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1,600 Pounds of Cocaine Dropped Off Cuban Coast, Feds Say

July 9, 1989

MIAMI (AP) _ Federal agents recovered 1,600 pounds of cocaine Saturday from a speedboat observed earlier in Cuban waters catching bales dropped from a suspected drug- running plane, authorities said.

U.S. Customs Service surveillance planes watched the drop off the northern coast of Cuba late Friday night, the same day Cuba announced four military officers were sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

″This shows the pattern is still continuing,″ said Patrick O’Brien, U.S. Customs special agent-in-charge for South Florida. ″The crackdown in Cuba has done little to stop the flow of drugs.″

Customs followed the suspected drug plane over Cuban waters and watched it drop 18 bales to a waiting speedboat, O’Brien said.

″Two MiG fighters came on to the scene and protected the Cuban airspace,″ O’Brien said. ″We had to get out of there, but before we left we got a good look at the plane and the boat below.″

Saturday morning, an abandoned 37-foot speedboat with bales of cocaine floating nearby were found in Biscayne Bay, 20 miles south of Miami. The 1,584 pounds of cocaine was valued at about $10 million, O’Brien said.

O’Brien said the seizure is significant because it follows a Cuban crackdown on drugs that has reached the highest levels of the communist island nation’s government.

Cuban radio announced Friday that former Maj. Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa and three other military officers were sentenced to death for a conspiracy to smuggle cocaine from Colombia’s Medellin Cartel through Cuban to the United States.

Saturday’s seizure followed one of the nation’s largest cocaine finds aboard a Panamanian freighter intercepted off Key West. The freighter, bound for the Dominican Republic and boarded by Customs agents Thursday, had 3,359 pounds of cocaine, officials said.

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