Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
While the world is plunged into the devastating pandemic of COVID-19, hundreds of new and increasingly dangerous synthetic drugs are invading every corner of the planet, adding to the abuse of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, which affect almost 300 million people.
The main market on the planet, the United States, has the highest number of deaths from drug overdoses in its history, with more than 100,000 deaths between April 2020 and the same month in 2021, most of them due to the so-called opioid epidemic, which increased lethality by 28.5%.
Illicit drug trafficking and consumption continue to be a serious global phenomenon that threatens international security and from which no country can escape, due to the complex and sophisticated networks of the lucrative drug trafficking business (more than $600 billion in annual profits), the omnipresence of the mafias, the use of maritime and air corridors, ways of operating and inserting themselves into the dynamics of world trade, and allying with other forms of international organized crime.
The effects of international trafficking continued to impact Cuba in 2021, from the complex regional framework, its incidence in the Caribbean, the existence of routes close to our territory and the arrival of packages dragged by sea currents (recalos), which represented the largest volume of seized drugs and a potential danger for the articulation of internal trafficking. Attempts to smuggle or introduce drugs across maritime and air borders were also confronted; marijuana crops were dismantled and internal trafficking activities were neutralized.
The persistence and intentionality of Cuban and foreign emigrants to organize drug operations with the support of Cuban citizens was noted, for which they rearranged and diversified their actions, using unaccompanied loads, postal shipments and the use of speedboats.
One of the most dangerous trends of the year was the combination of human trafficking operations with attempts to smuggle drugs into the country using speedboats and other vessels, in line with the changes generated by international crime.
Likewise, 18 sightings of suspicious means that violated the airspace and eight vessels in alleged illicit operations were detected, all of which evidences an increase in the threats in the maritime and air environment of the Cuban archipelago.
These challenges demanded a redoubling of surveillance, persecution and coordinated confrontation between the bodies of the Ministry of the Interior (Minint), the General Customs of the Republic, other participating agencies and the people.
A YEAR OF INTENSE CONFRONTATION
According to information provided by MININT, as a result of the confrontation in 2021, Cuba seized a total of 4 162.23 kilograms (kg) of drugs, mostly marijuana; captured five naval means involved in drug trafficking operations and confiscated goods and sums of money due to these illicit activities.
The largest amount of drugs – it was revealed – was seized in the 295 drug seizures, higher than the 153 in 2020, and with a total of 2,338.64 kg of drugs seized in those events. Other high volumes were captured during the seizure of the aforementioned vessels.
As for the air border, 21 international drug trafficking operations were neutralized at the José Martí International Airport in the capital, in which 67.59 kg of these substances were seized and 41 people, including foreigners and nationals, were arrested.
In the fight against the cultivation of marijuana, 97 plantations were discovered, in which 32,868 plants and 48,521 seeds were seized. Meanwhile, 121 acts of internal trafficking were neutralized, with 165.63 kg of marijuana.
CHECKMATE AT SEA
The permanent surveillance and timely response of the specialized forces made it possible to dismantle a criminal network organized by Cubans from Mexico, with a support base in Panama, Costa Rica and Cuba, with the intention of smuggling marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines, using passengers, cargo and speedboats in combined human and drug trafficking operations. As a result of this operation, 26 individuals were arrested, 303.37 kg of drugs were seized, and a speedboat was captured.
In addition, two other vessels linked to combined human and drug trafficking operations directed to Cuba from Mexico, the U.S. and Jamaica were neutralized and seized, in which significant amounts of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids were seized.
In addition, two other speedboats were captured with six Bahamian crew members on board, who were seized with 1,291.82 kg of marijuana, and who were linked to operations not directed to Cuba.
The results of 2021 confirm the political will of the Cuban government to continuously strengthen the fight against the serious global scourge of drug trafficking and the prevention of drug abuse, and to prevent the use of airspace and territorial sea by international drug traffickers, with their lethal cargo destined for the main consumer markets, or to try to penetrate the country.