The Miami Herald
Wed, Mar. 24, 2004

U.S. antidrug report gets Cuban backlash

Cuba does little to combat drug smugglers, and its cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard ranges from harassing to helpful, a U.S. report says.


WASHINGTON - Cuba on Tuesday blasted a U.S. State Department report that alleges the island's government ''chose'' not to devote sufficient resources to its war on drugs as "vulgar and infamous.''

''If the previous annual reports by the Department of State . . . had been tendentious and manipulative in their references to Cuba, the one announced March 1 in Washington is vulgar and infamous,'' the official Granma newspaper reported.

The latest report by the department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, issued to little notice, said Cuba is doing little to stop drug smuggling and that its cooperation with U.S. efforts is sporadic and limited.

''Cuban authorities have chosen not to provide an effective use-of-force policy and adequate resources to counternarcotics authorities to give them more than a limited ability to interdict go-fast vessels or aircraft,'' the report said.

The report added that Cuba's actions last year illustrated how its cooperation with U.S. officials ``ebbs and flows based on the regime's political priorities.''

A U.S. Coast Guard drug interdiction specialist, based at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, was ''subjected to diplomatically unacceptable harassment,'' the report said.

But after U.S. officials complained, Cuba cooperated on several cases.

The report said Cuban antidrug authorities last year gave information to the Drug Enforcement Administration that resulted in dismantling a New York-based heroin smuggling ring.

The Cuban Border Guard also ''provided timely information'' to the Coast Guard on suspicious boats and planes at least 35 times in 2003.