The New York Times
May 8, 1999

Cuba Cooperating to Combat Drug Trade, U.S. Official Says

          By REUTERS

          WASHINGTON -- Cuba is not involved in drug trafficking and is
          cooperating with the United States in fighting the illegal trade in
          the Caribbean, the top American anti-drug official said Friday.

          The White House's drug policy director, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, said
          Cuba, located in the middle of the drug route from South to North
          America, was very interested in discussing the issue with Washington,
          which has not had diplomatic ties with Havana since 1961.

          "That dialogue might produce something useful, and we probably ought
          to be willing to encourage it," the retired general told scholars at the
          Woodrow Wilson Center, an international affairs institute.

          "Poor Cuba. Location puts it in the path of international drug crime," he
          later told reporters. "But I do not see any serious evidence, current or in
          the last decade, of Cuban Government overt complicity with drug crime."

          General McCaffrey said Cuban authorities had continued to maintain
          contacts with the Coast Guard and had responded positively to
          drug-related intelligence provided by the United States.

          "I don't think they want Colombian drug criminals inside Cuba," said
          General McCaffrey, the former chief of the United States Southern

          Still, there is a lot of cocaine showing up on the island, the American
          anti-drug official said.

          Traffickers moving up the Caribbean from Colombia fly over the island
          and dump cocaine shipments in the sea off the north coast of Cuba for
          pickup by boats that smuggle the drug into the United States via the
          Bahamas, General McCaffrey said.

          But Cuba lacks the "radar and intercept capabilities" to stop it, he said.
          Cuba cannot even effectively police its waters, where smugglers hide
          after fishing bales of cocaine from the sea, he said.

          "It's a big problem and it is growing," he said.

          General McCaffrey said Cuba wanted to cooperate with Washington on
          the drug problem as a way of opening a dialogue -- a sensitive initiative,
          particularly among Cuban-Americans opposed to relaxing the
          37-year-old economic embargo on President Fidel Castro's

          But General McCaffrey said the United States must look to the future,
          when Cuba could become a major drug-trafficking center unless
          cooperation with Cuban authorities begins now.

          "Cuba will not remain a collapsing Communist dictatorship with a goofy
          economic system much longer," he said.

          "Eventually it is going to be another economic center in the hemisphere,
          so we clearly don't want international drug crime dominating Cuba."