Cuba Drug Seizures Fall 66% in 2012

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Cuban authorities reported seizing over three tons of drugs last year, representing a return to the average amount of drugs confiscated annually in Cuba, after 2011 saw a dramatic rise in seizures. 

Cannabis accounted for over 98 percent of the drugs seized, with 48 kilos of cocaine and small quantities of other substances making up the rest, according to the official statistics published in state newspaper Granma.

The overwhelming majority of seizures took place during maritime operations, usually involving traffickers dropping packages of drugs into waters off the island’s coast. Authorities captured one high-speed boat, which was piloted by four alleged traffickers from the Bahamas.

Around 42 kilos were seized at airports, which led to the arrest of 21 foreigners, while only 25 kilos was seized on the island itself.

The past year saw 628 people convicted on drug charges, 43 percent of whom received a custodial sentence ranging from six to ten years.

InSight Crime Analysis

The relatively low seizure rates illustrate how Cuba has, for the most part, avoided becoming a significant transit country for drug shipments, even though it lies in the path of trafficking routes between drug-producing countries and the United States. The numbers also suggest that Cuba’s internal drug market remains small.

There are a number of reasons for this, including draconian sentencing for drug offenses and surprisingly close cooperation with US authorities on counter-narcotics operations.

The statistics also undermine the seriousness of President Raul’s Castros call for combating the drug trade with “blood and fire,” when he spoke at a summit between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union in late January.

However, the most striking aspect of last year’s statistics is how they seem to confirm the previous year as a statistical anomaly. In both 2010 and 2009, Cuba recorded similar hauls to 2012, yet in 2011 this tripled to approximately nine tons. The reasons for the 2011 spike followed by the 2012 reduction are unclear, a situation not helped by the secrecy that surrounds government operations and statistics.

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