The Republic of Cuba's General Customs Service (AGR) frustrated 49 attempts to introduce illegal drugs into the country in 2014, a greater number than recorded in 2013.

Cuba's General Customs Service (AGR) has intensified efforts to protect the country from international drug trafficking. Photo: José M. Correa Armas

Daniel Noa Monzón, principal inspector of the AGR enforcement directorate, stated that one of the main strategies used in these attempts was the employment of third parties who deliver consignments or orders.

The official expressed concern given the increase in such activity, which involves drug dealers taking advantage of travelers from other countries who agree to carry packages to Cuba as part of their own baggage, in exchange for some sort of compensation or payment.

He called upon travelers to think twice about the risks involved in transporting packages for unknown persons, with no knowledge of their contents, emphasizing that, if discovered, the person carrying narcotics is held responsible for the violation of Cuban law.

Noa Monzón reported that last year 44 kilograms of cocaine, as well as small quantities of marijuana, hashish and synthetic cannabis were confiscated at airport customs.

Also detected during the year were new methods of hiding drugs, with a noticeable shift toward using automobile parts and tools.

He said that illicit substances have also been transported in plaster and ceramic pieces, furniture, batteries, audio speakers, bicycle tires, toiletries, food and other objects.

Referring to so-called "mules," Noa Monzón reported that 10 persons of different nationalities were detained with drugs attached to or ingested within their bodies, a modality which endangers the life of the trafficker, despite the immediate, specialized medical attention provided in such cases.

The AGR official reported that another 32 incidents occurred in which travelers attempted to introduce illicit drugs for their own use. These individuals were detained at aerial and maritime terminals, carrying very small amounts of marijuana, hashish or cocaine, he said.

In these cases, pertinent customs regulations were enforced, with established administrative steps taken involving warnings, confiscation, and fines as high as 200 CUC.

The AGR is constantly focused on improving and updating the skills of its personnel, and in 2014 organized a full staff development program which included the training of inspectors and x-ray machine operators, while also making significant investments in equipment to detect narcotics on persons and in baggage.

Noa Monzón explained that these efforts are tied to the country's efforts to strengthen institutionality which will continue in 2015, the 52nd anniversary of the AGR, at a time when increases in international travel and cargo transportation are expected.

He additionally highlighted Cuba's participation in a number of international operations on the request of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the World Customs Organizations, the entity which manages collaborative work and exchanges among customs services on an international level.