Friday, February 27, 2009

Cuba frees foreign drug users rather than jail them, new report says

Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, or CDRs, are neighborhood watch groups that report illegal behavior, including drug use.
Cuban authorities freed 163 foreign travelers caught with illicit drugs in 2008, fining them rather than putting them in jail, according to a U.S. government report released today.
"Individuals are warned about Cuba’s regulations that prohibit the trafficking and possession of narcotics, and allowed to continue with their trips," the 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said.
The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, an arm of the State Department, produces the annual report, which assesses counternarcotics efforts around the world.
The Cuba section of the report says:
* Cuba isn't "a significant consumer nor a producer of illegal drugs," but "its ports, territorial waters, and airspace are susceptible to narcotics trafficking from source and transit countries."

* "Lack of discretionary income and an overwhelming state police presence limit access to drugs by the Cuban population and contribute to the low incidence of drug consumption."

* "During 2008, the principal source of drugs for the Cuban internal drug market continued to be drug wash-ups. Washed-up narcotics are aggressively collected and stored for eventual incineration to avoid proliferation and sale on the internal market."

* "The U.S. Government does not have direct evidence of current narcotics-related corruption among senior GOC (Government of Cuba) officials."

* "Incidents of marijuana harvests are considered “isolated” by the GOC. Cuba is not a source of precursor chemicals."
The report also said that between January and September 2008, Cuban authorities seized 1.7 metric tons of illicit drugs, including 1,675.7 kilos of marijuana and 46.8 kilos of cocaine, along with "trace amounts of crack, hashish, and other forms of psychotropic substances."
That compares to 2.6 metric tons of drugs seized in 2007.

CDRs also report suspected anti-government activities.

Cuban authorities over the past several years have repeatedly offered to help the U.S. government fight drug trafficking, terrorism and illegal immigration. The report said the Cuban government's "long history of anti-Americanism in rhetoric and action has limited the scope for joint activity."
Bilateral dealings with Cuba are "always subject to political imperatives."
The report also said Cuban authorities fail to provide "forthright or actionable proposals as to what the USG should expect from future Cuban cooperation."
That explanation rings hollow to me. The U.S. government should work harder to cooperate with Cuba on important security matters. Rather than try to improve relations, American authorities take the easy way out and say Cuba is the problem.

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