US, Cuba still cooperating on stopping drug smugglers
By Andrea Rodriguez and Michael Weissenstein | AP June 22
HAVANA — The U.S. and Cuba are still cooperating to intercept drug
smugglers even through the Trump administration has halted high-level
meetings on stopping the flow of narcotics through the Caribbean, a top
Cuban anti-drug official said Thursday.
The amount of drugs seized by Cuban authorities has tripled this year
over the same period in 2016, to 1.8 tons of narcotics, said Antonio
Israel Ibarra, the head of Cuba's National Commission on Drugs.
That number is tiny compared to drug seizures in neighboring countries,
but it represents a surge due largely to U.S.-Cuban cooperation on
halting shipments of marijuana through or near Cuban territorial waters,
Cuba maintains a pervasive state-security apparatus that has managed to
keep levels of drug smuggling and serious crime to some of the lowest in
Latin American and the Caribbean. U.S. officials say day-to-day
cooperation on halting U.S.-bound human trafficking and narcotics has
improved significantly since the re-establishment of diplomatic
relations in 2015, with the two nations' coast guards talking directly
to each other and cooperating in real time on a regular basis.
High-level meetings on law-enforcement cooperation have halted, however,
since President Donald Trump took office this year. On June 16, Trump
announced a new U.S. policy on Cuba that would prohibit most new
Americans transactions with Cuban military-linked businesses and
restrict U.S. travel to Cuba.
Ibarra said Cuba is still willing to continue high-level cooperation.
"We hope that for the sake of both countries they're not going to give
back the effective cooperation that Cuba can provide them," he said.
"They're certainly the ones that benefit most."
Cuba and the U.S. signed an anti-drug cooperation agreement last July
and have held four meetings to strengthen cooperation since then, Ibarra
said. The meeting meant to happen in the first half of 2017 in
Washington was cancelled by the Trump administration, he said.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein
Source: US, Cuba still cooperating on stopping drug smugglers - The
Washington Post -