All specific information omitted in this article has been done in the interest of protecting the identity of the FBI’s cooperating witness.
In 1999, during President Clinton’s administration, the FBI was investigating a case where the Cuban government was directly involved in drug trafficking. It definitely was, and the ring leader was Cuban General Ramiro Valdes Menendez, a “Hero of the Cuban Revolution,” a loyal ally of Fidel Castro since 1953 when he was a member of Castro’s insurgents who attacked the Cuban Army’s Moncada Barracks. That loyalty has endured over 60 years, and the Castro brothers have rewarded Valdes with many high-level positions in the Cuban government, to include Minister of Interior, the powerful overlord of the Cuban internal security services. He’s been a member of the Cuban Communist Party’s Politburo since 1965.
In 2000, a highly credible FBI cooperating witness (CW), a foreign national (name and nationality are known, but omitted) thoroughly vetted by the FBI, was an eyewitness to a one-on-one meeting between Valdes and Colombian Cali Cartel chief Miguel Rodriguez Abadia in Havana, Cuba and the CW provided convincing reporting on the Cuban government’s complicity in international drug trafficking. Valdes was in the uniform pictured above during the meeting. After the CW watched Valdes and Rodriguez meet in a public setting (exact place and date known, but omitted), Rodriguez returned to the CW’s table and later that day offered the following information tied to the Cali Cartel’s drug shipments through Cuba. Here are some details. (There’s a simple explanation of WHY Rodriguez gave this information to the CW. He fully trusted the CW as a confidant because they both were planning a multi-ton shipment of cocaine to the U.S. through Mexico. The name of the Mexican organization and some of the Mexicans involved are known, but omitted.)
Cali drug shipments were originally sent to Cuba via fishing vessels, but now most of the shipments were flown into Cuba by DC-3 cargo aircraft departing air strips in Venezuela. Valdes dictated these terms to Rodriguez Abadia. Note: Castro ally Hugo Chavez was president of Venezuela at the time.
Ramiro Valdes and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Valdes is paid 20% of the value of each shipment on a strict cash-only basis (note: type of currency not reported, but presumably dollars for the cash-strapped, heavily indebted Castro regime). This expense covered securing and offloading the drug shipment upon arrival, transporting it to the port of departure, usually Havana or Matanzas, and onloading the drugs on departing ships. Destination ports were chiefly in Europe, with the Netherlands and Spain topping the list. No drugs transiting Cuba were shipped to the U.S.
No drugs would remain on the island or sold in Cuba.
Valdes controlled the quantity of drugs flown into Cuba, which Rodriguez said was 1,000 to 1,700 kilos of cocaine per shipment, normally sent to Cuba every 10-15 days. Using the least frequent figures provided by Rodriguez to the CW – 1,000 kilos every 15 days – would mean that a minimum of 24 metric tons of Cali Cartel cocaine were moving through Cuba annually. At an $18,000/kilo wholesale price, Valdes’s demand for 20% of the value of the drug shipments for handling charges would generate a minimum of over $86 million in cash of untraceable annual revenue to the Cuban government.
Because of the potential nature of this case (the CW’s direct access to the leader of the Cali Cartel, with conclusive evidence such as phone conversations between the two taped by the FBI), its progress was briefed to FBI Director Louis Freeh and Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno. It is highly likely that this particular portion of the case, the eyewitness account of the meeting between Valdes and Rodriguez, was brought to the attention of President Clinton because of the possible broad political impact on foreign policy between the U.S. and Cuba.