- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2000

SWEETWATER, Fla. The Cuban government has been involved in efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States, witnesses told a House committee yesterday.
Jorge Masetti, a former Cuban intelligence agent, and Ileana de la Guardia, the daughter of a Cuban colonel executed in 1989 for drug trafficking, gave their testimony, adding to what some House members say is a growing account of the island nation's role in the drug trade.
"Cuba used the drug trafficking route to send weapons to Colombia and in exchange they paid them with favors; for example, many of them bring the drugs through Cuba," Mr. Masetti, who now lives in Spain, told the House Government Reform Committee.
Mr. Masetti, who said the Cuban government helped finance a 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo armored truck in West Hartford, Conn., which netted $7.2 million, also told committee members he saw diplomatic pouches filled with dollars presumably drug profits in low denominations brought into Cuba.
"These bags were brought, one half to the Ministry of the Interior, the other half to Jose Naranjo, aide to Fidel Castro," Mr. Masetti said.
Miss de la Guardia, the daughter of Cuban Col. Antonio de la Guardia, testified that her father took the fall for higher-ups in the government. She said her father did not have the rank to give drug traffickers' planes free passage through Cuban airspace.
"This had to come from a higher level of authority, namely, Raul Castro," she said.
Cuba has denied the reports.
But committee members said there is evidence the Cuban government has been involved in drug trafficking.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, cited the seizure of a 7.5-ton cocaine shipment by Colombia's narcotics police Dec. 3, 1998. House committee members said they believe the shipment was destined to pass through Cuban waters before reaching the United States.
The House committee members want Cuba added to the U.S. government's so-called "Major's List" of drug-trafficking countries.
The campaign for Cuba's inclusion on the list is being led by Reps. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, and Dan Burton, Indiana Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has said there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that Cuban leadership is involved in drug trafficking.
Cuba maintains it does not have the resources to patrol these large areas, especially its territorial waters.
But those on the congressional panel scoffed at that assertion, saying the fact that the Cuban government was able to send two MiG fighter jets to monitor the flight of an American pilot in a civilian plane over Havana this weekend, indicates Cuba is able to monitor its territory.
"I've been convinced for a long time, but it was important to hear a witness who could directly corroborate the Cuban government's participation in drug-trafficking activities," said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican.
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said she wants criminal charges brought against Cuban President Fidel Castro.
"The only way to get to that point is to have an investigation that the U.S. Justice Department has to undertake, but they are unwilling to do it," she said.
Jim Kennedy, a White House spokesman, said the issue is a top priority for the president.
"We have helped push federal spending to combat drugs by nearly 40 percent," said Mr. Kennedy, who denied the president is hedging in pursuing an investigation.
"[The] allegations have absolutely no basis in reality."

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