The State Department Tuesday accused Cuba of using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to leftist guerrillas battling to overthrow Colombia’s constitutional government.
A department statement essentially confirmed and added new details to a Miami Herald story Sunday reporting on Cuban links to the narcotics ring and Colombia’s M-19 guerilla movement.
"We have information that since 1980 the [Fidel] Castro regime [in Cuba] has been using a Colombian narcotics ring to funnel arms as well as funds to Colombian M-19 guerrillas," the State Department said.
"This narcotics ring was led by Jaime Guillot Lara, a Colombian drug trafficker now in custody in Mexico," according to the statement. "He has admitted to working for Havana and purchasing arms for the M-19."
The State department said it had information Guillot "had traveled twice to Cuba since October 1981 and on the second visit he received $700,000 from the Cuban government to purchase arms for the Colombian M-19 guerillas."
The department said Guillot had then "played a principal role in transferring the arms he purchased form a ship to a Colombian plane hijacked by the M-19" and "reportedly also transferred funds to the guerillas through an employee of a Panamanian bank."
The M-19 is Colombia’s best known guerilla movement. It takes its name from the date in April 1970 when they claim the late populist strongman Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was defrauded of a presidential election victory.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sources identified Guillot, 35, as a "major drug trafficker" who was indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami earlier this month on marijuana conspiracy charges.
Guillot was jailed in Mexico last month. He is reported to have attempted suicide in his jail cell two weeks ago by slashing his wrists. Mexican officials say he is recovering.
He owns a walled, $300,000 home on Sunset Drive in Miami and is a fugitive in both Miami and his native Colombia where he has a 2,000 home development near Barranquilla.
Colombian President Julio Turbay Ayala’s government "suspended" diplomatic relations with Cuba in March 1981 following the capture of several dozen M-19 guerillas near the Ecuadoran border. They allegedly had been trained in Cuba and returned to Colombia through Panama.
The department statement Tuesday said that in return for Guillot’s help "the Cubans facilitated the ring's trafficking by permitting mother ships carrying marijuana to take sanctuary in Cuban waters while awaiting feeder boats from the Bahamas and Florida."
The department said Guillot had admitted that he was planning an arms shipment to "an unspecified group in Bolivia" and that the arms were to be supplied "by an individual in Miami named Johnny."
The department statement said that Johnny was "Johnny Crump, a narcotics and arms trafficker now being detained in Miami on narcotics charges." It was from Crump’s introduction of Guillot to a Cuban diplomat that the narcotics-gun running deal evolved.
Customs agents assisted by the DEA arrested Crump at the Omni Hotel in Miami 10 days ago.
The State Department called the Guillot affair "the first firm information we have which implicates Cuba in narcotics trafficking" and "confirms through and independent source what we have suspected, that despite Cuban denials Cuba has provided arms to the Colombian M-19 guerillas in addition to training them."