EU and Cuba join forces on drug enforcement in the Caribbean

Campaign News | Tuesday, 15 February 2005

New course for regional police heralds new era in relations

HAVANA Feb 14 - Cuba's top anti-drug agent and European officials launched a course on drug interdiction in the Caribbean - one of the first renewed programmes since diplomatic relations between Havana and the EU were restored last month.

John Dew, the British ambassador to Cuba, said he was enthusiastic about the weeklong course, as well as recent improvements in political relations.

"This is a positive time, and there will be more of this kind of cooperation, especially on drugs," Dew said.

The course, which also involves France, brings together dozens of anti-narcotics agents from countries including Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Belize and Curacao to receive training.

"For the nations of the Caribbean, drug trafficking represents a permanent challenge," Gen. Jesus Becerra, chief of Cuba's anti-narcotics agency, said in opening remarks.

"We will only have success if we constantly prepare ourselves, and, with concrete acts, demonstrate to international criminals that we are capable of uniting to counteract them," he added.

Becerra said the United States had not taken Cuba up on its offers to participate in regional efforts.

"They are the ones who can most benefit from this," he said, noting that most drugs coming through the Caribbean are headed for the United States.

Cuba and the United States have not had formal diplomatic relations since shortly after Fidel Castro's rebels seized power in 1959.

Joint projects and cooperation between European nations and Cuba were drastically reduced after a Cuban crackdown on US-backed dissidents in March 2003 prompted the EU to change its policy toward the Caribbean island, banning high-level governmental visits and participation in cultural events in Cuba.

In November, the EU reviewed the sanctions. At the end of January, the EU decided to drop the sanctions and restore normal relations.

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