BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
Pounding away at allegations that Cuba abets drug traffickers,
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
The State Department informed Congress last week that a U.S. Coast
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
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 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.
DID CASTRO KNOW?
Masetti's wife, Ileana, daughter of de la Guardia, testified that
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
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
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
and drug enforcement officials on Cuba's alleged role in the international narcotics
Copyright 2000 Miami Herald