BY GERARDO REYES
El Nuevo Herald
Drug traffickers have recently been using Cuba to meet or seek
to information that has emerged from a string of narcotics arrests and scandals in
Latin America this year.
The latest case became known when the chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration in Miami, Vincent Mazzilli, said the top leaders of a huge
Colombian-Mexican drug smuggling consortium arrested last week had met at
least once in Havana.
Mazzilli said Colombia's Alejandro Bernal Madrigal and Mexico's
Valencia had met this year at a Cuban site he did not identify. They were indicted
in Miami on charges of heading a network responsible for smuggling 20 to 30 tons
of cocaine a month to the United States.
The indictments were part of Operation Millennium, announced simultaneously
Attorney General Janet Reno in Washington, Colombian National Police Chief
Rosso Jose Serrano in Bogota and Mazzilli in Miami.
Mazzilli made a point of saying that the investigation had not
Cubans and that the ``obvious reason for the meeting in Havana was that Cuba
was ``outside the reach of U.S. and Colombian authorities.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Skeptics alleged that Cuban authorities must have known of the meeting.
``In a country where every human rights activist, political dissident
is followed, that narco-traffickers can meet without the Cuban secret police
knowing is a tale from Alice in Wonderland, said Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
Whatever the truth, it's clear that Bernal Madrigal and Valencia
were not the first
suspected drug traffickers to visit Cuba.
Last month, a reputed member of Colombia's Medellin Cartel, Hector
Yepes, was arrested in Panama after he arrived on a flight from Havana.
Extradited to Colombia, Yepes said he had been in Cuba as a tourist.
And last April, two suspects in one of Peru's largest narcotics
cases ever fled to
Cuba after authorities seized 2.3 tons of cocaine hidden among boxes of fish in a
shipping container in the Pacific port of Callao.
Peruvian authorities identified the leaders of the smuggling plot
as Boris Foguel y
Suengas, 39, a Panamanian businessman, and Bruno Chiappe, a Peruvian auto
Chiappe later returned to Peru and turned himself in to police
on the advice of his
lawyer, Javier Corrochano, to take advantage of a law that offers lower penalties
for criminals who confess and repent.
Corrochano told El Nuevo Herald that while in Cuba, Chiappe met
with Foguel in a
suite at the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana, and that Foguel stayed regularly in a
house in Havana that he shared with a Cuban girlfriend.
``It is powerfully interesting to me that [Foguel] can walk around
Corrochano said. ``But since Interpol doesn't get much attention there. . . .
Foguel, in an interview with the Lima news weekly Caretas reported
to have taken
place ``somewhere in Central America, said he had run an import-export business
in Cuba for some years. Among the products he mentioned were prefabricated
Peruvian police have alleged that the Foguel-Chiappe group, nicknamed
Camels, laundered about $24 million through investments in buildings, luxury
vehicles and bankrupt or fictitious enterprises.
The Cuban government told Peruvian authorities that it had no
record of any visit
to the island by Foguel.
Earlier this year, the Mexican newspaper Reforma reported that
that Mario Villanueva, a former governor of the state of Quintana Roo wanted on
drug charges, was hiding in a small town near Havana.
Mexican police also claim to have some evidence that Amado Carrillo,
drug lord who died in 1997, visited Cuba several times beginning in 1994 and
stayed in a government house reserved for important foreign visitors.
Copyright 1999 Miami Herald