Cuban Officials Indicted for Narcotics Trafficking

Monday, April 27, 2009
If reports that the U.S. is pursuing "informal meetings" with Cuban officials on issues including counter-narcotics cooperation are correct, the first step should be dealing with the cases of senior Cuban regime officials indicted by federal grand juries in the U.S. for narcotics trafficking.  Amongst these are:
1.  Rene Rodriguez-Cruz, an official of the Cuban intelligence service, former member of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee and president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship With The Peoples. It was in the last capacity in 1980 that Rodriguez helped organize the boatlift of nearly 125,000 Cubans to the United States as refugees -- including some convicts from Cuban jails.
2.  Fernando Ravelo-Renedo, Cuban ambassador to Columbia until the embassy to Columbia until the embassy in Bogota was closed as relations between the countries worsened in 1980. He is godfather of the daughter of Colombian drug traffickers Juan (Johnny) Crump. Crump is now in the federal witness protection program.
3.  Gonzalo Bassols-Suarez, identified as a former minister-counsel of the Cuban embassy in Bogota and a member of the Cuban Communist Party.
A fourth indicted official passed away in 2003 without facing U.S. justice:
4.  Aldo Santamaria-Cuadrado, also known as Rene Baeza-Rodriguez, who the indictment had identified as a vice admiral in the Cuban navy and a member of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee.  He "would supervise in Cuba the protection and re-supply of ships transporting marijuana from Colombia to the United States by way of Cuba," according to the indictment.

Other links between the Cuban regime and narcotics trafficking include (courtesy of STRATFOR):
  • In 1989, Robert Vesco (who was given refuge by the Cuban regime until his death in Havana in 2007) was indicted by a grand jury during the trial of drug smuggler Carlos Lehder in Jacksonville, Fla., for arranging safe passage for drug planes through Cuban airspace. According to the indictment, Vesco obtained approval from Cuban authorities for this arrangement. Cuban air force Gen. Rafael del Pino, who defected in 1987, reported that all the planes flying over Cuba that veered off from the approved air corridors for commercial and private aircraft had to be cleared with the office of Raul Castro at the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
  • On April 23, 1989, Reinaldo Ruiz (who died of a heart attack on New Year's Eve in 1990) and his son Ruben were convicted of drug trafficking. Reinaldo was the cousin of Capt. Miguel Ruiz Poo of Cuba's Ministry of the Interior. Reinaldo and his son Ruben were allowed by Cuban authorities to land their plane at the Varadero Beach airport for refueling after dropping their drug cargoes off the Cuban coast near the Bahamas. Drug smuggling fast boats would come from Florida to pick up the cargoes. Cuban coast guard radar monitored U.S. coast guard cutters and helped the fast boats evade them.
Finally, it's important to remember who we are dealing with:
"Federal prosecutors in Miami were prepared to indict Raul Castro as the head of a major cocaine smuggling conspiracy in 1993...current and former Justice Department officials tell ABC News," ABC's Brian Ross and Vic Walter reported on August 14, 2006.  
"The officials say Castro, as Cuban Defense Minister, permitted Colombian drug lords to pay for the use of Cuban waters and airstrips as staging grounds for smuggling runs into the United States in the 1980s and early 1990s," the investigative journalists noted in The Blotter, an ABC News Web log.