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Cuba Again Attacks U.S. on Drug Information

Times Staff Writer

Preoccupied with its worst scandal in 30 years, Cuba on Tuesday again accused the United States of not sharing information that might have earlier exposed the Cuban military and intelligence officers who were executed or imprisoned after a court-martial found them guilty of drug trafficking.

The Cuban complaint contradicted diplomatic reports in Havana that American officials on at least six occasions this year brought information about Cuban drug trafficking to the attention of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry. The informal American protests were made both before and during the two-month Cuban investigation that exposed the country’s top military hero and a covey of government officials as drug traffickers, the diplomatic sources said.

But Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ricardo Alarcon, at a news conference said: “It is absolutely false that U.S. authorities have given any type of information whatsoever to Cuban authorities. . . . We received no information whatsoever prior to the arrest of these persons, nor any information after they were arrested.”

Cuban army Maj. Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez and three lesser-ranking officers were shot by firing squad July 13, and 10 other officers of the army and the Interior Ministry’s intelligence branch were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

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According to testimony in their court-martial, a major part of the drug-trafficking plot was uncovered only in the course of an investigation of suspected sex escapades and black-marketeering while Ochoa was head of the Cuban military mission in Angola.

His connection, along with the Interior Ministry officials, to the drug trade came as an bombshell to the Cuban leadership, according to explanations in speeches by President Fidel Castro and his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro. In one of the speeches, on July 9, Castro accused the United States of not warning him that Cuban officers were trafficking in cocaine.

Repeating Castro’s charge, Alarcon complained that even though he personally asked a high-ranking State Department official last January to provide information concerning drug traffic through Cuba, “until this moment no information has been provided.”

But the diplomatic sources here insisted that American diplomats in Havana repeatedly informed Alarcon and other officials of what was taking place in Cuban airspace and territorial waters, where U.S. anti-drug officials say they had tracked more than 60 suspected drug flights since early 1988. Whether the Americans actually passed along the names of some of the Cuban officers believed to be involved was unclear.

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“The representations were not a casual thing,” one diplomat said about the U.S. efforts to inform the Castro government. “It was understood that this was very serious and they ought to look into it.”

In a scolding tone, Alarcon repeated Castro’s earlier request for “some form of communication between Cuba and the United States in this common battle.”

According to the diplomatic sources, the earlier U.S. representations were “shrugged off” by the Cubans. This seeming indifference led to an assumption by American officials that the drug smuggling had been approved at the highest level in Havana, perhaps by Raul Castro or even Fidel Castro himself, the diplomatic sources said.

However, most European and Latin American diplomats interviewed this week say they now believe the Castro brothers were genuinely shocked by the revelations and had no previous knowledge of the heavy drug traffic across Cuba.

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