Cuba Promises to Hand Over Tapes of Talks Between Noriega and Castro
MIAMI (AP) _ The Cuban government is willing to cooperate with with U.S. prosecutors and turn over tape recordings of meetings between Fidel Castro and Manuel Noriega for use in the ousted Panamanian leader’s U.S. drug trial, a top official said.
In one meeting, the Cuban president and Noriega discussed the 1984 destruction of a cocaine laboratory in Darien, Panama, established by Colombian drug lords, said Ramiro Abreu, a Cuban official in charge of relations with Central America.
Noriega told Castro about the destruction of the lab as an example of Panamanian efforts to fight drug smuggling, Abreu told reporters Thursday in Havana. His remarks were carried by Spain’s national news agency EFE.
Federal prosecutors say Castro was acting as an intermediary between Noriega and leaders of Colombia’s notorious Medellin cocaine cartel, who were angered by the loss of the lab.
″It is not good to specify what is contained in those conversations of Noriega with Cuban officials because they are evidence that could be used at the trial, but we are willing to collaborate,″ Abreu said.
Frank Rubino, Noriega’s chief defense attorney, said Friday he welcomed public release of the tapes.
″We expect that they would be very helpful to us,″ Rubino said. ″The only thing we could be fearful of is that if the government gets them they’ll hide them and won’t let the truth come out.″
Rubino said Castro is willing to cooperate because he wants to combat allegations that he acted as a middleman in international drug dealings.
Noriega is imprisoned in Miami awaiting trial on charges that he protected U.S.-bound cocaine shipments from Colombia that passed through Panama.