STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
PROMINENT DRUG TRAFFICKER ARRESTED IN OUR COUNTRY
THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS TO THE UNITED STATES A SET OF PROPOSALS FOR BILATERAL AGREEMENTS ON MIGRATORY ISSUES, COOPERATION IN DRUG INTERDICTION AND A PROGRAM TO FIGHT TERRORISM.
Last March 6, at 9:45 am, a Colombian by the name of Rafael Miguel Bustamante Bolanos was arrested in a private house at the Siboney area, in the municipality of Playa, where he had rented a room. He had arrived in the country on January 6, 2002, after traveling from Jamaica with a Venezuelan passport under the name of Alberto Pinto Jaramilllo.
Through cooperation mechanisms established with several drug-interdiction services in the region, information had been obtained since January 31, about the presence in our country of Bustamante Bolanos, who faces numerous charges related to drug-traffic in the region.
It was through the aforementioned mechanisms that we learned, among other things, that Bustamante Bolanos has connections with a major gang of Bahamian drug-traffickers and that approximately 10 years ago he had escaped from prison in Santa Marta, Colombia where he was serving a sentence for money laundering. It has also been known that he is a target of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for his involvement in operations to introduce drug in that country.
Additional information indicates that this individual is also claimed by the U.S. authorities for his escape from a federal prison in Alabama, where he was serving a sentence for money laundering and cocaine traffic. He is also involved in a major drug-traffic case presently under investigation by the DEA and related to the introduction of cocaine in the United States from Jamaica.
Another person was arrested with Bustamante. This is a Bahamian citizen named Robert Lewis also accused of serious charges related to drug trafficking. Both are still in detention and being arraigned on charges of drug trafficking and the use of false documents.
In view of the seriousness of the case, the investigation proceeds with great rigor. Our people are well aware that the crimes of which these two men are accused have been very clearly defined in the Cuban Penal code that provides the most severe penalties for drug-traffic related crimes.
On the other hand, last January 12, in a goodwill gesture that clearly shows our government’s serious disposition to cooperate with all countries in fighting drug-traffic, the Cuban authorities handed over to the U.S. authorities an American citizen by the name of Jesse James Bell, a fugitive of the United States justice, accused of 15 charges directly or indirectly associated to drug-traffic in the United States.
Bell had been in detention in our country since October 10, 2001 when he was detected, as a passenger in transit, leaving the country with a false identity. Our authorities immediately informed the United States Interests Section in Havana about his detention.
On October 19, 2001, the U.S. authorities acting through the U.S. Interests Section presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the diplomatic Note 573 officially requesting that the detainee be handed over to them. Our government responded that request positively after it had been clearly established that Bell had not taken part in any illegal action inside our country.
An exception was made in this case to hand over this individual to the DEA authorities since, despite the expressed willingness of Cuba and the proposals it has submitted, there is not a cooperation agreement between the governments of Cuba and the United States of America on drug-interdiction, therefore, our country was under no obligation to relinquish the aforementioned outlaw to the U.S. authorities.
Likewise, it should be noted that on November 29, 2001 the director of the North America desk in the Foreign Ministry, comrade Rafael Dausa, presented in Havana to the head of the Cuba Bureau in the State Department an Aide Memoire containing several proposals made by the Cuban government to the Government of the United States aimed at reaching agreements on migratory issues, that is to fight illegal migration and the traffic of people; on cooperation to fight the illegal drug-traffic; and, on a program of bilateral cooperation to fight terrorism. The proposal for a migratory agreement had been previously submitted to the U.S. authorities on September 2000.
On July 26,1999, while addressing the rally in commemoration of that date in the province of Cienfuegos, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro offered a description of the actions undertaken by our country as part of the struggle against drug trafficking. Then, referring to his meeting with the outstanding and prestigious republican Senator Arlen Specter, who had visited our country on June that same year, he said that "three forms of cooperation were possible: a modest cooperation, a larger and more efficient cooperation or a comprehensive kind of cooperation.
"I ask you to inquire from the top authorities in your country what level of cooperation they wish to have: if they wish the present level, a middle level cooperation or a full cooperation. I simply say that we are willing to work on any of these forms of cooperation".
A few days later, in a similar commemoration in Matanzas province, the Commander in Chief touched on the issue of the illegal emigration fostered by the United States against Cuba throughout forty years, the Cuban Adjustment Act, the high toll in human lives it has taken from our country and the necessity to find a solution to that grave problem.
At the latest round of talks on migratory issues between Cuba and the United States held in Havana last December 3, 2001, comrade Ricardo Alarcon, Speaker of the National Assembly of People’s Power and leader of the Cuban delegation to the talks, again submitted to the American delegation the three proposals of agreement on migratory issues, on drug trafficking interdiction and on fighting terrorism. On that occasion, however, the American delegation alleged that the proposed agreements were beyond the framework of the migratory talks and suggested that they be presented through the existing diplomatic channels.
Taking into account that suggestion, on March 12, 2002, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington officially delivered three diplomatic notes to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and the State Department in Washington, respectively, to which the texts of the agreements proposed for the three major issues were annexed.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, considering the mutual benefit of the agreements on migratory issues, drug-interdiction and the struggle against terrorism, reiterates the willingness of the Cuban government to discuss and sign such agreements with the Government of the United States of America.
The possibility now exists for the U.S. Administration to show that it is truly willing to seriously undertake the fight against those grave scourges of Humanity, while avoiding a double-standard approach.
It is in the hands of the United States government to prove, both to the American and the international public opinion, that it is capable of sidestepping the mean interests of small anti-Cuban groups and defend the real interests of the American people.
Now, it is for the United States to respond.
Havana, March 17, 2002