U.S. indicts four Castro officials on drug-trafficking conspiracy
A federal grand jury in Miami indicted four senior Cuban government officials Friday on charges of conspiring to use Cuba as a safe haven for drug-laden ships bound for the United States from Colombia.
The indictment charges that for two years the officials permitted drug traffickers "to use Cuba as a loading station and source of supplies for ships transporting" Quaaludes and marijuana.
The scheme, which allegedly teamed Colombian smugglers with the Cuban Navy, involved the shipment of millions of tons of contraband to South Florida in ships owned by Jaime Guillot-Lara, officials said.
Ten other persons were also charged in the conspiracy, which involved ships from Colombia traveling through Cuban waters to the Bahamas where they were met by smaller, faster boats for transfer of the drugs.
The U.S. State Department earlier this year claimed there was proof the Castro government was facilitating smuggling. Yet Friday’s indictment – and agents familiar with the investigation stopped short of asserting that the smuggling plan was sanctioned by the Cuban government.
"We are not saying this is the policy of the Cuban government," said DEA Special-Agent-In-Charge Peter Gruden. "We don’t know and we have not suggested there is a conspiracy by the Cuban government in general."
The four indicted officials operate at the highest levels of Castro’s government. They include:
Fernando Ravelo-Renedo, former Cuban Ambassador to Colombia and godfather to the 2-year-old daughter of admitted Colombian drug trafficker Johnny Crump. Revelo allegedly negotiated the arrangement with Guillot at he Bogota Hilton Hotel in Nov. 1979.
Gonzalo Bassols-Suarez, formerly second-in-command of the Cuban embassy in Colombia under Revelo and a member of the Cuban Communist Party. He served as an intermediary between the Cuban government and the Guillot organization, according to DEA officials.
Aldo Santamaria-Cuadrado, a vice admiral in the Cuban Navy and member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. The indictment said his job was to supervise, in Cuba, the protection and resupply of" ships that stopped in Cuban waters and then were met by smaller boats from South Florida
Rene Rodriguez-Cruz, a suspected Cuban intelligence official and member of the Central Committee, who gained notoriety in 1980 when he helped organize the Mariel boatlift. He was the other senior Cuban official who allegedly met with Guillot in Bogota and arranged for the use of his ships.
There was no immediate response from the Cuban government to the eight-count, 19-page indictment, according to Miguel Martinez, a spokesman for the Cuban government in Washington. Since January, however, Cuban officials have repeatedly denied the drug allegations.
"All these are lies," said Martinez.
No Cuban official named in the indictment is in U.S.