Hold Cuba Accountable for Illegal Arms Trafficking
In July 2013, a North Korean vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, was intercepted by the Panamanian authorities, as it attempted to cross the Canal carrying 240 tons of illegal weapons acquired from Cuba’s regime.
According to the United Nations’ Panel of Experts (“POE”), which subsequently investigated the incident and issued its findings in a March 2014 report: “This constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of [U.N. Security Council] resolution 1718 (2006).”
It was the first time in recent history that a nation in the Western Hemisphere — namely Cuba — was implicated and found guilty of violating international sanctions.
Yet, earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council announced punitive measures only against the North Korean operator of the Chong Chon Gang vessel, Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd.
The fact that the U.N. Security Council allowed Cuba to get away unscathed is concerning. However, it’s not surprising, considering the presence of the Cuban regime’s allies, China and Russia, on the Council.
However, the following day, the Obama administration would follow suit.
It announced its own set of sanctions against Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., and took an additional step by also blacklisting the Chong Chon Gang Shipping Company, the North Korean owner of the vessel.
But just like the U.N. Security Council — it gave Cuba’s regime a free pass.
Why not sanction the owners of the Cuban weapons that were being smuggled?
Or the Cuban port operators (Mariel) who colluded in the shipment?
Or the Cuban officials that made the deal with their North Korean counterparts?
Why is the administration unwilling to sanction the Cuban entities and officials involved in this illegal smuggling operation?
Some have speculated that further punitive measures were unnecessary due to already existing U.S. sanctions against Cuba. But the U.S. has long-standing, existing sanctions against North Korea as well.
Others believe Cuba got away scot-free due to its unwillingness to cooperate with the U.N.’s investigation. But that should be even more reason to hold it accountable.
Perhaps the administration is concerned that Raul Castro’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, was allegedly involved.
This may disrupt its current (and thus far, fruitless) diplomatic engagement with Castro’s regime.
Moreover, it may upset European companies, which to do business in Cuba must go through the GAESA military conglomerate (run by General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas).
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