"To forgive is not to forget. The merit lies in loving in spite of
the vivid knowledge that the one that must be loved is not a friend.
There is no merit in loving an enemy when you forget him for a friend."
Seeing General Barry McCaffrey at the Congressional hearing on Cuba last week was a blast from the past. On August 28, 2001 I attended a presentation by General McCaffrey at Georgetown University and heard his concerns about a possible relationship between Castro and Colombia's drug-trafficking guerrillas. Despite this admission, prompted by a number of questions I raised with him at the same time he argued for sharing drug intelligence with the Cuban government.
General McCaffrey and others who advocate sharing drug intelligence with Cuba seem unaware of several federal indictments and two investigative TV reports, one broadcast in July 2001, linking Cuban officials, including Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl, to drug cartels:
-In 1989, a federal grand jury indicted Robert Vesco for arranging safe passage for drug planes over Cuban airspace after obtaining approval from Cuban authorities.
-According to the 1989 indictment, Reinaldo Ruiz was allowed to land planes in Cuba to refuel after dropping drug cargo off the Cuban coast. Drug-smuggling motorboats would come from Florida to pick up the cargo, and Cuban Coast Guard radar monitored U.S. Coast Guard cutters to help the smugglers evade them. The indictments demonstrated the foolishness of sharing intelligence on drug operations with Havana.
-According to the U.S. indictment of Panama's Manuel Noriega, he traveled to Cuba in 1984 after Castro offered to mediate a disagreement between the drug cartel and Noriega.
-In a 1991 Frontline documentary, Cuba and Cocaine, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Jeff Karonis, stated, "We would observe in the middle of the day an air drop going on inside Cuban waters. The scenario would be for a small twin-engine airplane with maybe 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of cocaine to fly over Cuba, drop the drugs to a predesignated rendezvous point to several boats. Then it would exit back down off Cuba, and many times a Cuban military vessel would be in the immediate vicinity, right on scene with them.''
-In 1996, Jorge Cabrera was charged with importing 6,000 pounds of cocaine. At the time of his arrest, The Herald reported that Cabrera was carrying a photo of himself with Fidel Castro. Cabrera made a $20,000 donation to the 1996 Democratic presidential campaign after being approached in Havana in 1995 by anti-embargo activist Vivian Mannerud.
-In July 2001, Madrid's TV Channel 5 broadcast Cuba and Drug Trafficking. Spanish journalists filmed (with hidden cameras) their dealings with drug dealers in Cuba. "As to security, forget it. I pay here for the security; I answer only to one, the government,'' the drug dealer said.
Noriega, still in prison for his role in drug trafficking, once received six commendations from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration while turning in competing drug cartels. So it's not surprising that Castro allows U.S. Navy ships to enter Cuban waters in pursuit of or to return Cuban refugees, but the ships aren't allowed in Cuban waters in pursuit of narco-traffickers.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the following days Ana Belen Montes, a high ranking official in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the go to person for the Pentagon and various other agencies on Cuba was arrested and revealed to be a Cuban government agent. She was the author of the last threat assesment of the Cuban government in May of 1998 that reported there was no threat. At the time the Secretary of Defense added his own concerns in a separate letter contradicting the Castro agent's report. She is currently serving a 25 year prison sentence after cooperating with the authorities.
At the top of the page is a photo of Fidel Castro and Manuel Noriega. The indictment and of Noriega on February 4, 1988 for being a drug facilitator of the Medellin Cartel would have a profound impact in Cuba, and plunge it into a serious crisis. One year and four months later the Castro brothers began a purge of military and intelligence officers on June 17, 1989. One week later the Cuban government revealed that Fidel Castro's closest aides were involved in smuggling drugs to the United States. Why are the two connected? Because Fidel Castro had been mentioned in the Noriega indictment. National Security Council member Jacqueline Tillman followed Cuba for the Council from 1984 to 1988 said:
''The evidence of Cuban involvement in narcotics trafficking was becoming so abundant that the regime moved to protect Fidel Castro by dissociating him from those activities.''
Less than a month later on July 13, 1989 all the officials that could directly tie Fidel Castro to the Medellin Cartel and Manuel Noriega were executed by firing squad. Eleven top officials of the Ministry of the Interior were found guilty of drug trafficking and four were executed. The closest and most powerful of these aides was Colonel Tony de la Guardia. His twin Patricio de la Guardia was not executed but imprisoned. Also among the imprisoned Jose Abrantes, another longtime aide, died of a heart attack behind bars in January of 1991. In addition to protecting the Castro brothers from possible prosecution this also served to consolidate the military's dominance over the Cuban intelligence service and with it the head of the military Raul Castro. In addition a popular general with victories under his belt in Angola and Ethiopia popular with the troops and flirting with ideas of perestroika, Arnaldo T. Ochoa Sanchez was also executed.
The indictment and capture of Manuel Noriega and his subsequent trial exposed an international narcotrafficking network with high ranking Cuban officials. The Castro regime responded by eliminating possible witnesses that would implicate the brothers in a show trial followed by speedy public execution by firing squad. Cuba is a totalitarian state with one man, one party rule and on that basis along with grand jury testimony implicating the dictator what are the odds that Fidel and Raul Castro are not deeply involved?
The persons advocating sharing intelligence with the Cuban government no doubt mean well as did those who advocated sharing intelligence with Manuel Noriega. We all would like to see more cooperation against drug trafficking. But given the historical record, it would be appropriate to respectfully remind them that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.