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U.S. Says Cuba is Cooperating in Anti-Drug Efforts

INTERNATIONAL

Summer 1999

On May 7, General Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced that Cuba was not involved in drug trafficking and is cooperating with U.S. efforts in combating the illegal trade in the Caribbean. "Poor Cuba. Location puts it in the path of international drug crime. . .But I do not see any serious evidence, current or in the last decade, of Cuban Government overt complicity with drug crime," McCaffrey said in remarks at the Woodrow Wilson Center, an international affairs institute ("Cuba Cooperating to Combat Drug Trade, U.S. Official Says," New York Times, May 8, 1999, p. A3).

Washington has not had diplomatic ties with Havana since 1961. McCaffrey said Cuban authorities had continued to maintain contacts with the Coast Guard and had responded positively to drug-related intelligence provided by the U.S. He said that Cuba wanted to cooperate with the U.S. on the drug problem as a way of opening a dialogue.

McCaffrey cautioned that Cuba does not possess the resources necessary to counter large drug trafficking organizations. Only a small percentage of the drugs smuggled into the United States are routed through Cuba, but, McCaffrey said, the island's location and a growing tourist market could make it a prime area for drug traffickers to target. "I don't think it's a significant problem on balance yet, but as we look to the future, my own assumption is that it will become one. . .It's worth being worried about" (Associated Press, "Drug chief: Cuba willing but weak, Island ripe for exploitation by smugglers," Star Ledger, May 9, 1999, p. 4).

In an effort to improve U.S.-Cuban cooperation in interdiction, the U.S. deployed four Coast Guard and State Department officials to Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) characterized the event as another Clinton administration attempt at "appeasement and collaboration" with a Cuban regime that is deeply involved with the drug trade (Juan O. Tamayo, "U.S. Officials to Visit Cuba, Discuss Cooperative Efforts in Drug War," Miami Herald, June 19, 1999).

On June 25, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) introduced a measure (H.R. 2365) authorizing the U.S. government to open negotiations with Cuba to provide for increased cooperation between the two countries on drug interdiction efforts. "It doesn't make sense to reject Cuba's offers for closer cooperation with us when it is well known that Cuban airspace and territorial waters have become favored routes for traffickers moving drugs from South America to Florida" (Press Release, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, June 25, 1999).

U.S Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart - 404 CHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-4211, Fax: (202) 225-8576, Web: <http://www.house.gov/diaz-balart/>.

U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel - 2354 RHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-4365, Fax: (202) 225-0816, E-mail: <rangel@mail.house.gov>, Web: <http://www.house.gov/rangel/>.