Following a six-hour meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., attacked the U.S. House of Representatives for its refusal to accept Castro’s previously extended offer of mutual cooperation between U.S. and Cuba in drug-interdiction efforts.
At a press conference following his discussions with the dictator, Specter declared, “I think it is unconscionable [that the House failed] to take [Castro] up on that offer.”
Specter’s remarks were recorded and later broadcast by Radio Havana Cuba, the official broadcasting service of the communist Cuban government.
According to Radio Havana, Castro “last year” offered to assist the United States in drug-interdiction efforts. Other reports state that Specter has sought funding for U.S.-Cuban anti-drug operations.
Radio Havana reported that Castro “asked for nothing in return” for his offer to aid the U.S.
During the press conference, Specter made reference to Cuba’s need for “state-of-the-art” radar to assist in the interception of aircraft and high-speed boats used by drug smugglers.
“There’s a lot that could be done,” Specter stated after recounting Cuba’s presumed need for U.S. technical assistance.
Last week’s meeting, in which Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., also participated, included a discussion on possible Cuban cooperation in America’s war on terrorism.
“Cuba has vast intelligence sources around the globe,” Specter stated, according to an AP report.
A spokesperson from Specter’s office was not available for immediate comment.
Specter’s call for cooperation with Cuban intelligence has been greeted with deep skepticism by opponents of the Castro regime.
“That’s tantamount to putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” retorted Mariela Ferretti, spokesman for the anti-communist Cuban American National Foundation, during an interview with WorldNetDaily.
“We do agree,” Ferretti said, “that Cuba has a worldwide intelligence network – including in the United States.”
Ferretti referred to the recent trials of five Cuban spies in the United States, known as the “Wasp Network,” as well as the current case of Ana Belen Montes.
Montes, arrested on Sept. 22, was a senior analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and considered a rising star within the U.S. intelligence community, according to press reports.
Montes is accused of working closely with Cuban intelligence.
Specter’s concern that Cuba lacks sufficient technical resources runs counter to observations made by a 30-year counterintelligence veteran in an interview with WorldNetDaily in June.
David Major, former director of counterintelligence in Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council, is dean of The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. He stated that the Wasp Network case demonstrated the sophistication of Cuban intelligence. The Wasp Network trial “shows that the Cubans have all the toys,” Major stated.
Cuba remains the recipient of technical and military aid from China and Russia, with recent visits from high-ranking military personnel and the heads of state from both nations.
Pete Jeffries, press secretary for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., refused immediate comment on Specter’s verbal attack on the House, stating that Hastert was currently out of the country.
Jeffries, however, did defend Hastert’s personal record in the war on drugs.
“Hastert has led the fight against illegal drugs since 1991,” he declared.
Specter’s meeting with Castro was part of a larger series of visits from U.S. citizens sanctioned by the federal government. According to reports, some 2,000 U.S. citizens are to travel to Cuba in January.
Cuba is currently under a U.S. travel ban, and those wishing to go to Cuba legally must obtain governmental approval. Observers note, however, that thousands of Americans find ways to circumvent the legal restrictions and visit the island.