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U.S. Cool on Cuban Drug Pact Offer

March 19, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department reacted coolly Tuesday to a Cuban offer to sign an agreement for the two countries to cooperate on anti-narcotics work, contending that Cuba’s cooperation on law enforcement too often has been lax.

Spokesman Richard Boucher noted that Cuba recently deported two individuals wanted in the United States, but he criticized Cuba’s overall attitude on law enforcement cooperation.

``We have been looking for Cuba’s cooperation across the board on law enforcement issues, and unless there’s occasional case-by-case cooperation, I’m afraid we just haven’t gotten it,″ he said.

He said the administration might be interested in a formal agreement if Cuba were more forthcoming.

``There are still dozens of fugitives from U.S. justice who have been provided safe haven by the Cuban government,″ Boucher said.

He said they include ``dangerous and noteworthy criminals″ and named:

_Charles Hill and Michael Finney, wanted in the 1971 death of a New Mexico state trooper and the hijacking of a plane to Cuba.

_Joanne Chesimard, a militant in the Black Panther Movement who was convicted of the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

_Former Wells Fargo guard Victor Manuel Gerena, on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for a $7 million dollar armed robbery in 1983.

In the past, Cuba has said the United States has harbored some of the worst criminals during Fulgencio Batista’s pre-1959 military government on the island nation.

On Monday, Cuba said it was holding Rafael Miguel Bustamante Bolanos, an alleged Colombian drug trafficker wanted by U.S. officials. It expressed willingness to deport Bustamante if a counternarcotics agreement were signed.

``The possibility now exists for the U.S. administration to show that it is truly willing to seriously undertake the fight against those grave scourges of humanity while avoiding a double-standard approach,″ the Foreign Ministry said in a statement published in the Communist Party daily Granma.

The ministry said it was up to the United States to prove that it ``can sidestep the petty interests of small anti-Cuban groups and defend the American people’s real interests.″

Bustamante entered Cuba on Jan. 6 from Jamaica using a Venezuelan passport identifying him as Alberto Pinto Jaramillo and was arrested at a Havana home on March 6, the statement said.

Cuban authorities said they learned of Bustamante’s true identity and the accusations against him from other countries’ anti-drug agencies.

The statement said Bustamante was involved with a major Bahamas-based trafficking organization, and about 10 years ago he escaped from a Colombian jail where he was serving time for trafficking.


On the Net: Drug Enforcement Administration: http://www.dea.gov/

State Department’s Cuba page: http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/c2461.htm

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