Apparent in 2018 was an increase in the global threat of drug trafficking, given the rapid variation of routes, operation schemes, and methods of concealment; the negative international trend of legalizing marijuana; the continued use of traditional routes close to our national territory; in addition to the impact of criminal groups from abroad and Cuban émigrés looking to introduce drugs on the island.
Given this complex scenario, and as a result of the implementation of a drug abuse prevention and enforcement strategy, this past year Cuba confiscated 2,438 kilos of illicit substances, the majority marijuana from drops by international traffickers which went astray, not intended for the island.
This is the smallest quantity intercepted in the last three years, and included 2,071 kg of marijuana, 363 kg of cocaine, three of cannabinoids, one of crack, and 0.15kg of hashish. This does not, however, mean that the regional threat or internal challenges have diminished, according to information provided by the Ministry of the Interior.
In our geographical area, more than 90% of drug trafficking operations are carried out by sea, and this has an impact on the arrival of drugs to our coasts. A Ministry report confirms that 77% of the drugs seized in the country come from drops that went astray, in operations organized by Cubans based abroad with the use of speedboats - evidence of activity along maritime routes near our country, and of possession and consumption on pleasure yachts.
Two attempts to introduce drugs on speedboats were uncovered and intercepted at sea, leading to four arrests and 144 kg of marijuana confiscated. In addition, two operations were neutralized in Cuban territorial waters and two foreign drug traffickers apprehended, along with 132 kg of marijuana.
CLOSE TO 50 AIR OPERATIONS FRUSTRATED
Neutralized at air borders were 49 attempted drug operations, mostly carried out with the intention of selling illegal substances in the country, resulting in 90 arrests (54 Cubans and 36 foreigners) and a total of 81 kg of narcotics seized, 64 kg more than last year.
These operations were organized by criminal networks of foreigners and nationals, and occurred principally at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, although an incident was investigated at the Frank País Airport in Holguín, as well as two mail cases, and one attempt via the capital’s international cargo terminal. In all, 77 kg of cocaine, three of cannabinoids, one of marijuana, and small amounts of hashish were seized.
Modes of air trafficking entailed a greater use of internet communication - Imo and WhatsApp - key in these operations; increasingly complex and difficult to detect forms of concealment, such as wrappers within the vagina, ingested capsules, body attachment, in food and parcels. The majority were organized and financed abroad by Cuban emigrant traffickers, with the use of couriers of various nationalities, originating in different countries.
A PERMANENT BATTLE AGAINST DRUG USE AND INTERNAL TRAFFICKING
Within the country, the Ministry’s work is principally directed toward intercepting efforts to collect drug drops that reach the coast; eliminating isolated cases of marijuana cultivation; stopping the transport of substances to provinces and primarily Havana; as well as efforts to prevent abuse of illegal drugs and medications with similar effects.
These enforcement efforts led to the confiscation of 83 kg of drugs, 18 kg more than last year, thus preventing their sale and consumption.
Prevention and enforcement efforts have been intensified in several provinces, sectors, environments, and more complicated areas, with the goal of minimizing the impact of drugs on society, and preventing the establishment of organized crime in the country, intent upon using our territory as a stopping point for operations in other countries.
Troops from the Ministry of the Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces, in close collaboration with other institutions, social and mass organizations, have increased preventative and enforcement work to defend our coastline from international trafficking operations and attempts to introduce drugs. Noteworthy in this context is popular participation in preventing the collection of drops through
Mirando al mar (Sea Watch) community contingents and institutions located or working near the shoreline.
Additionally, the Border Guard Directorate maintains an exchange of information, in real time, with drug enforcement services in the region, including the United States, Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Mexico, and work continues to assure needed evidence and extraditions via operational cooperation. The prosecution of Cubans living abroad who promote such operations is also key, not allowing them to break the law with impunity.
In this context, Cuban authorities, in cooperation with those in Costa Rica, recently processed the return of Cuban citizen Neftaly García Testa, via the international circulation of an arrest warrant issued by the Interpol Office in Havana, and an extradition request presented by Cuba’s Attorney General, Supreme People’s Court, and Foreign Ministry.
This individual was identified as an organizer of intercepted drug shipments to Cuba between 2011 and 2016, crimes for which 16 people were convicted in our courts, seven of them Costa Rican.
Likewise, international operational cooperation has allowed for the strengthening of ties with 37 foreign police services, Interpol, and other organizations, based on the exchange of information, the promotion and development of cooperative investigation, and mutual legal assistance.
The collection of information continues to be consolidated, in order to uncover potential suspects at the border and achieve greater precision in the enforcement system, to obstruct trafficking and confiscate illegal drugs.
Similarly, detection capabilities continue to be strengthened through the acquisition of technical means to detect suspicious passengers and baggage; along with canine techniques and cooperative work by Minint bodies, the General Customs Office of the Republic, and airport administrations; plus the realization of exercises to verify practices in airports and continue the systematic training of forces.
The statistics from 2018 confirm Cuba’s absolute commitment to achieving a society free of illicit drugs, as a vital element in achieving sustainable development and the well-being of our people.
The island’s geographical position places us at the center of routes that connect production sources in South America with the world’s largest consumer market, the United States. With drug trafficking becoming globalized, the number of countries at risk has multiplied, from a dozen to more than 170 in less than a decade. Drug labs proliferate in the north and invade markets that open in all cardinal directions. Synthetic drugs compete and are progressively displacing cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.
Meanwhile, marijuana (the most sold and consumed in the world) is the undisputed “queen” of the business and, as is to be expected, the great beneficiaries and traffickers are attempting to corner the market through its legalization, as another commodity in the capitalist economy, which fills Western banks with a significant portion of the nearly 600 billion dollars a year generated by illicit trafficking of narcotics worldwide.
These threats and dangers will continue to impact our country, as in the rest of the world, but with the difference that the revolutionary government has the political will to confront this scourge, with a zero tolerance strategy, the majority participation of society, and its institutions, political, social, and mass organizations which continue to develop concrete, intelligent action plans in their respective sectors, which are carefully supervised to ensure effective implementation. Free rehabilitation and drug recovery services are available, and violators of the law are rigorously prosecuted.