Trump’s Cuba U-Turn Could Impact Anti-Narcotic Efforts

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US President Donald Trump’s partial reversal of a move by the Obama administration to increase US-Cuba ties is provoking growing concern among Cuban officials about the possible implications for bilateral security cooperation.

In a June 16 speech, Trump announced the first details of plans to change tack over the recent thaw in US-Cuba diplomatic and commercial relations, including a pledge to “very strongly restrict American dollars from flowing to the [Cuban] military, security and intelligence services.”

Prior to Trump’s speech, Cuban officials expressed alarm over the possibility of reduced cooperation at a time of an apparent increase in drug trafficking in the area.

Two Cuban anti-drug officials told CNN en Español they had seen a rise in trafficking since the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy, which had long given Cuban migrants who reached the United States special immigration status.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking 

The policy was rescinded by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, a measure that, according to Col. Héctor González Hernández, head of Cuba’s Anti-Drug Directorate (Dirección Nacional Antidrogas – DNA), led to a “readjustment” in the activities of criminal groups operating in Cuba.

“We have evidence that criminal networks are moving from human trafficking to drug trafficking, or both at the same time,” he said.

As evidence of the claim, the officials presented statistics showing that so far in 2017, Cuban authorities have seized or recovered nearly three tons of marijuana and cocaine, more than triple the amount seized in the first six months of 2016.

Col. Victor López Bravo from the Cuban Coast Guard and Border Patrol added that a reduction in cooperation could result in more drugs reaching US shores.

“If there is a step backward in cooperation, the biggest impact will be felt by American society, American taxpayers and the American people,” he said.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the historical antagonism between these two countries, there has been a long history of successful anti-drug cooperation between Cuba and the United States.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cuba

This cooperation looked poised to grow as relations between the nations thawed. In July 2016, the two signed a new agreement to boost information sharing related to drug trafficking. 

Although it is still unclear exactly what Trump’s policies toward Cuba will be with respect to drug trafficking and bilateral security efforts, his vow to backtrack on normalization could include restricting finances for security forces, information sharing and law enforcement cooperation.

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