The Miami Herald
May 9, 1999

U.S. official fears Cuba's drug traffic may increase

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Cuba has shown willingness to help the United States fight the
international drug trade but has been largely ineffective at it, the Clinton
administration's antinarcotics policymaker said Saturday.

Only a small portion of the drugs that come into the United States come through
Cuba, Barry McCaffrey said, but the island's location and a growing tourist market
could make it an opportune target for drug traffickers.

``I don't think it's a significant problem on balance yet, but as we look to the
future, my own assumption is that it will become one,'' McCaffrey said. ``It's worth
being worried about.''

McCaffrey, a retired Army general, said the only direct contact the United States
has had with Cuba on drug policy has been between the Coast Guard and Cuba's
coastal enforcement authority.

``It appears consistent that when we give them intelligence, they act on it,''
McCaffrey said.

He cautioned that Cuba lacks the resources to counter the world's large
drug-trafficking organizations. McCaffrey said drugs are routinely flown over Cuba
or dumped in Cuban waters without effective resistance by President Fidel
Castro's government.

But McCaffrey, whose last Army job made him the senior U.S. officer in Latin
America as chief of the Southern Command, said the Cuban government has
shown no sympathy for international drug traffickers and consistently confronts
international drug traffickers when they threaten Cuba's interests.

The United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961, after
Castro began nationalizing much of the country's industry, but the two countries
maintain quasi-diplomatic missions in their respective capitals known as interests
sections. McCaffrey said U.S. policy toward Castro remains a roadblock to further
cooperation on drug trafficking.

``Our dilemma is that Cuba is still a one-party dictatorship with this anachronistic
Marxist economy that doesn't work,'' McCaffrey said. ``And so it's hard for us to
get by our principles of support for democracy when dealing with, in the coming
years, a drug policy issue.''

McCaffrey blasted President Ernesto Perez Balladares of Panama for not
supporting a continued U.S. military role in Panama to fight drugs. McCaffrey said
Balladares and his party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party, agreed to a U.S.
force in private negotiations but campaigned against it in elections.

``They ill-served their own future in the way they handled these negotiations,''
McCaffrey said.