The Miami Herald
January 4, 2000
Witnesses link Castro, drugs


 Pounding away at allegations that Cuba abets drug traffickers, a U.S.
 congressional committee came to Sweetwater on Monday to hear from a Cuban
 intelligence defector and the daughter of a general executed on drug charges.

 President Fidel Castro ``is allowing drug traffickers to use Cuba as a syringe for
 injecting drugs into American streets and schoolyards, charged Rep. Dan Burton,
 R-Ill., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.

 Yet the Clinton administration is ``covering up Cuba's crimes in a wrongheaded
 effort to improve relations with Havana, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, told the
 all-Republican panel.

 The State Department informed Congress last week that a U.S. Coast Guard
 lieutenant commander now based in Miami will soon be stationed in Havana to
 act as a liaison on drug-trafficking matters, Burton revealed.

 U.S. officials in Washington later confirmed that the officer, an expert in
 equipment that detects hidden smuggling compartments in ships and freight
 containers, will help Cuban authorities on a ``when asked basis.

 Castro's longstanding efforts to improve interdiction cooperation with U.S. drug
 authorities have run into strong opposition in Washington and South Florida
 because of charges that the Cuban government has repeatedly aided smugglers
 as a way of undermining the United States' moral fiber.


 The hearing in the Sweetwater City Council chambers drew little testimony that
 was not public already, instead going over cases from the 1970s and the 1989
 drug-smuggling trial of Cuban Gens. Arnaldo Ochoa and Antonio de la Guardia.

 Jorge Masetti, an Argentine-born Cuban intelligence agent who defected in the
 early 1990s, testified Castro used Colombian drug traffickers to deliver weapons
 to Colombian guerrillas in the 1970s and, in exchange, allowed the smugglers to
 use Cuba to transship drugs bound for the U.S. market.

 Cuba is even now sheltering Carlos Antonio Luslo, a Colombian
 guerrilla-turned-politician who is wanted in Bogota on drug-smuggling charges,
 Masetti added.

 Masetti also testified Luslo asked him during a visit to Havana in the late 1980s to
 arrange for a Cuban company to buy chemicals needed for a cocaine refinery in
 Colombia. The deal never went through, he added later.

 Masetti, the son of an Argentine leftist raised in Cuba, also repeated his previous
 allegations that he helped leftist Puerto Rican radicals arrange the 1983 theft of
 $7.2 million from a Wells Fargo truck in Connecticut.

 He delivered Cuban funds used to finance the robbery by the pro-independence
 Macheteros group, Masetti testified, and helped to smuggle one of the holdup
 men into Cuba after the robbery.


 Masetti's wife, Ileana, daughter of de la Guardia, testified that Castro ``certainly
 knew about the drug-smuggling operations that landed her father, Ochoa and two
 others before a Cuban firing squad in 1989.

 Castro has always insisted those were rogue operations, although a Miami-based
 federal grand jury nearly indicted his brother, Armed Forces Chief Raul Castro, for
 those same operations in 1993.

 Castro has never explained where the money from the de la Guardia drug
 operations wound up, said Ileana de la Guardia. Masetti testified that half the
 money, in small-denomination U.S. dollars, was regularly sent to Castro's private

 The committee will meet again in Sweetwater today to hear from U.S. Customs
 and drug enforcement officials on Cuba's alleged role in the international narcotics

                     Copyright 2000 Miami Herald