Cuba's Illegal Trafficking of Weapons is a Concerning Trend

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
From the Latin American policy site, Bloggingsbyboz:

This blog in July 2013, following the seizure of weapons:

"On top of the sanctions question, Panama and the rest of the hemisphere would be correct to ask how many other arms shipments Cuba has covertly sent through the Panama Canal and where they have gone. It seems unlikely that this shipment was the only one Cuba has done."

BBC this week:

"Colombian officials have detained the captain of a Chinese ship bound for Cuba for illegally carrying explosives and other arms...

...About 100 tonnes of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells were found on board the Da Dan Xia, officials said. But according to the ship's records, it was carrying grain products."

What is Cuba up to? Why is Cuba shipping unregistered weapons and military hardware around the world?

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry said, "It is completely normal military trade cooperation." No, it's never normal to disguise weapons shipments as grain.

The hemisphere's multilateral organizations never investigated the question of the mint condition military hardware Cuba was trafficking to North Korea and I don't expect anyone to speak up about this shipment either. Everyone is on eggshells about the presence of Cuba at the upcoming Summit of the Americas. Certainly, this seizure is going to provide ammunition (pardon the pun) to those in the US who want to keep Cuba on the state sponsors of terrorism list and prevent the US and Cuba from normalizing relations.

Yet, if there is a country in this hemisphere engaged in the covert trafficking of military-grade weapons, it should probably be an issue that is discussed. This isn't an old Cold War era debate about US-Cuba relations. These are modern shipments of dangerous military gear passing through a vital piece of infrastructure to every economy in the hemisphere that Cuba isn't properly registering or securing as is required by Panamanian law.

And once again, this can't be the only shipment of weapons going to or from Cuba. Two big shipments of weapons seized in 20 months means that this is probably a regular occurrence.