Report to Congress Shows Cuba Not Major Consumer, Producer, or Transit Point for Illegal Narcotics

US-Coast-Guard-Seizing-Drugs-300x199The annual narcotics control report to Congress has revealed that Cuba is not a major producer, consumer, or transit point for illegal drugs.

The report, which was published by the U.S. State Department on Friday, is about the record of different countries in fighting the international drug trade. The narcotics control report hasn’t been made public since 2008.

The report’s findings may seem surprising because of the island’s close proximity to South American and Caribbean drug lanes, but the Castro regime has always been strict with drug crimes, and drug use on the island has reportedly always been low—a sharp contrast from the pre-revolution days.

Before the revolution, Havana was famous for its range of illicit substances, and opium dens were a fixture of the city’s once-thriving Chinatown. After the Castros came to power in 1959, Fidel Castro and his army shut down all nightclubs and casinos, imposed harsh drug laws, and sent drug addicts to camps for hard labor.

Today, even possession of even a small amount of cannabis on the island can result in a prison term. Harder drugs like cocaine and heroine get even harder time. The island’s extensive surveillance system makes drug production and dealing extremely risky.

The most recent significant seizure of illegal drugs by the Cuban government was in 2015 when Cuban authorities seized almost 2,000 pounds of illegal drugs, including 1,500 pounds of marijuana, 400 pounds of cocaine, and 50 pounds of hashish.

Cuban authorities work closely with the Jamaican government to prevent the smuggling of drugs from Jamaica through Cuba to other islands in the Caribbean. Last year, Cuban law enforcement sentenced almost a dozen Cubans to 15 to 30-year jail terms for attempting to smuggle cannabis from Jamaica to the Bahamas through Cuba. The main organizer in that case was extradited from Jamaica, which provides Cuba with real-time details on suspected trafficking incidents.

Former President Barack Obama warmed relations with Cuba in 2015. In January 2017, the U.S. and Cuba have signed agreements to cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, and other international criminal activities.

There is now a U.S. Coast Guard liaison in the U.S. Embassy in Havana that’s coordinating with Cuban authorities. Cuban authorities and the Coast Guard have been sharing tactical information and coordinating responses on suspected trafficking vessels that are transiting Cuban waters. Direct communications between Cuba’s Anti-Drug Directorate and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency also began last year.

The U.S. State Department’s report also looked at financial crimes and money laundering in countries around the world. Cuba was found to be an “unattractive location” for money laundering because of low internet and cellphone usage rates, the state-controlled banking sector, and the lack of legal and government transparency.

Although incidences of international financial crimes are low on the island, the report said that Cuba has “strategic deficiencies” in its anti-money-laundering policies. It suggested that the island try to make dealings in its financial sector more transparent.

Source: 3.3.17 Cuba Drug Trafficking.pdf