Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Former senior US military officers urge Cuba policy change

Former senior officers of the United States Armed Forces have sent a letter to President Obama urging him “to repeal the full travel ban on all Americans and engage the Cuban government in dialogue on key bi-lateral security issues,” reports The Havana Note (a blog by the public policy institute and think tank, New America Foundation.)
General James T. Hill (Ret.) and General Barry R. McCaffrey (Ret.), former USSOUTHCOM commanders, are among the letter’s signatories.
Some extracts from the letter:
The current policy of isolating Cuba has failed, patently, to achieve our ends. Cuba ceased to be a military threat decades ago. At the same time, Cuba has intensified its global diplomatic and economic relations with nations as diverse as China, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, and members of the European Union. It is hard to characterize such global engagement as isolation.
The congressional initiative to lift the travel ban for all Americans is an important first step toward lifting the embargo, a policy more likely to bring change to Cuba. It begins to move the United States in an unambiguous direction toward the kind of policy–based on principled engagement and proportional and discriminate action that was the hallmark of your presidential campaign. Combined with renewed engagement with Havana on key security issues such as narcotics trafficking, immigration, airspace and Caribbean security, we believe the U.S. will be on a path to rid ourselves of the dysfunctional policy your administration has inherited.
It seems that the basis for Cuba not being a military threat mantra, used by some former senior U.S. military officers, continue to rest on the assessment by former DIA Cuba analyst, Ana Belen Montes, who was found guilty of spying against the U.S. for the Cuban government.
Obviously, Cuba does not represent a conventional military threat to the United States through its forces, however, coupled with the intelligence collected (e.g. SIGINT) on the United States by the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) and Cuban military intelligence that is sold to Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and others by the Cuban government; making money through terrorist-training programs; its destabilizing influence in Latin America; and the Cuban intelligence establishment’s involvement in assisting drug traffickers—Cuba surely remains a threat to the United States, but in an unconventional sense.
According to the National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 report published by the National Drug Intelligence Center of the U.S. Department of Justice as it pertains to drug trafficking operations within the continental United States:
“Cuban DTOs1 and criminal groups2 are slowly expanding their drug trafficking activities beyond the Florida/Caribbean Region, in part by partnering with Mexican DTOs.”
The report further expands:
The influence of Cuban DTOs and criminal groups is expanding, albeit at a slower rate than that of Asian DTOs. The number of HIDTAs reporting Cuban DTO or criminal group activity increased from three in 2007 to eight in 2009. The expanding influence of Cuban DTOs and criminal groups is largely the result of their ability to exploit Cuban émigrés to establish and tend indoor marijuana grow sites in locations throughout the Florida/Caribbean and Southeast Regions (specifically in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina). Cuban DTO and criminal group activity also appears to be expanding in the Southwest Region, where law enforcement agencies in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas report Cuban DTO or criminal group involvement in cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana trafficking. This expanding influence of Cuban DTOs and criminal groups can also be attributed to their close working relationships with Mexican DTOs. Many Cuban émigrés are brought illegally into the United States by smugglers who are associated with a Mexican DTO. Moreover, communities composed of both Cubans and Mexicans allow for the development of personal relationships between criminal groups. The full extent of these relationships is unknown. However, if they follow patterns similar to the relationships established between Mexican and Dominican DTOs, the involvement of Cuban DTOs and criminal groups in drug trafficking should expand further in the near term, although the threat posed by these groups will remain much lower than that posed by Mexican, Colombian, Dominican, and Asian DTOs.
Can one surmise from this development that Cuban DTOs have links and help from the Cuban government that are also reciprocal. (For more information on the Cuban government-organized crime nexus, see Stratfor’s report from May, 18 2008.)
1. Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are complex organizations with highly defined command-and-control structures that produce, transport, and/or distribute large quantities of one or more illicit drugs.
2. Criminal groups operating in the United States are numerous and range from small to moderately sized, loosely knit groups that distribute one or more drugs at the retail level and midlevel.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2010, February 2010.

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