Obama Green-Lights Deal With Cuban Arms Traffickers

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Last month, a Singapore court ruled against a shipping company, Chinpo Shipping, for its role in smuggling 240 tons of weapons from Cuba to North Korea in mid-2013, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Both the United States and United Nations have further sanctioned three North Korean entities — Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) and Korea Tangun Trading Corporation — for their role in this incident.

To date, the only entity that has not been sanctioned for the largest weapons cache ever intercepted to North Korea, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, was its central player -- a shadow company of the Cuban military, Almacenes Universales S.A.

To make matters worse, the Cuban military even refused to cooperate or provide any information to the U.N. Panel of Experts that was tasked with investigating this blatant sanctions violation.

Yet, last week, the Obama Administration instead chose to reward this shadow company of the Cuban military, Almacenes Universales S.A., with a $5-10 million investment from a U.S.-based tractor company, Cleber LLC (that has never manufactured a tractor) to build a factory at its Port of Mariel facility.

As the U.N Panel of Experts report ("Report") notes:

Mariel is being developed as a major deep-water port and free trade zone by a Cuba-Brazil consortium, with the Cuban military controlled Almacenes Universales S.A.

The Report also notes that the Port of Mariel was specifically chosen for this arms-smuggling operation, in order to prevent detection and avoid any paper trail.

According to the Report, some of the techniques utilized in the Cuba-North Korea operation were:

• Concealment and disguise of the ship’s position by switching off the automatic identification system, a system providing real-time information on a ship’s location, after exiting the Panama Canal until re-entry to hide the ship’s movements, particularly the docking in Mariel and drifting, and by falsifying the ship’s logs.

• Loading in Mariel as opposed to Havana or Puerto Padre; the cargo was accepted by the ship without standard shipping documents, loading receipts, loading reports and cargo survey reports.

Below is an image of the Captain's Note from the North Korean ship, Chong Chon Gang, that was intercepted carrying the 240 tons of weapons from Cuba. It shows his instructions to pick up the shipment at the Port of Mariel and identifies the Cuban military contact.

Mariel was also the facility at the center of another Cuban-related illicit cargo of weapons (100 tons) intercepted in February 2015 by the Colombian authorities.

Thus, not only is this deal approved by the Obama Administration mired in legal questions -- as it violates the letter, spirit and intent of U.S. law -- but it defies logic how it serves the national security of the U.S. and helps "the Cuban people" (as Obama purports).