A former counterintelligence agent accused high-ranking security officials in Cuba of trafficking drugs, an assertion that suggests deep government complicity in the drug trade – if true.
Ortelio Abrahantes Bacallao, who once worked for Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, told Marti Noticias that the head of the anti-drug agency and the head of the border guard in Ciego de Avila province ran drug trafficking operations in the area. According to Abrahantes, the officials collected and stored packages of cocaine and marijuana dropped into the ocean by Colombian planes. Abrahantes said the drugs were then sent by boat to the Bahamas, where they were transferred to other vessels and trafficked to the United States.
Abrahantes told Marti Noticias he participated in four such operations following the orders of his superiors, and was responsible for obtaining fuel and overseeing the maintenance of the boats used to collect the drugs. He was once in charge of all of the Ministry of Interior’s land and sea transporation operations in Ciego de Avila before he defected from the Cuban goverment, he has said.
Abrahantes has been held in an immigration detention center in the Bahamas since March, when he fled Cuba and attempted to sail to the United States. He was intercepted by the US Coast Guard, then turned over to officials in the Bahamas.
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According to the US State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Cuba’s strong interdiction efforts have prevented the island nation from becoming a significant drug transshipment point, despite traffickers’ increased reliance on Carribean drug trafficking routes. Cuba has taken a particularly harsh stance on narcotics, with President Raul Castro stating last year that the country would fight drugs “with blood and fire” and consider applying the death penalty to drug traffickers.
Given the high level of social control and strict law enforcement policies in Cuba, any major drug trafficking operation would undoubtedly require some degree of official collaboration. Economic difficulties in Cuba also likely make officials susceptible to corruption, since many goods are only available to those who have access to dollars and salaries tend to be extremely low.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cuba
Nonetheless, Abrahantes’ accusations should be treated with some skepticism. His lawyer told Marti Noticias – which is financed by the US government – that he had spoken with US government agencies who expressed interest in Abrahantes’ claims. Although it is entirely possible that high-level Cuban officials are involved in drug trafficking, Abrahantes may also be exaggerating or inventing information in hope of being granted refuge in the United States.
- Elites and Organized Crime