The Cuban Connection: Drug Trafficking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the 1920s to the Revolution

The Cuban Connection: Drug Trafficking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the 1920s to the Revolution

The Cuban Connection: Drug Trafficking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the 1920s to the Revolution

The Cuban Connection: Drug Trafficking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the 1920s to the Revolution

Synopsis

A comprehensive history of crime and corruption in Cuba, The Cuban Connection challenges the common view that widespread poverty and geographic proximity to the United States were the prime reasons for soaring rates of drug trafficking, smuggling, gambling, and prostitution in the tumultuous decades preceding the Cuban revolution. Eduardo S enz Rovner argues that Cuba's historically well-established integration into international migration, commerce, and transportation networks combined with political instability and rampant official corruption to help lay the foundation for the development of organized crime structures powerful enough to affect Cuba's domestic and foreign politics and its very identity as a nation.

S enz traces the routes taken around the world by traffickers and smugglers. After Cuba, the most important player in this story is the United States. The involvement of gangsters and corrupt U. S. officials and businessmen enabled prohibited substances to reach a strong market in the United States, from rum running during Prohibition to increased demand for narcotics during the Cold War. Originally published in Colombia in 2005, this first English-language edition has been revised and updated by the author.

Excerpt

At the end of December 1956, two Colombian brothers, Rafael and Tomás Herrán Olózaga, were apprehended in Havana while holding a shipment of heroin valued at sixteen thousand dollars. The brothers, a chemist and pilot, respectively, were twins who hailed from elite families in Bogotá and Medellín. Their paternal great-great-grandfather, Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, and great-grandfather, Pedro Alcántara Herrán, had served as presidents of Colombia during the nineteenth century. On their mother's side, they were closely related to the Echavarría Olózaga family, which formed part of Medellín's leading industrial clan.

The brothers had arrived in Havana on 1 November 1956, from Colombia, passing first through Jamaica. Arrested with them were two Colombian women, one of whom had helped bring the drugs into Cuba. The other, Tomás's wife, functioned as a courier, smuggling the drugs into the United States using her status as a university student in Philadelphia. A Cuban was also arrested along with the four Colombians.

The Herrán Olózaga brothers confessed that they had brought drugs into Cuba before. After their arrest, all of the parties except Tomás were released on bail and traveled to Mérida, Mexico. Tomás, evidently the gang's leader, remained imprisoned in Cuba for a year. After gaining his freedom, he returned to Medellín. In February 1957, however, agents of the Colombian Intelligence Service, backed by an official of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics, raided the brothers' laboratory in a Medellín suburb, where they had been processing cocaine since at least 1952. In the wake of this action, officials learned that the brothers had previously trafficked in Ecuadorian opium. As early as 1939, in fact, both the Colombian and German police had suspected that Rafael was a drug trafficker, suspicions created when they learned of his attempt to get a German drug manufacturer to sell cocaine and morphine in amounts greater than one kilogram to the Union Pharmacy he operated in Medellín.

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