ABC News
January 28, 2003

Cuban Farmers Pledge to Fight Drugs

Cuban Farmers Pledge to Fight Drugs in Countryside and Report Those Who Sell or Use Narcotics

The Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) Cuba's small farmers pledged to help fight the communist island's incipient drug problem Tuesday, saying they will watch out for and report others who grow, sell or use narcotics in the countryside.

While the government earlier this month blamed the island's narcotics problem on foreigners who bring in drugs, the farmers' vow in a letter published on the back of the Communist Party newspaper Granma for the first time publicly raised the possibility that drugs are being grown here.

The letter from the National Association of Small Farmers also said that drug packages dropped from low-flying planes in isolated coastal areas for transshipment to other countries are sometimes snatched by Cubans who then sell them on the island.

"Now more than ever, Cuban farmers will make this fight permanent, keeping ourselves alert, denouncing and condemning any case detected or known, whether it be growing drugs, possession, trafficking or consumption in our countryside," the letter said.

The farmers said they would alert authorities when packages of drugs, "targeted for introduction into the internal market," were detected in the island's isolated coastal areas.

Any member of the farmers association caught committing such drug crimes risks not only expulsion from the group but possible seizure of their land, the letter said.

The farmers' letter underscored the growing concern of Fidel Castro's government about drug trafficking and consumption by Cubans.

Earlier this month, the government for the first time acknowledged it had a small but growing drug problem. Previously, it had insisted that Cuba was merely a key transit point in the Caribbean for drugs destined for the United States or Europe.

"Recently the illicit use of drugs (in Cuba) has grown, although at a much lower rate than it has in other countries," said a Jan. 10 editorial on the front page of Granma. That use of illegal narcotics "must be prevented and caught in time," it added.

The editorial blamed the narcotics problem mostly on tourists and promised to crack down on foreigners who bring drugs into the country. Since then, Cuba's labor and youth groups also published letters in the state-controlled media pledging support for the war against narcotics.

The Jan. 10 editorial offered no statistics about narcotics use on the island, but said 252 foreigners had been arrested since 1995 for bringing in drugs, including 146 either awaiting trial or serving sentences in Cuban prisons.

"Faced with this adverse phenomenon, the position of the Revolution is categorical: It will admit (into the country) nothing that threatens the security, the health, the ethics, the dignity, the values that we have created in the face of danger," that editorial said. "There will be impunity for no one."