Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Castro's Narco-Terror network gets a free pass

"Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees." ... "The U.S. regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up." - Fidel Castro, University of Tehran, May 10, 2001 quoted in the Agence France Presse

On  March 24, 2015 the government of the United States "removed 45 Cuban companies, individuals and vessels from a sanction list of entities suspected of supporting terrorism or drug-trafficking," reported the Latin American Herald Tribune. Cuba is a totalitarian regime and all those companies, vessels and individuals are agents of the dictatorship. Not mentioned by EFE or the Associated Press but reported by Reuters was that the majority of the entities removed were:
"most of them dead people, defunct companies or sunken ships. Among them was Amado Padron, a Cuban executed by a firing squad 26 years ago along with Arnaldo Ochoa, a decorated army general who was sentenced to death by Cuba’s communist government after he was found to be connected to international drug trafficking. The U.S. Treasury Department said the delisting was aimed at clearing “out-of-date” names from its list of Specially Designated Nationals."
At the same time EFE reported, in seeming contradiction to what Reuters reported above that:
More than 30 of the 45 companies, individuals and vessels are currently based in Panama despite having originated in Cuba, while one ship, the Alegria de Pio, is registered in Spain and one company, Travel Services Inc., has its headquarters in the United States.
This action ignores a pattern that stretches back decades linking the Castro regime with terrorism, drug-trafficking and rogue behavior that continues to the present day. Furthermore, it appears that the sanctions list has not been kept up to date which leads to the question: have new entities been added to the list suspected of links to terrorism and drug trafficking? Consider the following:
On March 2, 2015 the government of Colombia had seized a shipment of ammunition bound for Cuba on a China-flagged ship that was not properly documented. The BBC reported that "Officials said about 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells were found on board. The ship's records said it was carrying grain products." First with North Korea in 2013 and now again with China in 2015 the Castro regime has been linked to scandals involving arms smuggling. Blogging by Boz reached a reasonable conclusion: "Two big shipments of weapons seized in 20 months means that this is probably a regular occurrence."

On January 27, 2015 the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that the Castro regime, in collaboration with Venezuela, was providing protection for drug traffickers traveling between Venezuela and the United States. According to news accounts the son of the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, Germán Sánchez Otero, was using PDVSA planes to smuggle drugs with the United States as the final destination.

In 2012 there were reports in the media of Cuban, Iranian and Venezuelan officials meeting in Mexico to discuss cyber attacks on U.S. soil allegedly seeking information about nuclear power plants in the United States. Supposedly the FBI had opened an investigation into the matter, but there is no mention of this in subsequent U.S. State Department reports.
This pattern of conduct by the Castro regime stretches back more than 33 years, but following the Carter administration's loosening of sanctions between 1977 and 1980, and the opening of interests sections in Havana and Washington DC the behavior of the Castro regime did not improve. It appears to have perceived these actions as signs of weakness that led to more aggressive behavior in Latin America and Africa.

The U.S. State Department on March 1, 1982 declared Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism whose government was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group then battling to overthrow Colombia’s democratic government. In 2001 at Georgetown University when I questioned General Barry McCaffrey, who at the time was advocating sharing intelligence on drug trafficking with the Castro regime, about this relationship between Cuba and Colombia's drug trafficking guerrillas he recognized it and expressed his concerns During General Manuel Noriega's 1992 trial information emerged publicly implicating the Castro regime that Sun Sentinel reported at the time:
"Federal prosecutors say Noriega traveled to Havana to ask [Fidel] Castro to mediate a potentially deadly dispute with top members of Colombia`s Medellin cocaine cartel. They say the cartel chiefs were upset because a major drug lab had been seized in Panama despite payment of millions of dollars in protection money to Noriega. According to the Noriega indictment, Castro negotiated a peace accord between the cartel and Noriega at the 1984 meeting. The allegation forms a cornerstone of the racketeering and drug trafficking charges against Noriega."
At the same time convicted cartel leader Carlos Lehder directly implicated Raul Castro and U.S. fugitive Robert Vesco "to route cocaine flights through Cuba." Capitol Hill Cubans blogged how two years later, a federal indictment listed General Raul Castro as part of a conspiracy that smuggled seven and a half tons of cocaine into the United States over a 10-year period but the Clinton administration overruled prosecutors. One of the names taken off the list on March 24, 2015 was Amado Padron, a Cuban intelligence agent executed by a firing squad 26 years ago along with Arnaldo Ochoa, a decorated army general who was sentenced to death by the Castro regime after he was found to be connected to international drug trafficking in an effort to limit the exposure of the Castro regime to prosecution.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have declared that this action is in line with President Obama's new policy on Cuba that was unveiled on December 17, 2014 when he commuted the sentences of three Cuban spies, one of which, Gerardo Hernandez, was serving a double life sentence. One of the life sentences was for conspiracy to murder, in which four humanitarians were extrajudicially executed in an act of state terrorism on February 24, 1996. During the trial in 2000 of five Cuban spies it was also revealed that in addition to storing weapons and explosives in locations on U.S. soil that they also planned to terrorize and murder via a mail bomb an individual that they had identified as a CIA agent living in the United States.

Hopefully, the Obama Administration will learn from a mistake of the George W. Bush administration in its North Korea foreign policy and not repeat it in Cuba. In October of 2008, the Bush Administration took North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the hopes that it would “salvage a fragile nuclear deal” with the totalitarian regime.  Seven years after taking Kim Jong Un’s regime off the list of terror sponsors, North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, threatens to attack the United States with its new nukes, and has engaged in a cyber attack on a private company in the United States.

The negative lessons from the Bush administration’s cozying up to the North Korean tyrant and the Carter administration's cozying up to the Cuban one should give any reasonable person second thoughts about pursuing a similar path again with Cuba under the Castro regime.

"Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong–these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”- Winston Churchill, May 2, 1935

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