of the Mexican
Drug Czar, who was arrested two weeks after being praised as an honest man
by US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey, it was revealed that the Drug Czar,
General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, was using Mexican Army and Air Force
resources to help drug capo Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the so-called King of
the Skies, eliminate his competitors.
That means that the sophisticated equipment the US provided to the Mexican
army to fight drug smuggling was actually used by one of the capos against
his competition. Since, as is commented further down, Carrillo Flores had
close links with Castro, it is quite likely that the recent Castro efforts
to reach an agreement to have access to US intelligence and equipment were
intended to replicate that experience.
CASTRO'S DRUG-RUNNING LINKS PART 3
By Ernesto Betancourt
The New Australian
Septiembre 8-9, 2001
Cuba does not generate the savings required to finance investments. Hotels
are reported to be built with Cuban funds, one logical conclusion is that
Cuba is a huge money laundering center for the cartels. After all, wasn't
this Ochoa's plan? We will elaborate on this hypothesis using the figures
provided in the ECLAC report.
Some Relevant Indicators on Hotel Investment
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996
Room stock (000) 12.9 16.6 18.7 22.1 23.3 24.2 26.9
Additions (000) -- 3.7 2.1 3.4 1.2 0.9 2.7
Estimated investment (million US dollars) -- 370 210 340 120 90 270
Peso equivalent (million pesos @20 rate) -- 7400 4200 6800 2400 1800
Gross domestic investment (million pesos) 4872 2274 975 965 1036 1500
Domestic savings (million pesos) 2327 820 555 577 794 985 1380
Year end market exchange rate in pesos per dollar 7 20 45 100 60
Except the estimates for hotel investment in dollars and their conversion to
Cuban pesos, all the figures are taken from tables in the statistical annex
of the ECLAC report. Since no table is provided in the ECLAC report for the
flow of remittances, and the US$ 800 million figure is mentioned only in the
text, no equivalent numbers are available to compare for the years covered
in the above table. Some questions may be raised on the use of a rate of 20
pesos to the dollar to do the conversion of the investments to current Cuban
pesos. As can be appreciated from the last line, if anything, this rate
underestimates the pesos equivalent which in 1993 reached 100 to the dollar.
Therefore, it provides a conservative conversion to Cuban current pesos.
According to the tables provided in the ECLAC report, Cuba built 14,000
hotel rooms of international level quality between 1990 and 1996. The ECLAC
Report acknowledges that these hotels are built with Cuban financing. The
benchmark figure for hotel investment in the Caribbean is between 100 and
125 thousand US dollars per hotel room. Applying the lower figure to allow
for lower labor costs in construction in Cuba we arrive at a total
investment during the period of 1,4 billion US dollars.
The amount of dollars required would be lower if Cuba could provide more
inputs, however, the collapse of Cuban industry since the end of Soviet
assistance does not allow for use of local components other than labor,
cement and perhaps some steel bars for concrete structures. International
quality hotels require equipment above Cuban production standards. According
to ECLAC, even food items for tourism, such as eggs and chicken, are
imported due to the poor quality of Cuban production.
The contradictions and inconsistencies these figures reveal are related to
the relation between investment in hotels and total national investment and
savings reported in the national accounts. As can be observed, the peso
equivalent of the hotel investment in all years exceeds the figures reported
by ECLAC in its report for both gross domestic investment and national
savings. More so, when we consider that hotel building is not the only
national investment. There is a fact that is unquestionable: hotels have
As commented above, the information on foreign investment provided to The
Economist Intelligence Unit did not include hotel investment either. The
question is why do the aggregate figures from national accounts do not
reflect those investments. Unless there is some explanation resulting from
the techniques followed for computing the national accounts, the only
possible explanation is that financing for these investments has been
handled outside the conventional national accounts: money laundering or drug
What is the evidence supporting the money laundering hypothesis?
Here is where money laundering enters as another plausible explanation for
how investments in hotels are financed. Not only by the coincidence of this
massive expansion starting precisely the year after General Ochoa was
executed. As commented above, there was a hypothesis that Ochoa had
uncovered this scheme and was trying to document it to justify his challenge
to Castro. The other, more credible, hypothesis is that Ochoa was trying to
become a Castro rival as a capo in drug smuggling. Whatever is the actual
explanation, when Castro discovered what Ochoa was up to, he decided to turn
the tables on him and use the accusation of dealing with the drug lords to
discredit Ochoa and justify his execution.
Castro's involvement with the drug lords is more than documented by the four
grand jury indictments mentioned above. And this involvement did not end
with the Ochoa trial. The arrest of Jorge Agordito Caberra, with a photo
with Castro, raises the possibility Castro was considering gaining some
influence, a la Chinese, with the Clinton Administration.
The cocaine shipment seized in Colombia in December, 1998, one of seven or
eight previous ones, owned by foreign investors who were partners in a joint
venture with the Cuban government could take place only with some previous
clearance by Castro himself. The fact no regime official has been fired or
prosecuted for acting on his own, points to Castro as the approving
authority and not the doings of some rogue officer. It is evident drug
smuggling has survived the Ochoa execution, and so has money laundering, but
following another tract.
Over the years, Castro's practice has been to handle dollar transactions
through his own substantial personal accounts overseas, the so-called
"Reserva del Comandante." This was revealed by Jesús M. Fernández, who
defected in May, 1996 and had had access to the highest level of financial
management within the regime. He reports that these private Castro accounts
were used to channel Soviet financing of Cuba's military operations
overseas, subversive activities and the CIMEX enterprise, later replaced by
the MININT's Department of Convertible Currency.
This is precisely the agency where Colonel Tony de la Guardia worked when he
was involved in drug deals. According to Mr. Fernández, these private
accounts are also used for those economic sectors under the direct
supervision of Castro, such as pharmaceuticals and tourism, as well as
Ministry of Interior overseas operations generating convertible currencies.
It has been established by DEA that the weight of the money generated by
drug sales exceeds the weight of the drugs themselves. Therefore, disposing
of the money involved in the US alone - with more than $100 billion in
retail sales yearly - is a process of industrial proportions. Trailer trucks
cross the US-Mexico frontier with full cargoes of US dollars. According to a
report on money laundering in The Economist, the fee at that time for
helping the cartels launder their money had increased to between 25 and 28
per cent. In the argot of the money launderers, this is called
"discounting," the cost of making a drug tainted dollar a tradable dollar.
Ironically, through the prohibition of legal remittances in 1996, the US
Government provided an excellent cover-up for money laundering. Money
started reaching Cuba through so-called "mules." That is, people who
traveled to Cuba through third countries carrying tens of thousands of
dollars in cash. By depositing these monies in Cuban government accounts,
or, more likely, in the accounts of the Comandante's reserves, the money is
The death of the "Lord of the Skies," Amado Carrillo Fuentes, has lifted the
veil of another potential avenue for money laundering. According to a report
published by The Miami Herald, Mexican authorities have obtained evidence
that Carrillo Fuentes was a guest at a protocol house of the Cuban
government during his frequent visits to the island. There is speculation
that among the alleged activities taking Mr. Carrillo Fuentes to Cuba was
money laundering. Authority for assigning protocol houses is vested
exclusively on Fidel Castro and his Chef de Cabinet, Dr. Jose Millar
Barruecos, is responsible for their administration.
Finally, Cuban defectors have mentioned that, among the attractions offered
to drug dealers visiting the Cayo Largo resort, a key south of the island of
Cuba, is the existence of banking facilities where money laundering is
performed. As was mentioned above, Tony de la Guardia was the MININT officer
commissioned to undertake the feasibility study to make this key a money
This analysis offers only an inkling of what is going on. There is no doubt
that there is a huge flow of laundered money worldwide and that Cuba is one
of the channels being used. It is also evident that in Cuba nothing of this
sort can go on without Castro's personal approval. Use of the remittances
scam to cover-up the huge gap in Cuba's balance of trade stands on shallow
ground. In conclusion, we can say that the available evidence indicates
there is an unquestionable impossibility of the remittances option offering
the main source to finance whatever is the balance of trade gap.
As to other sources, there is substantial evidence to conclude that Cuba is
engaged in drug smuggling and money laundering. This is a huge growing gap,
as is shown in the previously mentioned Table 4 of Jorge Perez Lopez paper,
which in 1998 registers a trade gap amounting to US$ 2,785 million.
Therefore, even accepting the US$ 800 million estimate for remittances,
there are two billion dollars more to explain.
However, there is not enough data to estimate the magnitude of the resulting
financial flows. All we have is a simple way to calculate how that gap may
be met through money laundering and drug smuggling. It reveals that to meet
the balance of trade gap, Castro needs four dollars in money laundering
transactions for each dollar in net proceeds and to smuggle a kilogram of
coca for each $ 1,250. Back in 1989, the US Coast Guard had reports of about
300 flights per year outside of the approved air corridors over Cuba for
private and commercial flights. It is such flights that make the coca drops
to be picked up by the Alancheros
At some future time, reliable estimates on drug trafficking volume may be
available and it may be possible to combine the data on volume with rates
and the money laundering fees to compute estimates of the involved financial
flows. But the lack of data for quantification should not deter us from
considering that drug trafficking and money laundering are the most
plausible sources for financing the Cuban balance of trade gap.
Cuba and narcotrafficking
by Jerry Brito | June 1, 1997
Cuba, Narcotraficantes, and Guerrillas
Despite vociferous claims by the Castro regime in Havana that Cuba is tough
on drugs and narcotics trafficking, it is a known fact among exiles, Coast
Guard & DEA agents, and perhaps the US government, that Cuba is in fact at
the center of the drug trade. It is also a virtual fact that Cuba has
supported revolutionary groups around the world and specially in Latin
America. It is the synthesis of these two interests that has created a
symbiotic relationship among the Cuban government, the narcotraficantes, and
The motivations for the major Latin-American drug organizations to come into
an arrangement with the Cuban government and revolutionary forces in Latin
America are two:
First, the most direct route between Latin America and Miami or the Florida
Keys is over Cuba. Flying directly over Cuba has several advantages
including having to carry less fuel and thus being able to carry more drugs,
and when in concert with the Cuban government, having assistance and
protection from the Cuban armed forces. For use of its waters and shelter as
well as assistance, paying up to $800,000 a run, the price is, "a bargain to
the cash-laden Colombian narcotraficantes."
Secondly, the guerrilla organizations in Latin America provide to them,
"discipline among the growers, protection from police and military
interference, and the promise of further government destabilization." Beyond
protection of hidden runways and securing areas from police or the military,
in Peru, Sendero Luminoso coaches the coca growers:
Because of the heavy influx of dollars, the regions where coca is grown are
characterized by violence, widespread alcohol compsumption, and general
disorderly conduct. [but] Sendero has actually increased coca production by
enforcing a more rigorous work ethic. Upon securing an area, the rebels,
adhering to their severe rhetoric, immediately close the local bars, discos,
and brothels, execute homosexuals, and banish prostitutes. Time previously
spent in hedonistic pursuits is redirected toward work on the farms. The
traffickers are thus assured of a more reliable source of the raw materials
essential to their trade.
Cuba's involvement in narcotics trafficking is also motivated by two
interests: the need for hard currency and the desire to support
revolutionary guerrilla groups in Latin America.
The need for hard currency is typical of most Soviet subsidized economies.
The Cuban economy after the revolution has been characterized by no growth
or negative growth and rationing becoming more and more severe. With this
constant crisis at hand, the Cuban government sought to establish
alternative methods of acquiring capital.
In 1974, the Departamento de America (America Department) was established by
Fidel Castro as a "counterbalance to the much larger and senior intelligence
service, the Dirreccion General de Inteligencia (DGI), which was 'colonized'
by the Soviet KGB." The DA falls within the General Department of Foreign
Relations of the Communist Party of Cuba and its chief, Manuel Piñeiro
Losada (a Castro confidante that served with him in revolutionary combat and
former chief of the DGI), reports directly to Fidel Castro. This department,
along with Castro intimate Tony De La Guardia's Ministry of the Interior
Department MC, sought to illegally circumvent the US trade embargo and come
up with creative ways of raising capital. Creative ways that would come to
include narcotics trafficking and money laundering.
Dr. Antonio Jorge of Florida International University, a specialist on the
Cuban economy has calculated the possible amounts of hard currency for Cuba
generated by trafficking in narcotics. He writes:
Using approximate figures relating to the total value at street level of
drugs of Latin American origin introduced by traffickers into the United
States, and making corresponding adjustments for the value at point of
origin of the fraction of the total going through Cuba or its environs and,
finally, calculating the percentage of that total likely to be appropriated
by the Cuban government in exchange for various services lent to the
traffickers, a highly conservative estimate would place the gross income
generated by those activities at around $200 to $300 million yearly.
Furthermore, the DA is the arm of the Cuban Communist Party charged with
lending support to Latin-American revolutionaries. After 1974, a Cuban
defector quoted by Roger Fontaine, journalist, scholar, and former NSC
Advisor, notes, "a major responsibility of the DA is to facilitate military
and sabotage training for pro-fidelista clandestine groups. The DA brings
members of these organizations to Cuba and then gets them back home. It
provides them with weapons, explosives and other materials" A relationship
with the drug cartels would prove fruitful in facilitating these objectives.
As New York University Professor and narcoterrorism expert Rachel Ehrenfeld
writes, "the relationship became close and symbiotic":
The DA coordinates with other Cuban officials (principally in the navy and
air force) to provide major drug smugglers access to Cuban ports and
territorial waters. For this service, the cocaine merchants pay millions of
dollars. The DA then uses the smuggling routes of the drug traffickers: a
pipeline though which tons of weapons and war supplies are funneled back to
Marxist insurgents in Latin America.
The motivations of the guerrilla movements become obvious. Their dealings
with drug cartels and Cuba is a major source of funding and weapons.
Resources they would otherwise be hard pressed to attain. Weapons are bought
from or given by Cuba, and smuggled to them by the drug cartels. Funding
comes from the sale of narcotics as well as "by taxing drug growers and by
guarding traffickers' airstrips and cocaine processing laboratories."
However, it is the synergism of all the above mentioned factors that explain
Cuba's success in the drug trafficking business. Guerrilla terrorists use
drug trafficking to gain cash to finance their operations and acquire arms.
Drug traffickers use terrorists and terrorist tactics to insure the source
of their supplies and the discipline and integrity of their organization.
Cuba, then, is in the middle, providing assistance to both sides.
The Cuban Connection
How it is Done
Without going through Cuba, the most direct passage from Colombia to South
Florida takes you through the Windward Passage, a narrow strait that
separates the eastern tip of Cuba and Haiti. It is so narrow that a small
error in navigation will put a vessel in Cuba's territorial waters. A
vigilant coast guard could then quickly seize and search the boat.
By the early seventies, this is exactly what was often happening. Many
shiploads of cocaine and other drugs would be seized by Cuban forces. The
ships and cargoes would be confiscated and the crew imprisoned. This
practice soon began to represent a great loss to the Latin-American drug
cartels, far bigger than that being leveled on them by the American coast
Case Study: Johnny Crump & Jaime Guillot-Lara
In 1975, the Cuban ambassador to Colombia was Fernando Ravelo-Renedo, an
agent of the DA. According to Fontaine, Ravelo was "a facilitator, a man who
knew how to use cut-outs, false documents, clandestine runways... a well
trained officer in clandestine, secret operations." The fact that at this
time Colombia was beginning to confront some revolutionary elements was not
the last reason why Ravelo was sent as ambassador. Colombia's M-19
guerrillas were trained in Cuba and were receiving advice from Ravelo who
suggested they finance their operation with narcotics.
That same year, the hurting drug cartels sought to reach an agreement with
the Cuban government by way of Ravelo. An agreement was reached whereby the
boats, cargo, and crews would be released and Cuba would provide protection
and assistance to future shipments for a price. It is important to keep in
mind that Ravelo reported directly to DA Chief Piñeiro, who carried out only
Another known meeting took place in 1979 where a "party" was given by
Colombian lawyer, and then important drug smuggler, Johnny Crump. Crump and
his partner Jaime Guillot-Lara met with Ravelo. Crump and Lara teased about
how great it would be to refuel in Cuba and Ravelo was completely receptive
to the idea. A few days later Crump met Ravelo and his deputy, DA agent
Gonzalo Bassols. This time an agreement was reached.
Crump would take a boat filled with drugs to Cuban waters where it could
stay for an indefinite amount of time while Lara would come from Miami in
speed boats, load up, and return. Not only did Ravelo and the DA sanction
the use of Cuban waters by Crump and Lara, but according to Crump, "not only
clear, but the coast guard would give protection to the boat." In Crump's
case, his boat was met and protected by navy ships commanded by Vice Admiral
Aldo Santamaria Cuadrado.
Once again, it is important to remember that the DA is not a government
agency, but a wing of the Communist Party. Therefore, any coordination with
the armed forces to give protection to the drug boat would have to come from
someone above Ravelo and Piñeiro. Fidel Castro is commander-in-chief of the
armed forces, and his brother Raul is the Minister of Defense.
To finalize the arrangement, Crump says he flew with Ravelo from Panama to
Havana where upon landing at the airport, there was an official car waiting
for him. He says that he did not have to present a passport or submit
himself to any check. While in Havana, he was wined and dined and did not
pay for his hotel or any other expenditures. He would only sign in as a
guest of the Cuban government. Every morning, a government car would pick
him up and take him to official engagements.
Crump says he was quite "confident and trust[ing] that all the Cuban
government was approving the operation." For one thing no one ever asked for
or expected a bribe leading him to believe that this was a government
operation and not that of corrupt rogue forces within the government.
Secondly, the highest ranking official he met with was Rene Rodriguez Cruz,
a member of the Central Committee and a friend of Castro's.
Johnny Crump was later indicted and tried in Miami for his operations. Along
with him, Ravelo, Bassols, Admiral Santamaria, and Rodriguez Cruz were also
indicted. Cuba brushed off the affair as American propaganda and appointed
Ravelo and Bassols as ambassadors to Nicaragua and Panama respectively.
Santamaria and Rodriguez Cruz were similarly never investigated.
Drugs Out, Arms In
The smuggling trade is governed by the same laws of business as any other.
Thus, it would seem inconceivable that the very effective speed boats that
smuggled drugs from Cuba to the US, would make their trips to Cuba with an
empty hull. We will see how many of the arms purchased by the guerrillas and
supplied by Cuba are of US origin, more specifically from Miami.
Guns from Miami
The testimony of former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida
Richard Gregorie before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs gives great
insight into the connection between arms and drug smuggling. Gregorie
explained the operation succinctly:
I had a long chat with [a high level informant] and he told me that
regularly his business for the cartel included taking representatives of the
cartels to the local gun shops in Miami and buying weaponry to send back on
the planes that were going down to pick up the dope and bring it back to the
United States. They had regular shipments that would fly back and forth from
the US and the guns would go down there."
Gregorie also recounts how he went to Miami gun shops with ATF agents to see
how these smugglers would operate. At the gun shops he was confronted with
night vision goggles, laser beam scopes, and assassination guns the size of
his middle finger. To him it was clear that none of these devices are used
for hunting. He says there are about three types of guns manufactured in
Miami which had grooves in the front of the weapon. Although the sales clerk
would have him believe the grooves were intended for a flash suppressor
(which in hunting seeks to not scare away animals), but which an ATF agent
told him would fit a silencer well.
Miami's gun business seems to have fashioned itself to cater to these
smugglers. An arsenal of guns, Gregorie says, "can easily be purchased by
getting a false Florida driver's license which is $150 on the streets of
Miami." Most of the time he says, it is not the smugglers themselves who buy
the guns, but rather pay a small fee to a patsy who will lie on the purchase
form and buy the weapons for them. In the event of a prosecution, smugglers
remain untouched. To add insult to injury, gun shops know to pay little
attention to the quality of a customer's identification or credentials.
Even if pressure is applied to the gun shops, smugglers can still attain
arms at the regular gun shows around the city:
The truth of the matter is you do not need a licensed shop because every
weekend in South Florida you have gun fairs and you do not need a license at
the gun fair to sell your collection of firearms. And, in fact, the NRA for
years has made it very difficult for the ATF to go to the gun fairs to see
whether there were people selling guns on a regular basis and should have a
license and did not. Again, the gun fairs are very poorly regulated and are
another location where a large number of weapons are picked up.
Furthermore, smuggling arms out of the US is not as difficult as smuggling
drugs in because the US Coast Guard is primarily geared to stop incoming
traffic, not outgoing.
Guillot Lara's involvement with the Cuban government did not end with
smuggling drugs from Cuba to the US. While apprehended in Mexico, Lara
acknowledge also purchasing weapons for Cuba which were ultimately for the
M-19 guerrillas in Colombia. According to the State Department, "Guillot
traveled twice to Cuba since October 1981 and that on the second visit he
received $700,000 from the Cuban Government to purchase arms for the M-19
Guillot then also helped the M-19 guerrillas load the weapons from his ship
to a Colombian plane they had hijacked. Security at the airstrip for the
operation was provided by five M-19 guerrillas. Furthermore, Guillot
supplied the M-19 with funds by way of a Panamanian bank. Coordination for
all these activities came from the Cuban embassy in Bogota.
In 1985, the M-19 guerrilla movement invaded the Colombian Palace of Justice
prompting a 28 hour siege. The Colombian military invaded the palace and
when it was all over more than 100 person lay dead including 11 Supreme
Court Justices, 39 other hostages, and 17 soldiers. The M-19 weapons that
would be recovered after the attack would give insight into their origin.
Many of the weapons were left charred by fire which made it difficult to
attain their origin. Half of the weapons were of commercial origin and the
other of military grade. Of the military grade, many were American made M16s
which were traced to various places. Some to Nicaragua (sold to the U.S.
during the Somoza regime), others to Cuba (sold during the Batista regime),
and to Vietnam where they were left after the US retreat (of which many were
later purchased from Vietnam by Cuba). What is interesting is that the guns
used in the attack match the types found in raids on several drug cartel
Also among the recovered weapons were 5 Belgian 7.62mm FAL rifles and 1
Israeli 9mm Uzi submachine gun. The State Department knows of purchases made
by Guillot-Lara, some from Miami arms dealers, including Uzi submachine guns
and 550 FAL rifles. They also have intelligence confirming that these guns
were diverted to Colombia.
Case Study: Reinaldo Ruiz & Son
There are various cases one can look at for insight into the Cuban drug
transshipment operation. In fact, a 1986 confidential US government report
acknowledges that it had recorded up to 50 instances of direct Cuban
involvement with drug trafficking. Some include the Mario Estebez Gonzalez,
Jose Alvaro-Cruz, and Osiris Santis cases which all directly dealt with the
Cuban government and include allegations of meetings with Castro himself.
However the Reinaldo and Ruben Ruiz case embodies the clearest picture we
have of a drug transshipment via Cuba, and would later unravel unprecedented
events on the island.
Reinaldo and Ruben Ruiz were a father and son smuggling team operating out
of Miami. In 1987 the DEA were secretly investigating the Cuban-American
Ruiz family and the Cevalloses from Colombia. The evidence that would be
caught on video and audio tapes would be startling.
In one instance of the video Reinaldo Ruiz says, "How about if I get
permission to refuel down there in Cuba," to which his counterparts where
very receptive. Ruiz had contacts and relatives in the Cuban government with
whom he had reached an agreement. He was then able to transship and secure
the Cevallos's shipment via Cuba.
First a boat traversed the Florida Straits to Varadero, Cuba and was
received by a colonel who is the Chief of Naval Operations there. The coast
guard then escorted the boat to a secure and out-of-the-way dock in Varadero
where a permanent detachment of the Cuban coast guard keeps watch on the
boats docked there. According to Ruiz, "[The coast guard] received me, but
the boat in a place, you know, so it cannot be found, take me to shore, and
make me contact with Padron, or Miguel or Eduardo."
At this same time, his son Ruben, was to go to Colombia and collect the
cocaine. He then flew with it to Cuba where he used a special call number
that allowed him to fly over Cuba without any interference and land. Cuba
would ask the incoming plane to identify itself at which time he would read
them the code number. After this, he was cleared to travel over even the
most restricted air space.
Reinaldo Ruiz says that his son was told to fly through heavily guarded
military airspace. He says his son expressed concern to the Cuban air force
colonel who gave him the code: "My son told him, 'Well, I am crossing all
the Western part of Cuba.' [The colonel said], 'It doesn't matter, don't
worry about it, nobody will hurt you. The air force is at your service
tomorrow.'" Ruben Ruiz is seen on the surveillance tapes bragging about his
Let me tell you something. This is something, I'm not lying to you. I've
flown to places in Cuba nobody does. I'm talking military runways. I'm
talking camouflaged MIG-20s, MIG 23s, OK?
When Ruben landed in Varadero, the senior Ruiz says, the military airport
officials were not surprised and it seemed this was routine. The unloading
of the plane was done out in the open. The plane was moved to another wing
of the airport, the shipment was unloaded, and the plane was refueled. The
Ruizes were then treated to a shower, and rest and relaxation. Ruben, again,
is seen on the tape describing this:
And you sit on a table, about half the size of this, your office here, where
you've got big pork legs, this big, and you got big steaks this big, and
you've got big things this big of rice for about seven or eight guys, OK?
Nobody eats that way over there.
From the airport, the drugs were transported to the waiting boat with a van
which according to Ruiz was provided by the Department of the Ministry of
the Interior. The drugs were then loaded on to the boat which then set sail
for the US. However, it would not sail alone.
The Ruizs' boat would be escorted out by a coast guard cutter. Once reaching
the extent of Cuban waters, the cutter would scan the Gulf with its radar,
and then give the signal to continue. Ruben is also seen explaining this:
Would you believe me when I tell you something? You know the big military
coast guard boats? The ones that are equipped with all the radars and
everything? Cuba's got that. And they scan the whole area out, man. And they
tell you, "Go this way, go that way," you know.
With the Ruizs' arrest and the seizure of their boat, it was now impossible
for Cuba to ignore the allegations of its involvement with drug trafficking
simply dismissing it as American propaganda. In one of the tapes, it is
commented that money paid for one of the last trips "was in Fidel Castro's
drawer." Cuba had to be seen to take action.
Case Study: Arnaldo Ochoa & Tony de la Guardia
Reinaldo Ruiz's contact in Cuba was Miguel Ruiz Pao, his cousin. In a post
plea debriefing he named Ruiz-Pao, Amado Padron, and Colonel Tony de la
Guardia as his business partners on the island. The evidence was
irrefutable. In June, 1989, the Cuban government rounded up Ruiz, Padron, de
la Guardia, General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, and ten others and put on the
biggest state trial in 30 years.
Tony de la Guardia
Tony de la Guardia was one of Fidel Castro's closest friends and confidants.
As was sated above, he was in charge of the Ministry of the Interior's
Department MC which is in charge of coming up with creative ways of
acquiring hard currency and foreign goods, as well as other covert actions.
According to Ruiz, de la Guardia was one of the seven men in the line of
succession to Castro.
Professor Enrique Baloyra of the University of Miami, who has studied the
Ochoa drug scandal gives a clearer insight into de la Guardia's relationship
with Fidel Castro:
If he ever loved the company of a person, or a type of person, Tony de la
Guardia was that type. Like a favorite son. Someone who could come into the
room, Fidel would be talking to someone else, and Tony would just barge in,
walk straight to the kitchen, open the fridge, pour himself a glass of milk,
sit in the sofa, drink his milk, observe what was going on, and then lean on
the sofa and fall asleep. The most comparable standard we have, possibly, is
the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Oliver North.
It is strange, then, that de la Guardia would be running drug smuggling
operations without Castro's knowledge, or at the very least as a form of
government sanctioned covert activity.
General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez was a "hero of the republic." He was one of
the highest level military commanders in Cuba, a member of the Communist
Party's Central Committee, a close friend of Raul Castro's, and has fought
with Fidel during the revolution. More importantly, he had led
internationalist forces in Angola, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua.
Ochoa's popularity was overwhelming and was seen as a rival to Castro. As
He was very popular at the time of his arrest, especially among the veterans
who returned from Angola and had to face the harsh reality of empty promises
of the good life that should have been theirs after fulfilling their
military duties. hundreds of veterans lined up daily outside Ochoa's home in
Havana to bring their grievances before him, and. [Ochoa was sympathetic].
Furthermore, while Castro was opposed to the Soviet led policy of
perestroyka and opening up, Ochoa was a supporter. He had been schooled and
trained in the Soviet Union and his support of perestroyka was open. Ochoa
was a threat to the Castro brothers "judging from his popularity and
considering the effects of Gorbachev's visit only six weeks earlier."
If there ever was a model for a show trial, the Ochoa-de la Guardia case was
it. Ochoa was first court-martialed and stripped of his rank and medals.
Then at the criminal trial, his thirteen co-defendants waived the right to
legal counsel and made "teary confessions," begging for the maximum
All foreign observers were banned and no outside press was allowed to
witness the proceedings. The trial was videotaped and, after a two day delay
for editing, was broadcast nightly. On the military tribunal which sentenced
Ochoa and Ruiz-accomplices de la Guardia, Padron, and Martinez sat
Vice-Admiral Aldo Santamaria Cuadrado, himself indicted for drug smuggling
in the US.
His execution is also very questionable because unlike the others who were
executed, Ochoa was accused only of making contact with international drug
dealers, "made agreements, attempted, and possibly cooperated, with some
drug trafficking. [my italics]." The evidence against Ochoa only addressed
possible conspiracy to commit the crime. He was executed nonetheless.
According to Fontaine:
The show trial in Havana lumped two people together, Tony de la Guardia and
Arnaldo Ochoa. In fact, Ochoa, who was a hero of the revolution. had no
involvement in drugs. The trial was really about Tony de la Guardia and his
involvement in drugs. No question he was, he admitted it, he only thought he
had been given orders from Fidel to do exactly that.
DEA reports confirm this, stating, "at this time we cannot determine if
General Ochoa was part of the scheme. although General Ochoa pled guilty,
the DEA has no information concerning his involvement in drug related
Furthermore, how could Ochoa have been involved in drug smuggling if he had
been outside of the Western Hemisphere for the previous ten years? Also, of
all the agencies which evidence suggests where involved in the smuggling
operations, "including the intelligence agencies, the interior ministry, the
Cuban navy and coast guard, and the air force," the army, of which Ochoa was
a part, seems to be "a major exception."
More to the matter at hand, all the persons tried at the hearings denied any
involvement at a level higher than theirs and denied that the smuggling was
a covert operation. One of the more dramatic moments of the trial was the
testimony of Ruiz Pao. The shaking and crying Ruiz commented that he had
been told by superiors and peers that they either knew or where under the
impression that the operation had been sanctioned "at the highest level."
Despite this testimony, the military officials charged with representing the
accused did not try to develop this line of questioning.
In the end, Ochoa and those who were directly linked with Reinaldo Ruiz were
executed. The other defendants received sentences ranging between 10 and 30
years imprisonment. More incredibly, however, the smuggling did not only not
decrease during (and immediately after) the trial, but in fact increased.
The American Connection
The Lack of US Action
The question which perplexes investigators into the Cuban narcotrafficking
case is, invariably, Why has the US not intervened? As it now stands, four
high ranking Cuban officials including Navy Admiral Santamaria and Central
Committee member Rodriguez Cruz are considered "fugitives" by the Justice
Department. Also, in 1993, Federal prosecutors drafted a proposed indictment
against 16 Cuban officials including Raul Castro and America Department
chief Manuel Piñeiro as the heads of a ten year conspiracy to funnel
Colombian drugs to the US via Cuba. The proposal has never reached fruition
because US officials feel "it is not strong enough to warrant prosecution."
Most disturbingly, however, is the fact that "the evidence against Castro is
already greater than the evidence that led to the drug indictment of former
Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega in 1988." The evidence includes a photo
of Castro with drug smugglers seized by DEA at the drug smugglers' car in
Miami. So why won't the US intervene?
One possible reason is that the US did not want to tense relations with the
Soviet Union during the Cold War. An intervention in Cuba would certainly
have had that effect. However, one can criticize this argument citing a
surprisingly legitimate threat to the US's national security as it related
to drugs and to guerrilla insurgency in Colombia. Furthermore, the US hasn't
had to worry about a Soviet reaction for over eight years.
However, there is another plausible, if not incredibly conspiratorial,
reason for a lack of US intervention. Although it does not account for
post-Cold War opportunities to intervene in Cuba, the testimony of convicted
drug trafficker George Morales before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism,
Narcotics, and International Communications in 1987 raise possible questions
about the CIA's involvement in narcotics trafficking. If the CIA or the US
backed Nicaraguan Contras were to benefit from Cuban transshipment of drugs,
it might shed some light on the otherwise cimmerian question of US
Case Study: George Morales & the CIA
George Morales was a wealthy Colombian businessman who became involved in
drugs smuggling because he was a speedboat aficionado and pilot; he has won
several international cups and holds several world records. In 1987 he
testified before a Senate subcommittee on narcotics about his involvement in
dealings with Cuba, the CIA, and the Contras.
Morales admits laundering money via Cuba. He says that Cuban officials would
transfer any amount of money he would give them to any bank he wanted for a
fee of 10 percent of the amount. He also repeats what has been seen in
previous cases; he was given a special code to fly into and over Cuba:
In my drug relations with the Cuban Government, I used to fly over their
airspace with a special code allowing my plane to go trough, on top of Cuba,
to save the time that I would have had to go around.
Morales places his involvement with the Cuban government from early 1980 to
1984 - 1985. He also says that when he was indicted in the US on drug
charges, Cuban officials offered him safe haven in Cuba including a house, a
runway, and bank transactions. He accepted the house, bank transactions, and
a "code to go in and out of Cuba without no problem whatsoever."
Morales's indictment from which he was offered protection by the Cubans came
on March 3-6, 1984. Morales recounts how less than a month afterward he was
introduced to three men who, according to Morales, "represent[ed] themselves
as being leaders of the Contras and also represent[ed] themselves as CIA
agents." The three men were Popo Chamorro, Octaviano Cesar, and Marcos
Aguado (Chamorro, although a Contra leader, did not identify himself as a
CIA agent). Morales also acknowledged that he was aware that they were both
Contras and CIA agents before being introduced.
The Contra/CIA agents approached Morales for "help, financial help, any type
of help." When asked to be more specific about the help solicited from him,
Morales responded that Cesar asked for, "airplanes, money, training,
weapons, explosives, any type, any kind of help." In return for his help,
the men promised him help with his legal problems related to the recent
Asked to be more specific about the legal help the agents were going to lend
him, Morales responded:
.I was facing one of the most critical charges because of my indictment. So
they promised me they would take care of the legal activities, the legal
activities I was charged for. Many times I talked to [Cesar] and he told me
that he had plenty of friends, being him, the CIA, can advise the superiors
about my financial support and airplane, and training, and, therefore, they
will finally, eventually take care of my problem, which they did. To an
extent, they did. As a matter of fact, they did.
The scenario in Morales's smuggling for the Contras is also familiar: drugs
in, arms out. Planes belonging to Morales and piloted by a Morales associate
would come into Miami filled with drugs belonging to the Contras. Morales
would then sell the drugs and give the money to the Contras. The plane would
then return filled with weapons; some supplied by the Contras in South
Florida, others bought by Morales himself.
Again the story repeats: Morales bought a "considerable" amount of weapons
and explosives from Miami gun shops. Questioning by Senator Kerrey is very
insightful into the ease with which guns can be acquired in Miami shops:
K: Now, in 1984 did you personally load weapons into an airplane in Fort
Lauderdale? M: Yes, I did. K: Did you see those weapons? M: I bought them.
K: Where did you buy them? M: I bought them, some of them I bought them in
the gun shop in south Miami. K: What kind of weapons were they? M:
Machineguns, automatic rifles, high powered rifles, pistols, explosives. K:
Were these fully automatic rifles? M: Oh, yes. They were. K: Did you buy
fully automatic rifles on the open market in Florida? M: I did. K: In what
quantity did you buy them? M: We sent many planes full of weapons down
there. I really don't recall specifically the amount of items, but it was
Morales also trained pilots for the Contras during this time, and beyond
buying guns for the Contras, he also helped in, "buying. supplies, safety
houses for them, in South Florida, buying equipment, different type of
equipment, boats, engines, boots, uniforms, whatever it was they needed for
them to have."
Keeping in mind that Morales smuggling drugs and arms for the Contras/CIA,
and that he had access to Cuban privileges at this time, Why would he not
take advantage of the Cuban connection? It would be just as beneficial to
these trips as any other. Possible critiques of this speculation are the
Why would the Cubans allow help to reach the Contras? And, Why would the
CIA/Contras allow Cuba to profit from its shipments to Nicaragua?
The first, and most obvious, answer to these question is that perhaps
Morales did not tell either party about the other. The Contras/CIA had no
idea about Cuba, and the Cubans did not know where the cargo was headed.
This however, seems implausible.
The second, and perhaps more feasible possibility is that neither cared
about the other's involvement. If this theory is correct, we can see that
the scruples of either party are not high at all: The Contras/CIA had no
problem bringing drugs in for US consumption and, according to Morales,
"[The Cubans] are in the business to make money. So any type of, sort of
speaking, any type of business, they're willing to do with you, especially
with you well known in the business, like I was in those times."
Therefore, if in fact the CIA was benefiting from the use of Cuba as a
transshipment point, then it might explain the lack of American
intervention. Alternatively, perhaps Cuban knowledge of CIA involvement
which the US could not afford to surface is to blame. Whatever the case,
these scenarios still do not explain post-Cold War opportunities for the US
to intervene; leaving many very perplexed.
In fact, as we shall see, despite mounting evidence of Cuban involvement in
narcotics trafficking, today, the US's official stance towards Cuba's role
with drugs has been more and more relaxed and forgiving.
Indisputable Evidence Falls on Deaf Ears
Today, the evidence against the Castro brothers is more insurmountable than
ever. Case after case has continued to compile, adding to the veritable
mountain of proof available. However, if one was to list the newspaper
headlines related to Cuba and drugs in chronological order, one would find
that around 1990-91, the headlines proclaiming Cuban involvement in
trafficking began to change to praise for Cuba's war on drugs. This is
further reflected by the Clinton State Department's statements regarding the
link between Cuba and drugs.
Case Study: Gordito and the Smoking Gun
On January 8, 1996, DEA agents learned from an informant about a drug
meeting that would be taking place that day at the Double Tree hotel in
Coconut Grove, Miami. Agents staked out the meeting which was attended by
three men, one of which they knew only as "Gordito." The other two men where
later identified as Juan Paan, a Cuban-American boat captain, and Alberto
Franco, a Colombian employee of the Cali drug cartel.
After the meeting, the three men were followed by agents to Don Pupo Fine
Quality Cigars, a wholesale cigar warehouse in West Dade County, Florida.
From here Franco and Paan took separate cars to a townhouse in Kendall,
Miami. The next day, agents raided the townhouse and the cigar warehouse.
At the townhouse agents discovered a total of 4,783 pounds of cocaine and
arrested Franco and Paan. Agents made another find of 352 pounds of cocaine
and 30 boxes of illegal Cohiba Cuban Cigars in a walk-in humidor at the
warehouse. Outside the warehouse, they arrested "Gordito" who turned out to
be Jorge Luis Cabrera, owner of one of the largest commercial fisheries in
the Florida Keys.
While searching Cabrera's car, agents found a briefcase. Inside this
briefcase was an electronic organizer, $25,000 in cash, a legal pad
inscribed with the name "Gordito," and several recent photos of Cabrera with
Fidel Castro and Piñeiro. Once facing life sentences, the men all agreed to
cooperate and told remarkably consistent stories.
A year earlier, Cabrera had traveled to Cuba, leading a group of
Cuban-American businessmen who wanted to do business with the island despite
the embargo. At one point a meeting was held which was attended by Castro
and Piñeiro. Oil exploration and other investments were discussed, but so
was drug trafficking. Castro was described to have a very warm relationship
with Cabrera, taking him aside twice for private conversations.
The actual shipment of the Cocaine that January took a different shape which
hadn't been seen before. Perhaps reflecting the post-Cold War realities, it
was a Colombian freighter loaded with soap, toilet paper, shampoo,
toothpaste, and other consumer products, which made its way from Colombia to
Cuba. After turning over the highly coveted toiletries, the freighter was
aloud to disperse it more precious cargo, 13,200 pounds of cocaine to speed
boats headed for the US. More familiarly, however, a Cuban gun-boat was
reported, in one case, to patrol around a speedboat which was being loaded.
The testimony of Gordito and his friends for the first time link drug
running to the highest level of the Cuban government directly. The Miami
Herald quoted sources close to the investigation saying they were amazed by
the proximity. They said, "The other [Cuban drug cases] never came close to
this. Those guys were dealing with colonels. These guys were dealing with
[Piñeiro]." The photo of Cabrera with Fidel Castro is further undeniable
proof of the extent of Cuban involvement, a virtual smoking gun.
After the Gordito drug bust, Cuba staged a number of highly publicized drug
seizures which were obviously done as a direct response to the allegations.
However, there has been no real response from the US. An indictment in the
matter is not likely to come because the Justice Department feels there is
not conclusive proof.
The case against Raul Castro and Manuel Piñeiro came close to indictment,
but was not approved by either the Justice Department or the White house.
Again, they felt that the evidence against the two was not sufficiently
More incredibly is the official position the Clinton administration has on
the matter. A position largely communicated via the Sate Department's Office
of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. In late 1995, Robert
S. Gelbrald, the Undersecretary of State for this department testified
before the House International Relations Committee on the matter.
Gelbrald's stance was that the US was willing to look at any evidence of
wrongdoing, but that to their knowledge, there was no real evidence linking
Cuba to the drug trade. Gelbrald, who introduced himself as the person who
"managed our Cuba policy in the previous administration," referred to the
Ochoa case with incredible lightness:
I am aware that in the past, certainly in the period of the late eighties,
1989, there was involvement on the part of Cuban officials, particularly
including some military officers, which resulted ultimately in, and
supposedly for that reason, in the execution of several officials.
Gelbrald gave no other details and this was the extent of his comments on
Cuban involvement. This in turn provoked a reaction from the Congressmen,
one of which said, "Well, it doesn't take someone who is an expert on what
is going on in Cuba to know that Castro was executing a political rival. and
for you to repeat that is very disheartening for me to hear."
Furthermore, in answers to Congressional questions submitted for the record,
Gelbrald continues his placatory efforts. Answers include statements such as
"We suspect that some corrupt officials may facilitate drug trafficking in
Cuba, but we are unable to determine the level of corruption [my italics],"
and the sentence, "Since the 1989 trial and execution of senior military and
Ministry of the Interior officials on corruption and drug-related charges,
the Cuban government has insisted its officials are not involved in drug
trafficking," which was used to answer over four different questions.
His office is also responsible for releasing reports which congratulate the
Cuban government for its continued efforts in the war on drugs and its
cooperation with the US. A report which has shocked the exile community and
followers of the Cuban link to drugs. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart
expressed this outrage by saying, "What planet are they on? The report seems
The Case Against Castro
The evidence presented herein is compiled from but a few of the dozens of
accounts and cases relating to drug smuggling and the Cuban government. Most
important among those not mentioned are allegations that Fidel Castro
mediated between Manuel Noriega and the Cali Cartel, and the refuge given to
notorious Medellin Cartel chief Carlos Lehder in Cuba.
However, on thing does remain clear: that the body of evidence available to
US authorities points quite conclusively to Fidel Castro and his closest
associates as responsible for the importation for mass quantities of illegal
narcotics into the US. Castro is at the center as a recap of the evidence
1.. Fernando Ravelo-Renedo, responsible for the Crump/Guillot-Lara
connection is an agent of the DA reporting directly to Manuel Piñeiro.
Manuel Piñeiro is a close associate of Castro who reports only to him. It is
important to underscore that Piñeiro was transferred by Castro as head of
the DGI, a government institution, to head of the DA, a party institution,
when it was created.
2.. Barring a secret alliance of which there is no evidence, neither
Ravelo or Piñeiro have the military authority necessary to order
Vice-Admiral Santamaria and his fleet to participate in drug operations.
Such an order would have to come from the military institution which Fidel
and his brother Raul command.
3.. According to the highest ranking Cuban defector, Air Force General
Rafael del Pino, the only person with the authority to give Ruben Ruiz
permission to overfly Cuban airspace, let alone military air space, is Raul
4.. Tony de la Guardia was a close confidant of Castro who was charged
with obtaining hard currency for the government. It is unlikely that he
could operate such a large organization without Castro's knowledge and
support. Furthermore, none of the profits from the Ochoa-de la Guardia case
(alleged to have been in Swiss and Panamanian bank accounts by the Cuban
government) have ever been demonstrated to exist.
5.. The photos of Jorge Luis Cabrera with Castro and Piñeiro are
unquestionable evidence of their involvement with narcotraffickers.
It is for these reason that it is perplexing why the US has not intervened
in the matter, especially when, as stated above, "the evidence against
Castro is already greater than the evidence that led to the drug indictment
of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega in 1988." It is further
incredible that the US has not intervened when the evidence reflects that
Cuba used the narcotrafficking route and profits to aid South American
rebels including the M-19 guerrillas. Lastly, to add insult to injury, the
recent passive tone of the Clinton administration in the face of such
incredibly convincing proof is daunting.