Cuba Caught Smuggling Weapons (Again)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
The Colombian authorities have intercepted a Chinese-flagged ship carrying an illegal arms cargo destined for Cuba's military (through its procurement subsidiary, TecnoImport).

This is the second international weapons smuggling incident involving Cuba's military in the last two years.

In the summer of 2013, a North Korean-flagged ship was caught carrying 240 tons of Cuban weapons for Pyongyang. A U.N. Panel of Experts found this to be the most egregious violation of Security Council sanctions to date.

These two incidents raise three important issues:

1. On tourism travel to Cuba. It proves why the U.S. must continue sanctioning Cuba's military-owned tourism industry.

2. On trade financing to Cuba. It proves why the U.S. must not finance commerce with Cuba's military-controlled monopolies.

3. On the "state-sponsors of terrorism" list. It proves why any "assurances" (as required by Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act) given by Cuba that it will no longer conduct rogue activities are simply not credible.

From The Guardian:

Colombia arrests captain of arms-trafficking ship bound for Cuba

Authorities find 100 tonnes of gunpowder and 3,000 artillery shells amid cargo

Documentation for Hong Kong-flagged ship made no mention of ammunition

The captain of a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship has been arrested in the Colombian port city of Cartagena, charged with arms trafficking for transporting undocumented large-caliber munitions, reportedly bound for Cuba.

The captain of the Da Dan Xia, a Chinese national identified as Wu Hong, was captured after authorities found 100 tonnes of gunpowder and 3,000 artillery shells among other munitions, an official from the Attorney General’s office told reporters.

The vessel was stopped on Saturday after authorities discovered the unregistered materials in eight shipping containers during inspection.

“Around 100 tonnes of gunpowder, 2.6m detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells were found,” the national director of the attorney general’s office, Luis González, said.

The documentation presented by the ship’s crew made no mention of the ammunition on board and instead listed the contents as chemicals and spare parts. “The documentation that the captain had in regards to the merchandise that was being transported in the China-flagged vessel did not correspond to what we found,” González said.

After stopping in Cartagena the vessel was bound for another Colombia port, Barranquilla, and then to Havana, Cuba.

Photos of the crates containing the gunpowder, published by the Cartagena newspaper El Universal, showed they were destined for a company called TecnoImport in Cuba, which according to several blogs is a procurement branch of the Cuban armed forces.

The company officially lists itself as an importer of machinery and industrial products. The supplier is listed on the crates as Norico, a Chinese manufacturer of machinery and chemical products, as well high-tech defense products.

Cuba is currently pushing the US to remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, amid talks between the two countries aimed at normalising diplomatic relations.

The US first included Cuba on the list in 1982, accusing the communist government of sheltering members of militants including members of the Basque separatist group Eta and leftwing Colombian rebels.

For the past two years, Cuba has been the site of two-year-old peace talks between the Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels. However, there was no indication that the weapons were at all related to the Colombian guerrilla forces.

Although some news reports said the Da Dan Xia had sailed from Cartagena, the cargo-ship tracking website located the vessel still docked at the port on Tuesday.

The ship captain was to appear before a judge in Cartagena late Wednesday.

In July 2013, a North Korean ship was seized in Panama after leaving Cuba with Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets hidden under sacks of sugar.