NARCO-POLITIK: ‘El Lider Maximo’, The Double Life of Fidel Castro (Archive)

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“…Starting in the seventies, MININT’s dealings with Southern Hemisphere guerrillas turned into cooperation with its drug dealers and involvement in drug trafficking….Abrantes proposed to Fidel, that Cuba cooperate with drug dealers in striking out at the United States…Not coincidentally, the drug trade also became a significant source of hard currency income for Fidel Castro and, according to his way of thinking, an efficient way to weaken North American society”:

(Narco-Politik: The Eighties & Beyond – The Castro Connection)

– This period marked the beginning of the end for Valdez’ former right-hand man, Jose Abrantes Fernandez, the vaunted head of MININT, often referred to as the third-most powerful man in Cuba. Starting in the seventies, MININT’s dealings with Southern Hemisphere guerrillas turned into cooperation with its drug dealers and involvement in drug trafficking.  It had been suggested to Abrantes, and Abrantes proposed to Fidel, that Cuba cooperate with drug dealers in striking out at the United States: If Cuba opened its skies and shores to shipments of drugs to the United States, the narco-traffickers would help Cuba overcome a long-standing problem, namely getting material support to guerrillas in Latin America. Not coincidentally, the drug trade also became a significant source of hard currency income for Fidel Castro and, according to his way of thinking, an efficient way to weaken North American society.  “Cuba needs the dollars and perhaps some of the consumer goods that are being offered by the Colombians,” a source said.  “And the quid pro quo is allowing those [Colombian cocaine] factions to flourish by doing their drug trade through Cuba.”
On November 15, 1982, close aides to Castro, including DGI officers, were convicted in the US on charges of smuggling drugs into the United States. On February 7, 1983, a former member of the DGI testified in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida, that Cuban involvement in international drug operations was a multifaceted, methodical campaign aimed at undermining the United States and its international stature. And in 1988 testimony from José Blandón Castillo, a former intelligence aid to Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, provided further evidence concerning Cuba’s role in the drug flow of the United States.  But since that time, the dam has burst, with countless sources detailing the Castros role in drug trafficking.
The evidence is overwhelming that for over thirty years, the Castro regime has officially sanctioned the use of its airspace as a drug superhighway into the US. Both Castro brothers have been directly implicated – by senior Cuban officials and dealers alike – in narco-trafficking and money laundering partnerships with the notorious Medellin and Cali drug cartels.

Among those giving testimony:

Rodríguez Menier saw firsthand how in the 1970s then Interior Minister Abrantes convinced Fidel of the benefits of cooperating with international drug traffickers. He also relates how former Panamanian strongman, Manuel Noriega, would meet with Castro to discuss money-laundering solutions for drug monies. “So they begin to deal directly, to buy and sell, buy and sell, as well as providing facilities, because they don’t cut out the drug dealers. No, what they do is operate it where the drug dealers can’t. It’s like a Mafia family. Fidel became a family but without harming the interests of other families. It became so blatant, the drugs were dropped in broad daylight within sight of the Las Americas Restaurant, one of Cuba’s top tourist attractions.”

Fidel Castro Ran Cocaine Trafficking Operations 'Like a Real Godfather ...

Major Florentino Aspillaga confirmed that the cocaine proceeds were deposited in his Swiss bank accounts “in order to finance liberation movements.”

Manuel de Beunza claims that monies obtained by Cuba from drug trafficking were laundered through Swiss banks by way of delivering old US dollar bills in exchange for credits to bank accounts held by Cuba… “I took part in a meeting at which Fidel Castro ordered the creation of companies that were to be involved in drug dealing. There were others there, like Osmany Cienfuegos, Tony de la Guardia, Jose Abrantes. Two of the business fronts named by de Beunza were Happy Line Shipping and a trading concern called Mercurio…I know Fidel Castro and I was at the meeting where the company was set up.  He ordered the creation of these companies with the specific aim of their getting involved in drug trafficking… Admiral Perez Betancourt told me that Aldo Santamaria was involved in drug trafficking. He said Aldo was following Fidel and Raúl’s orders but he was doing it reluctantly.”

Jose Luis llovio-Menendez, former Chief Adviser, Cuban Ministry of Finance: “Tony de la Guardia knew that Fidel was involved in drug trafficking. He was the only living witness except perhaps Raúl Castro and Abrantes who knew that Fidel was involved in drug trafficking. Fidel had to get rid of him… I felt very angry and I felt that Fidel had been merciless. He has protected his image by killing a man who was acting under his orders.”

Ileana de la Guardia testified before the US Congress in 1999 that her father — Tony de la Guardia [Colonel la Guardia was a high-ranked] intelligence officer], who was executed in a 1989 “show trial” of drug traffickers — had told her that Fidel Castro had several bank accounts to which proceeds of drug trafficking operations were sent.

We were prohibited from saying in return, ‘Thank you, we’ve got it ...

Cuban Air Force Brigadier General Rafael del Pino, the highest-ranking defector from Cuba’s Armed Forces (Defected, May 28, 1987), has described how large numbers of drug running planes from Colombia and elsewhere were given free reign of Cuban airspace… “The permission to overfly Cuba had to have to come from [Raúl Castro’s] ministry of defense…Several times I received orders from Raúl Castro’s office and also from General Abrantes’s office to let the airplane cross over Cuba.”

Florentino Aspillaga also confirmed the long-term personal involvement of the Castro brothers in the drug trade.  Just like the others, he explains that it would be impossible for these operations to be carried out without the personal approval of Fidel.

Jorge Masetti’s compelling autobiography describes his participation in drug trafficking, counterfeiting, kidnappings, bank robberies, and other criminal and terrorist operations in Latin America on Cuba’s behalf under Manuel Piñeiro and the Americas Department.

Robert Kammer, US Customs Special Agent:  “There was certainly indications of Cuban involvement way before 1987. Going back into the early ’80s, there were cases involving the Cubans involved in drug-trafficking into the US.”

Johnny Crump, the most successful Colombian coke smuggler –  “All the Cuban government was approving the operation.”

Carlos Lehder-Rivas, a founding member of the Medellin Cartel, serving a sentence of life plus 135 years.  – “Without the permission of Fidel, I could have never gone into Cuba.” Lehder testified in a 1991 federal trial that he met twice in Havana with Raúl Castro to arrange safe passage for cocaine flights over Cuban airspace.

The hypocrisy of the Castros’ position on drug dealing reached its zenith in 1989, when fourteen of his most loyal, longtime comrades were put on “show trial” for drug smuggling. With foreign observers were banned by the court, ten were given thirty-year sentences, while four, including General Arnaldo T. “El Moro” Ochoa Sánchez, were sentenced to death. This would be the US equivalent of charging Gen. Colin Powell with child molestation. Ochoa had participated in the guerrilla war against Batista and later became a high-ranking member of Castro’s armed forces and of the Communist Party. Between 1967 and 1969, Ochoa was sent by Castro to train rebels in the Congo and later took part in an expedition into Venezuela to try to overthrow the democratically elected government of that country. In 1975, Ochoa was sent to fight in a critical campaign against the FNLA in Angola. In 1977 he was named commander of Cuban Expeditionary Forces in Ethiopia under the command of Soviet General Petrov. In 1980, Ochoa was awarded the coveted title, “Hero of the Revolution,” by Castro.
Nonetheless, Ochoa and three others were executed by firing squad on July 12, 1989 (under Cuban law, the maximum sentence for drug smuggling is 15 years.)

Two months later, Castro held another show trial in order to purge MININT of seven “disloyal” officers, among the scapegoats would be none other than the revered Angola war hero and MININT Chief Jose Abrantes Fernandez.  Using trumped up charges to destroy opponents to his unyielding hard line, Castro gave harsh prison sentences to men such as Abrantes. Most observers understood the trials for what they were: methods to destroy not only those who had firsthand knowledge of the Castros’ drug dealing, but also progressive political opponents who were pressuring the regime to follow Russia’s evolution to “Perestroika” and “Glasnost.”
Amazingly, federal prosecutors in Miami were prepared to indict Raúl Castro and Manuel Piñeiro Losada as the heads of a major Colombian cocaine smuggling conspiracy in 1993, but the Clinton Administration Justice Department overruled them, according to current and former Justice Department officials familiar with the investigation. The draft indictment, as described by a former Justice Department official who saw it, listed Raúl Castro as the leader of a conspiracy involved in smuggling seven and a half tons of cocaine into the United States over a 10-year period. At least a dozen other Cubans were also to be indicted.
“It was a major investigation involving numerous witnesses that was killed at the highest levels in Washington,” said a former Justice Department official with direct knowledge of the case.  There were a number of reasons given for removing Raúl’s name from the indictment at the last moment.  “There were numerous national security and intelligence issues that would have made the case difficult,” said Tom Cash, the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Miami. Others said that, without a smoking gun document trail, the dozens of eyewitnesses, most of whom were drug dealers or defectors from Cuban intelligence, could have been impeached by defense attorneys.
Three years later, Colombian coke smuggler Jorge Cabrera was busted in Miami in the midst of a 20,000 lb. coke delivery. The suspects told investigators that the dope was smuggled though Havana with the personal approval of Fidel, a contention bolstered by the fact that in Cabrera’s possession were photos of him embracing both Fidel Castro and Manuel Piñeiro.  Other sources said that after the photos were taken, Fidel went off for a long private chat with Cabrera. Castro allegedly told him, “I know your friends from Cali. I’ve met them. I know they’re here (in Cuba). I like doing business with them.”
For the second time, the Clinton administration had the Cuban links pulled from the indictment, despite the fact that the evidence against Castro was far more substantial than the evidence that led to the drug indictment of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega in 1988.  Clinton cynics liked to point out that a year earlier Jorge Cabrera had written a $20,000 check to the Democratic National Committee days after he was tapped for a contribution in Havana. And within a month of his donation, Cabrera was dining with Vice President Al Gore in Miami and being feted by Bill and Hillary at the White House.
The Clinton administration was not yet finished covering up for Fidel, et al. On December 6, 1998, in the northern Colombian port cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta, Colombian officials seized seven-and-a-half tons of cocaine and quickly learned that the traffickers had been using Cuba as a transit point for drug shipments to Europe and the United States. Although local police were delighted with the bust, US diplomats weren’t so pleased. After informing the State Department of the busts, the US authorities tied to pressure the Colombians into back off the Cuban connection.
US lawmakers on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee were incensed and demanded an explanation from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. At the time, the Clinton administration was moving to ease the tensions between the US and Cuba. Committee Chairman Dan Burton of Indiana wrote Albright: “Sources close to the American embassy in Bogota have informed me that officials at the US Embassy solicited silence from the Colombian National Police regarding a seven-and-a-half-ton cocaine seizure, destined for Cuba, because it could hurt our budding relationship with the Western Hemisphere’s only surviving dictator.” He added irately: “It is only logical to conclude the reason there has been no official reaction from the State Department on the seizure is that State did not want the air of coddling a ruthless dictator to be muddied by allegations of drug trafficking.”  The letter went unanswered.






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