Cablegate: 2008 Cuba Incsr First Draft


DE RUEHUB #0952/01 3591342
P 241342Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 100970

I. Summary

1. Cuba is strategically located in the Caribbean between
the United States and the drug producing countries of South
America. Although Cuba is neither a significant consumer nor
a producer of illegal drugs, its ports, territorial waters,
and airspace are susceptible to narcotics trafficking from
source and transit countries. In 2008, the GOC continued
"Operation Hatchet," a multi-force counternarcotics
interdiction operation, and "Operation Popular Shield," a
nationwide counternarcotics public awareness campaign. Cuba
also carried out some operations in coordination with the
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Drug Interdiction Specialist (DIS) at
the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana. Cuba is a
party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

2. The GOC regularly detects and monitors suspect vessels
and aircraft in its territorial waters and airspace. In
cases likely to involve narcotics trafficking, it regularly
provides detection information to the USCG. In addition to
dedicating social service resources to improve prevention,
the GOC also has the legal framework within its criminal
justice system to prosecute and assign stiff penalties to
narcotic users and traffickers. Cuban anti-narcotic
officials claim that these stiff penalties are the driving
force behind a low drug abuse rate in the country.

3. According to Cuban statistics, Cuba's internal drug
consumption levels are among the lowest in the region. Lack
of discretionary income and an overwhelming state police
presence limit access to drugs by the Cuban population and
contribute to the low incidence of drug consumption. To
elude capture near Cuban territorial waters, international
drug traffickers throw contraband from speedboats, providing
the main source of supply to the local market. The GOC is
active in regional drug control advocacy, wherein the GOC has
established an auxiliary force by training and educating the
"pueblo," or the Cuban community. All Cubans are responsible
for responding appropriately to the discovery of actual or
suspected narcotics that wash-up on their shores. The GOC
claims to have trained employees at sea-side resorts and
associated businesses, including fishermen, in narcotics
recognition and how to communicate the presence of illicit
narcotics to the appropriate Cuban Border Guard (CBG)
personnel or post. This approach serves as a
force-multiplier for the GOC as its interdiction capability
is limited by a lack of resources necessary to upgrade its
counternarcotic assets and technical equipment.

4. The USG has not been assured by the GOC that effective
rules of engagement are in place to prevent the inappropriate
use of deadly force during counternarcotics trafficking
operations. In May 2007, the leading Cuban Communist
newspaper, Granma, declared that Cuba's territorial waters
would never be a safe corridor for traffickers. This
statement came after a Cuban Border Guard patrol boat shot
and killed two Bahamian drug traffickers. The GOC claims the
drug smugglers rammed their vessel and the traffickers were
killed in self-defense during an exchange of gunfire.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2008

5. Policy Initiatives. The Cuban government reported that
it had strengthened its cooperation with INTERPOL in 2008
with whom they maintain a working relationship on drug cases
in Cuba and investigations into suspected international drug
trafficking rings. In 2008, Cuba turned over 1 fugitive to
INTERPOL who was involved in illicit narcotic activity.
Cuban DNA personnel attended 4 interdiction and inspection
counternarcotic training courses offered by international

6. Accomplishments. In all, between January and September
2008, the GOC seized 1,723.5 kilograms of narcotics (1,675.7
kilograms of marijuana and 46.8 kilograms of cocaine), and
trace amounts of crack, hashish, and other forms of
psychotropic substances. In comparison, in 2007, 2,644.9
kilograms were seized by the GOC as a result of its various
interdiction efforts.

7. In April, Cuban authorities assisted Jamaican anti-drug
personnel with the disruption of a marijuana trafficking case
by providing real-time information, resulting in the
detention of the traffickers, and the confiscation of a
trafficking aircraft that contained a load of marijuana. In
July, information provided by the CBG operations center in
Havana led USCG assets to a drug-laden go-fast in the
Windward Pass. Upon realizing the USCG had discovered their
vessel, the traffickers discarded their contraband into the
sea which led to the wash-up of 172 packets of marijuana
along the coasts of 4 Cuban provinces, totaling 916.49
kilograms. Further, Cuban DNA investigated the entrance into
Cuban territorial seas of a group of Dominican fishing
vessels, which led to an investigation of the vessels and
their operators who were suspected of illicit,
narcotics-related activity.

8. From January through September 2008, 250 packets of
narcotics washed-up along the Cuban coast, resulting in the
collection of 1,682 kilograms (1,651 kilograms of marijuana
and 31 kilograms of cocaine). During 2008, the principal
source of drugs for the Cuban internal drug market continued
to be drug wash-ups; washed-up narcotics are aggressively
collected and stored for eventual incineration to avoid
proliferation and sale on the internal market.

9. In 2008, according to the GOC, Cuba's airports were used
only sporadically to transfer drugs towards third countries
or to supply the Cuban domestic market. GOC reports that
international drug traffickers have recently shown interest
in trafficking various narcotics to Cuba for sale with
domestic criminals. GOC believes this is due to the high
market price for narcotics in Cuba compared to the relatively
low prices found in other countries in the region. At Jose
Marti International Airport in Havana, 6 drug smuggling
attempts were thwarted by Cuban authorities, wherein 15.4
kilograms of cocaine and 1.3 kilograms of marijuana were
seized. Three of these events were attempts to introduce the
narcotics into the domestic market, and two incidents
involved couriers or "mules" who were trafficking narcotics
for delivery to Europe. The final case was the discovery of
6 kilograms of cocaine on an aircraft destined for an
undisclosed third country.

10. In all, 163 travelers were detained for possession of
small quantities of narcotics, believed to be for personal
use. Reflecting past actions, the GOC fines those tourists
and the narcotics are seized. Individuals are warned about
Cuban's regulations that prohibit the trafficking and
possession of narcotics, and allowed to continue with their

11. Cuba's "Operation Popular Shield," in place since 2003,
is intended to minimize the availability of drugs on the
domestic market. Cuba detains, tries, and punishes
individuals who are in possession of and who intend to
distribute narcotics, as well as seizes their assets. The
GOC asserts that they have in place the necessary legal
instruments to properly carry out this operation, both penal
and administrative. Per the GOC, their actions are in-line
with international commitments as a state party to control
and fight against illicit drug trafficking.

12. GOC claims that the price of narcotics in Cuba remains
high. Per Cuban information, 1 ounce of marijuana cultivated
in the Cuban countryside is sold at 130 Cuban Convertible
Pesos (CUC), and a marijuana cigarette is priced at 3 CUCs.
An ounce of marijuana from abroad is sold at approximately
330 CUCs and a cigarette costs around 5 CUCs.

13. Cocaine, crack and small amounts of hashish, trafficked
to Cuba from abroad, are limited to the capital city of
Havana in small doses, most of which are sold below the
quantity of 1 gram in the case of cocaine. Cocaine is sold
for prices ranging from 60-120 CUCs. Other drugs, per the
GOC, are not sold in Cuba, to include synthetic drugs,
amphetamine stimulants, and opium.

14. Law Enforcement Efforts. The GOC's lead investigative
agency on drugs is the Ministry of Interior's National
Anti-Drug Directorate (DNA). The DNA is comprised of
criminal law enforcement, intelligence, and justice
officials. Cuban Customs Authorities maintain an active
counternarcotics inspection program in each of Cuba's
international maritime shipping ports and airports.

15. Cuba's "Operation Hatchet," in its eighth year, is
intended to disrupt maritime and air trafficking routes,
recover washed-up narcotics, and deny drug smugglers shelter
within the territory and waters of Cuba through vessel,
aircraft, and radar surveillance from the Ministry of
Interior's Border Guard and Ministry of Revolutionary Armed
Forces (Navy and Air Force). Operation Hatchet relies on
shore-based patrols, visual and radar observation posts and
the civilian fishing auxiliary force to report suspected
contacts and contraband. Between January and September 2008,
Cuban laQenforcement authorities reported "real time"
sighting of 35 go-fast vessels and 3 suspect aircraft
transiting their airspace or territorial waters.
16. Corruption. As a matter of policy, the GOC does not
encourage or facilitate the illicit production or
distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other
controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from
illegal drug transactions. The U.S. Government does not have
direct evidence of current narcotics-related corruption among
senior GOC officials. No mention of GOC complicity in
narcotics trafficking or narcotics-related corruption was
made in the media in 2008. It should be noted, however, that
the media in Cuba is completely controlled by the state,
which permits only laudatory press coverage of itself. Crime
is almost never reported.

17. Agreements and Treaties. Cuba is a party to the 1961 UN
Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971
UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN
Drug Convention. The GOC cooperates with the United Nations
Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention and maintains
bilateral narcotics agreements with 32 countries and less
formal memoranda of agreement with 2 others. Cuba has also
subscribed to 56 bilateral judicial assistance conventions.
Finally, the Cuban Ministry of Interior maintains operational
exchanges with anti-drug authorities from approximately 57

18. Cuba was represented at the 51st session of the
Commission on Narcotics at the United Nations in Vienna; the
second regional summit regarding the global problem of drugs
in Colombia; the eighteenth meeting of the Heads of National
Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA) in Honduras; and in two
meetings of the working group for the exchange of narcotics
intelligence among the European Union, Latin America, and the
Caribbean. Havana will be the site of the next meeting in
May 2009. The Cuban government continues to pass real-time
information to agencies with similar concerns regarding the
involvement or suspicion of the movement of narcotics via air
or sea, including incidents of suspect merchant ships, crews,
or cargo.

19. Cultivation/Production. As in past years, GOC reports
that the availability of marijuana and the consumption of
psychotropic drugs is on the downslide due to joint-DNA and
Ministry of Public Health's initiatives. In 2008, such
efforts yielded the seizure of 23.8 kilograms of narcotics as
a result of illicit, domestic drug activity. The production
and harvest of marijuana is also down, and incidents of
marijuana harvests are considered "isolated" by the GOC.
Cuba is not a source of precursor chemicals, nor have there
been any incidents involving precursor chemicals in 2008.

20. Drug Flow/Transit. Cuba's 4,000 small keys and its
3,500 nautical miles of shoreline provide drug traffickers
with the locale to conduct clandestine smuggling operations.
Traffickers use high-speed boats to bring drugs northward
from Jamaica to the Bahamas, Haiti, and to the U.S. around
the Windward Passage or via small aircraft from clandestine
airfields in Jamaica. Commercial vessels and containerized
cargo that are loaded with drugs pose an increasing risk to
Cuban ports. Mules continued to traffic small quantities of
narcotics to and from Europe through Cuba's international
airport in Havana. As Cuba continues to develop its tourism
industry, the likelihood for an increased flow of narcotics
into the country will rise.

21. Domestic Programs. The governing body for prevention,
rehabilitation, and policy issues is the National Drug
Commission (CND). This interagency coordinating body is
headed by the Minister of Justice, and includes the
Ministries of Interior, Foreign Relations, Public Health, and
Public Education. Also represented on the commission are the
Attorney General's Office and the National Sports Institute.
There is a counternarcotics action plan that encompasses the
Ministries of Health, Justice, Education, and Interior, among
others. In coordination with the United Nations, the CND
aims to implement a longer-term domestic prevention strategy
that is included as part of the educational curriculum at all
grade levels.

22. The majority of municipalities on the island have
counternarcotics organizations. Prevention programs focus on
education and outreach to groups most at risk of being
introduced to illegal drug use. The GOC reports that there
are 3 international drug dependency treatment centers and 198
community health facilities in Cuba consisting of family
doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational
therapists, and 150 social, educational, and cultural
programs dedicated to teaching drug prevention and offering
rehabilitation programs.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives

23. Bilateral Cooperation. The U.S. has no counternarcotics
agreements with Cuba and does not fund any GOC
counternarcotics law enforcement initiatives. In the absence
of normal bilateral relations, the USCG DIS officer assigned
at the USINT Havana acts as the main conduit of
anti-narcotics cooperation with the host country on a
case-by-case basis. Cuban authorities have provided DIS
exposure to Cuban counternarcotics efforts, including
providing investigative criminal information, such as the
names of suspects and vessels; debriefings on drug
trafficking cases; visits to the Cuban national canine
training center and anti-doping laboratory in Havana; tours
of CBG facilities; and access to meet with the Chiefs of
Havana's INTERPOL and Customs offices.

24. Road Ahead. U.S. counternarcotics efforts in Cuba face
a number of obstacles. The current Cuban regime's long
history of anti-Americanism in rhetoric and action has
limited the scope for joint activity and made bilateral
dealings always subject to political imperatives. Cuba's
Drug Czar has raised the idea of greater counternarcotics
cooperation with the USG. Commander-in-Chief Raul Castro has
called for a bilateral agreement on narcotics, migration, and
terrorism. However, these approaches have not been offered
with forthright or actionable proposals as to what the USG
should expect from future Cuban cooperation. The USG
continues to encourage Cuba,s full participation in regional
interdiction efforts.


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