CHAPTER EIGHT 77
CUBA AND THE RISE OF
On November 15, 1982, the American public was treated to a rare display of candour. That was the date on which four important Cuban officials, including two influential members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, were indicted by a Federal grand jury in Miami on charges of conspiring to bring drugs illegally into the United States.
The indictments of high-ranking Cubans opened the floodgates. A stream of addi- tional indictments followed, the more important of which were those of Jorge Ochoa and Carlos Lender Rivas, reputed Colombian drug kingpins; Norman B. Saunders, the Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands; Frederick Nigel Bowe, a high-ranking Bahamas Minister; Everette Bannister, Chairman of Bahamas World Airlines and a close associate of the Prime Minister, Lynden O. Pindling; Colonel Jean-Claude Paul, the strongman of Haiti; Frederico Vaughan, a high official in Nicaragua's intelligence service; Panama's military dictator, General Manuel Antonio Noriega; Manuel Ibarra Herrera, former head of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police; and Miguel Aldana-Ibarra, former head of the Mexican branch of Interpol.
As a result of the evidence presented in the indictments, a picture of many intercon- nected drug operations gradually emerged - a picture which, while admittedly incomplete, bears a striking resemblance to the overall description of what Soviet strategy, as described by Sejna, was intended to produce. The picture contained four primary features.
First, there are close linkages between drug-trafficking and terrorist-revolutionary activities; hence, the term narco-terrorism. These have led to the breakdown in law and order that, when coupled with drug-related corruption, is bringing about the destabilisa- tion of a growing number of important countries, most notably Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Mexico. In many cases the terrorists or guerrillas control or manage drug production and distribution. This basic phenomenon is not limited to Latin America. It is also present in varying degrees in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.
Secondly, while the vast number of people involved in drug-trafficking do not appear to hold any particular political philosophy, there is a disproportionate involvement of Communist party officials, government officials from Communist countries, agents from
Communist intelligence services, and Marxist revolutionary and terrorist organisations.
Thirdly, within the Americas, Cuba stands out. Cuba is clearly involved with
numerous drug-trafficking operations and provides many functions, from recruitment to transshipment facilities, command posts, equipment supply, production and manufac- ture, transportation, sales and marketing, and finance1.
And finally, while money is always present as an obvious motivation, insofar as the higher officials involved with trafficking are concerned, the political dimension, specifically political warfare against the United States, is even more important than the money.
As a Soviet revolutionary centre2 in the Caribbean, Cuba is the operational centre for drug-trafficking and for the training of revolutionary terrorists. (Nicaragua was becoming a second revolutionary centre, and was also active in drug-trafficking and in harbouring and training revolutionaries). Cuba provides a safe haven for Latin American drug-traffickers en route to the United States. For this, the drug-traffickers pay a fee. On their return trip to South America to pick up more drugs, they transport ammunition and supplies from Cuba to the revolutionary terrorists; for example, to the M-19 forces in Colombia3.
The manner in which narcotics trafficking and revolutionary or terrorist organisa- tions operate together can be seen in the reports on Colombian4 and Cuban operations. Terrorist or revolutionary groups provide protection for the drug-traffickers. The drug- traffickers help finance the terrorists and revolutionaries and furnish them with information (intelligence) and transportation assistance. In Colombia, the Marxist M-19 revolutionaries have close ties to Cuba and various drug-traffickers, of which the most highly publicised over the years has been the organisation known as the Medellin Cartel.
The Cartel has close ties to Cuba, Nicaragua and other countries. The principal linkage between the Medellin Cartel and the M-19, as explained by Jose I. Blandon Castillo, former Consul General of Panama, is the Cuban Ambassador, Fernando Ravelo Renedo. Ravelo works for Manuel Pineiro Losada, the head the Americas Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba5 and former head of the DGI. The Americas Department (Departamento de America) has special responsibility for subversion and sabotage operations in the Western Hemisphere, including disinformation, terrorism, and drugs6. [Editor's Note: This was the position prevailing, of course, in 1990].
In Colombia and other countries, such as Peru, terrorists provide the drug producers with protection from the local police and military forces. The drug producers are alerted to possible raids on their facilities. They pass data to terrorists, who then ambush and kill the forces conducting the raids. This is good for the terrorists and for the producers, who in return provide funds, territory, and the supplies the terrorists need. As another example, when government officials decide to clamp down on drug-traffickers, the terrorists assist the traffickers by terrorising and killing officials, as they did in the case of the mass murder of the Colombian Ministers of Justice who were taking steps to extradite certain
Colombian drug lords7.
The terrorists provide additional muscle when bribery is inadequate. Generally, bribery has worked quite well. Corruption through bribery is rampant in the Bahamas, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, Haiti, Panama, the Caymans and Brazil. By using terrorists to perform violent acts, drug-traffickers are able to maintain their image as businessmen - businessmen with wide-ranging influence, but still just businessmen. The drug-traffickers are, therefore, from a government official's point of view, good people to get along with, people who can pay for services.
They bring money into the country and provide jobs. So what, if they also provide a product which damages 'capitalists'? It is the terrorists who are the bad guys. While this logic is blatantly fallacious, it is amazing how many people accept it and promote it, including many high-ranking officials in the United States.
The precise origins of narco-terrorism are uncertain. However, there are a variety of facts that point to its gradual emergence, perhaps more as a result of evolution and cir- cumstance than direct planning. First, as reported by Sejna, the current Soviet strategy involving narcotics trafficking, terrorism and organised crime had its origins in about
1955, when Khrushchev set about modernising Soviet subversion and putting the world
Communist movement back on course following Stalin's death.
The three activities - drug-trafficking, terrorism, and organised crime - provided complementary functions; and the Soviet Bloc activities in all three areas were managed by the strategic intelligence sections in the KGB and GRU intelligence services. These strategic intelligence sections perform only special tasks of strategic importance, the most important of which, as indicated earlier, are strategic espionage, drugs and narcotics, terrorism, deception and sabotage.
The combination of narcotics and terrorism was also identified in the 1950s and
1960s by Dr Ray Cline, the former Deputy Director of Intelligence, Central Intelligence
Agency, who explained:
'I have observed with horror the growing links in many areas between the three groups: the revolutionary political groups, who are, for the most part, Marxist-Leninist, anxious to create a state subordinate to the Soviet Union or one of its surrogate states, like Cuba; the narcotics traffickers, who need the protection that such revolutionary groups can give them and are willing to pay for it, and, in fact, are willing to finance the political revo- lutions with the proceeds of drug-traffic; and then the gun runners, the people involved in the illegal passing of guns to revolutionary groups and to narcotics traffickers'8.
In the case of Bulgaria, the connection between drug-trafficking and terrorism was clearly evident in the early 1970s. Indeed, KINTEX is described by various sources as having dual tasks, the movement of drugs into Western Europe and the movement of guns and ammunition into the Middle East9. These are not totally independent activities, insofar as drugs are often accepted as payment for the guns and ammunition.
This method of operation has been connected with many terrorist organisations. For example, Jacques Kiere, Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration's national intelligence centre at El Paso, Texas, gave unpublished testimony on November 19, 1975, to the House Armed Services Committee on such swaps. He stated that 'five out of the ten known Mexican Marxist groups are known to trade Mexican heroin and other drugs for US guns'10. Similar data exists on revolutionary groups in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Burma, Panama and Bolivia.
But notwithstanding its early origins, the United States did not begin to wake up to what was happening concerning narco-terrorism until November 15, 1982, when four senior Cuban officials were indicted, along with ten others, by a Federal grand jury in Miami, Florida on charges of 'conspiracy to import marijuana and methaqualone from Colombia to the United States by way of Cuba'. The Cubans charged were Rene
Rodriguez-Cruz, an intelligence official and member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba; Aldo Santamaria-Cuadrado, a Vice-Admiral in the Cuban Navy and also a member of the Central Committee; Fernando Ravelo Renedo, the Cuban Ambassador to Colombia, subsequently Ambassador to Nicaragua; and Gonzalo Bassols- Suarez, a former Minister-Counsellor of the Cuban Embassy in Bogota and member of the Communist Party of Cuba. The ensuing publicity brought narco-terrorism out into the open for the first time.
The witnesses who provided the principal evidence at the ensuing trial (February
1983) were Juan Crump, a Colombian lawyer and drug-trafficker who negotiated with ranking Cuban officials for Jaime Guillot-Lara, a leading Colombian drug-trafficker; David Perez, a Cuban-American drug-trafficker who met the boats and delivered the goods into the United States; and Mario Estevez Gonzalez, a Cuban intelligence agent who was infiltrated into the United States during the Mariel boat lift, who received narcotics from Cuba, sold them in the United States, and then returned the proceeds to Cuban intelligence.
Colombian Juan (Johnny) Crump was asked to use his influence to obtain Cuba's assistance for the trafficker Jaime Guillot-Lara. During the ensuing negotiations with Cuba's Ambassador Fernando Ravelo Renedo and his deputy, Gonzalo Bassols-Suarez, Guillot-Lara wanted confirmation that 'if a drug shipment were lost, he would not have to pay the fee to Cuba. Then they say, Ravelo and Bassols, they, don't worry [sic], that they can wait, and they don't care about the money - OK? - that - because his goal was hurt the United States full with drugs' [sic]".
This trafficking philosophy was also reported by Mario Estevez, who said he was ordered 'to load up the United States with drugs'12. The philosophy is especially interesting when considered alongside the known Soviet strategy, the objective of which was to bring about the intellectual stagnation of the United States, by means of the mechanism of achieving a maximum flow of drugs into the country, as discussed in Chapter 7.
Estevez further testified that he was directed by his DGI superior to make contact with drug-traffickers in Bimini and in the United States. During his drug-trafficking career, he imported over 270 kilogrammes of cocaine from Cuba, he said. He sold this cocaine to individuals in Miami, Chicago, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and other cities. He took the money he was paid to Cuba, where he delivered it to the Cuban Government. It was during one such trip that Rene Rodriguez-Cruz, a senior official of the DGI and a ranking member of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee, put his arm on Estevez's shoulder and said how nice it was now that Cuba 'had a drugstore in the United States'13. Incidentally, Rodriguez-Cruz was one of the Cuban officials who had helped organise the Mariel boatlift used to infiltrate Cuban intelligence agents into the United States.
According to testimony provided to the US Grand Jury in Miami, it is the Government of Cuba that is trafficking drugs and narcotics into the United States. Cuba is also providing support to terrorist operations throughout Latin America. Both Fidel and Raul Castro are directly involved, with Raul the more active participant. The operation is secret and is run by Cuban intelligence, with other agencies participating on an 'as needed' basis14.
Further, as was explained in Congressional testimony on February 26, 1982, by Ger- ardo Peraza, a former official in Cuban intelligence, throughout the 1960s there was exten- sive cooperation between the Cuban DGI and the Soviet KGB. Subsequently, with effect from 1970, the Cuban intelligence service was placed directly under the direction of KGB Colonel Viktor Simenov. Mr Peraza stated that after 1970, the DGI had ceased to be a part-
ner of the KGB; rather, it had become a subordinate entity of the Soviet KGB15. Sejna explained that Cuban intelligence planning was integrated into overall Soviet Bloc planning in the 1968 intelligence plan which he reviewed in the fall of 1967. According to a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on international terrorism, the DGI has been 'essentially under the control of the KGB since 1969'16.
Major Florentino Aspillaga Lombard was a career officer in the Cuban DGI until his defection (ultimately to the United States) via Vienna on June 6, 1987, from Czechoslovakia where he had been stationed. He confirmed that a powerful drug syndicate had been using Cuba since 1978 as a transshipment point for illegal narcotics into the United States17. Protection was provided by Jose Abrahantes, a Castro deputy who was Minister of Interior. None of the drug-related activities could have been carried out without the personal approval of Fidel Castro, he explained18.
In 1988 the role of Cuba in drug-trafficking was further confirmed by Major Antonio Rodriguez Menier, a Cuban intelligence officer and Chief of Security at the Cuban Embassy in Budapest, who defected in January 1987 [see page 56, Note 2 to Chapter 5].
He elaborated that the Cuban Government participated both directly and indirectly in narco-trafficking and that the Special Troops19 of the Interior Ministry were used to coordinate operations. Rodriguez quoted the Chief of the DGI, General German Barreiro, as saying that 'drugs are the best way to destroy the United States'. Their primary target was American youth. By undermining the will of American youth to resist, the United States could be destroyed 'without firing one bullet. The foundation of any army is the youth and he who is able to morally destroy the youth, destroys the army'20.
In 1989, Rodriguez repeated his charges and confirmed what Aspillaga had said; namely, that drug operations could not have been carried out without Raul and Fidel Castro's personal approval. He added that 'Fidel is not doing that only for money. His philosophy is to use anything to destroy the United States. For example, drugs are regarded as the best way to destroy American society without troops or guns, because the younger people who are the future leaders, if they are drug addicts, they are very weak'21. What is especially noteworthy about such statements, of course, is that they precisely reflect Soviet drugs strategy.
In March 1989, two Colombian drug dealers pleaded guilty to smuggling cocaine into Florida through Cuba. Videotaped evidence included conversations of how the Cuban military and civilian officials aided the traffickers. Reinaldo Ruiz and his son Ruben are
shown telling a DEA informant how Cuba guarantees the success of cocaine loads run
through the island and how the money paid for the service goes to Fidel Castro. The US Attorney, Dexter Lehtinen, stated: 'We believe the evidence presented in court details complicity on behalf of high-ranking Cuban officials'22.
Besides Colombia, Cuba has also been closely linked with Panama and Nicaragua in drug-trafficking and gun-running. In the case of Panama, General Noriega was indicted on February 4, 1988. The indictment named 15 others and directly tied Noriega to Colombia's Medellin Cartel. Following the indictment, the US Government tried to force Noriega out of office. Suddenly there emerged a flood of information on Noriega's questionable activities. Drug-trafficking was the first of these; and this had been the case extending as far back as 1970. Gun-running was the second; and not just to non-Communist dissident forces, but to terrorists and Communist revolutionaries. This data also extended back to
the early 1970s.
But the activity of greatest concern appears to have been Noriega's growing links to
Cuba and Cuban operations in Panama. Noriega had allowed Cuban intelligence to set up several hundred bogus corporations in Panama to circumvent the US trade embargo against Cuba23. Panama became a conduit for theft by the Soviet Bloc of US high technology. Even more serious was the growing Cuban military presence, which involved the shipment of weapons by Cuba - automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and ammunition - into Panama, and often through Panama to revolutionary forces in other Latin American countries; guerrilla and special forces training given to Noriega's military (referred to as 'Dignity Battalions'); Cuban commando units which were reported to be conducting limited attacks on US military installations in Panama (for example, Howard Air Force Base was the target of an assault on April 12, 1988); and Cuban military advisers and intelligence support officials, whose numbers US officials estimated to be between thirty and fifty, although one defector put the number at 3,00024.