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WikiLeaks reports Cuba/Ja drug row

Wednesday, December 15, 2010    

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AS controversial WikiLeaks documents continue to bubble to the front pages of newspapers worldwide, some of the latest secret US diplomatic cables reveal a bitter Cuba bad-mouthing Jamaica for its failure to curb the flow of illegal drugs into the US.

In a cable published by the UK Guardian yesterday, Jamaica's Spanish-speaking neighbours to the North are reported as having complained repeatedly about the 'lack of co-operation' of the Jamaican Government in trying to stem the drug trade, which uses Cuban airspace and its waters.

In the summary, entitled Government of Cuba frustration increases over lack of Jamaican counternarcotics co-operation, the US Coast Guard Drug Interdiction Specialist (DIS) assigned to Havana reported speaking numerous times with Cuban officials about the problem and noting that repeated attempts to engage Jamaica on the issue had been ignored.

The cables, dated August 2009, described the emergency landing of an aircraft which was later found to have been en route to Jamaica, that ditched three bales of marijuana over a barren field in Camaguey Province in Cuba when the aircraft engine quit.

This incident followed one in May 2009 in which a joint interdiction of a Jamaican 'go-fast' boat resulted in the seizure of 700kg of Jamaican marijuana by Cuban boarder guards, the report in the Guardian said.

The cables stated that the prevailing concern and frustration of the Cubans in the matter was the complete disregard by the Jamaican Government when it came to sharing vital information.

The DIS reported speaking with no fewer than 15 Cuban Ministry of the Interior (MININT) officials whose primary function was drug interdiction.

"Collectively and continually they express frustration over the GOJ's consistent ignoring of Cuban attempts to increase the flow of drug-related information between the two island nations," the cable published by the Guardian read.

The document said this effort at data sharing was in a bid to "increase interdictions and avoid 'being surprised by drugs'."

Repeated efforts last night to contact National Security Minister Dwight Nelson were unsuccessful.

However, in May this year, Nelson rebuffed claims made by the US in its 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report that Jamaica was slacking in its narco-control efforts; marked by reduced drug arrests and narcotics seizures and stalled anti-crime bills.

That report highlighted the failure of the Government to act decisively in co-operating with US law enforcement over the extradition request for Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, then described as "a major alleged narcotics and firearms trafficker who is reported to have ties to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, and subsequent delays in other extradition requests". It also called into question Kingston's commitment to law enforcement co-operation with the US.

Nelson at the time said: "The statements in that report do not accurately represent the efforts being made by the security forces and the Jamaican authorities in the fight against international drug trafficking and organised crime."

Last night, Information Minister Daryl Vaz said any complaint by the Cuban authorities would have been lodged with the foreign ministry or the security ministry and not with him. However, he noted that Jamaica has its own "serious issues" in terms of securing its shorelines and pointed to a lack of resources and funding as contributing to those issues.

The WikiLeaks cable also said MININT officials alluded to the fact that narco-related information (ie information on go-fast boats and aircraft transiting to/from Jamaica in the vicinity of Cuba) passed on to the GOJ had to be translated to English.

This, the Cubans reportedly said, was because in the past, GOJ officials complained to the Cuban Government that they did not understand Spanish.

Despite this, the MININT officers reported that even these efforts were in vain, as Jamaican Government officials still did not respond.

The WikiLeaks document also noted that: "Currently, Cuban officials appear resigned to the idea that they will not see greater GOJ co-operation in the near future."

The US officials also say they will support Cuba's efforts to engage the Jamaican Government on the issue, because they are convinced that the Cubans genuinely desire greater information sharing.

"Should we decide to pursue broader counternarcotics co-operation with the GOC, MININT-DNA may be willing to attend talks with US drug authorities in concert with Jamaican authorities," the cables read.

The document ends on a note of frustration, with the US counternarcotics officials taking note of the increasing disfavour regarding what they suggest is the ongoing nonchalance of Jamaican authorities about the trafficking of illicit narcotics in close proximity or actually to Cuba and the massive interdiction challenge it is posing for Cuban authorities.

However, in a reversion to an old stand-by anti-America position, the Cubans are noted as ultimately blaming the problem on the high demand among United States consumers for illicit narcotics.

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