‘Washed-up’ Drugs Impounded by Cuba

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities succeeded in confiscating more than three tons of drugs in 2012, mostly marijuana that washed ashore, according to figures released today in the official Granma newspaper, reported DPA news.

Overall, counterdrug operations seized 3,045 kilos of narcotics on the island or off its coasts, said the newspaper. Almost all were from maritime operations aimed at stopping “washed ashore” drugs along the Cuban coast.

Of the drugs impounded, 2997 kilos were marijuana, 43 kilos were cocaine, two kilos were hash oil and the rest small amounts of other substances. Authorities also prevented 42 attempts to smuggle drugs in by air; in those, 69 people were arrested – 42 of them Cuban along with 21 foreigners.

The largest seizures were of “washed ashore” drugs that reach the Cuban coast after being thrown into the sea en route to the United States. Authorities seized 2,961 kilos of marijuana in such operations, compared to 8,508 kilos confiscated the year before, according to official figures.

It’s estimated that the island has an almost nonexistent domestic drug market compared to other countries. In 2012, only 25 kilos of these types of drugs were seized, according to Granma, while the figure for the preceding year was 67 kilos, most of which was marijuana.

The increased flow of tourists and immigration has led to an increase in drug smuggling activity at air borders of the island, according to Granma.

Cuba, on the other hand, is on the route of drug trafficking from South America to the United States, the largest drug market in the world. Most of the shipments that “wash ashore” on the Cuban coast are thrown out of aircraft by traffickers, to be picked up by their partners in crime and smuggled by boat into the US.

In the late 90s, former president Fidel Castro acknowledged the use of Cuban territorial waters for international drug trafficking. Since then, the island’s government launched several anti-drug operations, especially maritime operations.

At the recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Santiago de Chile, Raul Castro said that the drug problem on the island is minimal. In Cuba “there will never be drugs,” said the president.

Castro also pointed to the seriousness of the problem of drug trafficking and drug use in the region. In Santiago, Peruvian president Ollanta Humala and the Guatemalan head of state Otto Perez Molina warned of the growing problem on the continent and the “urgent need” to counter the trafficking.

Especially in Central America, organized crime related to drug trafficking has increased, while Mexico has been suffering a wave of drug-related violence for years.