Cuban officials were repeatedly frustrated by their attempts to engage Jamaican authorities on the issue of drug trafficking through Cuban waters and airspace, a U.S. diplomatic cable from Havana released by the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks reprinted here reveals.
The cable, dated 11 August 2009 and obtained via the cablesearch.org website, said the matter came to a head after the Cubans had captured three crew members of an airplane that had emergency landed on the island after dropping thirteen bales of marijuana in the Santa Ana Lucia Beach, in the Camaguey province on the northern coast of Cuba. The drugs were supposed to be offloaded into the sea where two go-fasts were awaiting the cargo, the cable said, but the airplane experienced engine trouble, the Cubans told U.S. officials.
Jamaica’s government has long had a problem with drug trafficking, but government complicity with drug traffickers came to the forefront in May when the government of Jamaica announced it would extradite Christopher Coke (shown in the photo), alias “Dudas” to the United States to face drug trafficking charges. Loyalists of Coke barricaded themselves into poor neighborhoods such as the Tivoli Gardens. The fighting left at least 75 dead, most of them civilians.
Coke later turned himself in, but not before the embarrassing revelations of the ruling Labour Party’s dependence on votes that the criminal syndicates like the Shower Posse, the one Coke ran from Tivoli Gardens, regularly obtained for its candidates, and the nearly nine months of stalling by Prime Minister Bruce Golding before honoring the U.S. extradition request. Jamaica’s legislature has launched a commission to investigate the Golding government’s decision to hire a law firm in the United States to lobby on Coke’s behalf against the extradition.
Golding released a statement on Thursday saying he replaced the head of the anti-narcotics unit following Cuba’s complaints, the Associated Press said in a report. In the statement, the prime minister said there had been “full and active cooperation between Jamaica and Cuba on counter-narcotics surveillance and interdiction, and no concern has been expressed by officials of the Cuban government.”
Two other things stand out from the document: 1) The U.S. cable says the Cuban government seems have a genuine interest in anti-drug matters; 2) The U.S. government’s level of engagement with the Cubans on drug issues.
The Cubans have an up and down history with drug trafficking and are often portrayed as being as lax as they portrayed the Jamaicans.
U.S. engagement, meanwhile, appears to be on the uptick. In his story on the leaked document, the Miami Herald’s Juan Tamayo says the document “hinted at an easy cooperation with Cuba’s anti-drug police, who brief the DIS [the Coast Guard’s Drug Interdiction Specialist] regularly on drug cases and invite him on trips to the provinces to inspect seized shipments. U.S. and Cuban diplomats in Havana and Washington generally cannot travel far from their bases.”
“U.S. proponents of improved U.S.-Cuban relations have long portrayed Havana as an important and eager partner in the fight against drug trafficking in the Caribbean,” Tamayo adds.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009, 13:32
S E C R E T HAVANA 000491
EO 12958 DECL: 08/08/2029
TAGS SNAR, PREL, SMIG, PGOV, CU, ASEC
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT OF CUBA FRUSTRATION INCREASES OVER LACK
OF JAMAICAN COUNTERNARCOTICS COOPERATION
Classified By: COM JONATHAN FARRAR FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) & (D)
1. (C) Summary: The U.S. Coast Guard Drug Interdiction Specialist (DIS) assigned to the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana, Cuba has spoken with Cuban Ministry of Interior (MININT) officials on multiple occasions, as recently as 4 August 2009, regarding their perceived lack of Government of Jamaica (GOJ) cooperation in attempting to curtail the flow of illicit narcotics to the Bahamas and the United States. Cuban MININT officials contend that narcotics smugglers from Jamaica are utilizing both Cuban airspace and waters to transport narcotics ultimately destined for the United States, but their repeated attempts to engage Jamaica on the issue have been ignored. End Summary.
2. (C) On 4 August 2009, DIS wrapped-up a two-day trip to Camaguey, Cuba where he received a briefing on the 5 July emergency landing of an aircraft, enroute from Jamaica, that dropped 13 bales of marijuana over a barren field in Cuba located southwest of Playa Santa Lucia in Camaguey Province. According to Cuban officials, the aircraft was destined for a pre-determined location over Bahamian waters where the narcotics would be dropped to two waiting go-fast vessels for eventual shipment to the United States. The crew of three discarded the contraband prematurely when they experienced engine problems.
3. (C) On 4 August, the DIS visited Joaquin de Aguero airport in Playa Santa Lucia where the smugglers’ aircraft is located; DIS was provided with further insight from airport officials as to how the case played-out, and how Cuban authorities responded. According to the Cuban Anti-Drug police (DNA), all three traffickers onboard the aircraft are being detained in Cuba. XXXXXXXXXXXX
4. (C) The aforementioned case follows a 27 May 2009 case in which a joint-interdiction of a Jamaican go-fast vessel in the vicinity of Playa Guardalavaca, Cuba, that resulted in the Cuban Border Guard seizing 700 kg of Jamaican marijuana. This, after the Cuban Border Guard interdicted the vessel in its waters utilizing real-time information from OPBAT, USCG District 7, and the USCG DIS in Havana. The DIS attended a briefing on this case with Cuban officials, and boarded the subject narco-trafficking vessel.
5. (S) While the DIS is often briefed via formal means on the type of cases mentioned above, side-bar conversations during provincial trips outside of Havana with Cuban MININT officials often yield increased insight into Cuban counterdrug (CD) operations and mindset. A prevailing concern and significant frustration on the Cuban side is the reportedly complete lack of cooperation afforded them by the GOJ when it comes to CD information sharing. DIS has spoken to no fewer than 15 Cuban MININT officers whose primary missions/roles are drug interdiction or support to drug interdiction. Collectively and continually, they express frustration over the GOJ’s consistent ignoring of Cuban attempts to increase the flow of drug-related information between the two island nations to increase interdictions and avoid “being surprised by drugs.”
6. (C) MININT officers, specifically the MININT’s international relations division and anti-drug directorate, with whom the DIS communicates extensively, consistently allude to the lengths the GOC has gone to in order to enhance the relationship. Without fail, MININT officials allude to the fact that narco-related information (i.e. information on go-fasts and aircraft transiting to/from Jamaica in the vicinity of Cuba) passed to the GOJ is always translated to English because in the past GOJ officials stated to the GOC that they did not understand Spanish; MININT officers report that despite their efforts, GOJ officials still do not respond.
7. (S) In October 2008, DIS attended a counternarcotics meeting onboard the RFA WAVE RULER in the Port of Havana. The meeting was arranged by the UK Defense Attache to encourage greater cooperation between GOC and GOJ over CD efforts; during conversations with the Attache, the DIS learned that the impetus behind the meeting was to bring GOC and GOJ authorities together to encourage greater dialogue, and to quash growing frustration between the two. In comments to the DIS after the meeting, Cuban officials stated that the two Jamaican officers “just sat there and didn’t say anything.” MININT officers mention that Jamaican officials commonly agree to greater information sharing in person; however, that is the extent of their efforts.
8. (C) Currently, Cuban officials appear resigned to the idea that they will not see greater GOJ cooperation in the near future. On 3 August, the DIS asked the chief of the MININT’s international relations department if he thought Cuban officials would sit down at a table with USCG, DEA, Jamaican officials, and Cuban DNA officers to discuss CD issues; he said it would be a possibility, but that the GOC does not have a suitable liaison officer at its embassy in Jamaica. DIS responded by asking if an officer or group of officers from the DNA would be able to travel to Jamaica for such talks; he once again stated that it is a possibility.
9. (C) Comment: DIS gauges that the GOC genuinely desires greater information sharing on CD issues with Jamaican authorities to serve the GOC’s strategic interests. Should we decide to pursue broader counternarcotics cooperation with the GOC, MININT-DNA may be willing to attend talks with US drug authorities in concert with Jamaican authorities. At the present time, however, it appears frustration is building within the ranks of the Cuban MININT-DNA, especially as CD cases continue to bring illicit narcotics in close proximity or actually to Cuba and its littorals, posing an interdiction challenge for Cuban authorities. Through their constant reminders to the DIS and via press reports to the Cuban people, GOC officials ultimately blame the United States for this problem due to the high demand for illicit narcotics by United States consumers. End Comment. FARRAR