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Investigators find Cuba isn't linked to cocaine cargo in Panama

Cuban authorities reiterate commitment to fighting cocaine trafficking

A Panamanian soldier guards the cocaine found inside a shipping container. Photo courtesy of Panamanian authorities
A Panamanian soldier guards the cocaine found inside a shipping container. Photo courtesy of Panamanian authorities

HAVANA, Cuba – After Panamanian authorities found cocaine in a ship coming from Cuba on Sunday, Cuban authorities joined the investigation and released a statement on Wednesday saying the container was likely tampered with at the Panamian port and not at the Cuban port. 

"Cuba applies a zero tolerance policy to drugs, repudiates and strictly confronts any manifestation linked to the trafficking or consumption of these substances," the Cuban government's statement said. 

Panamanian authorities released a statement saying they suspect the cocaine traffickers transported the 1,517 blocks of cocaine valued at $90 million into the ship's container at either the Cristobal or the Manzanillo ports in Panama.

"The contamination of containers at cargo ports represents one of the main modalities used by drug trafficking networks," the Panamanian authorities said in a statement released to The Associated press on Tuesday. 

Cuban customs inspectors placed a seal on the container that Panamian customs inspectors believe traffickers tampered with when they smuggled the cargo in 46 black large duffle bags. The ship was set to dock in Holland and its final destination was Turkey. 

Cuban authorities also said they are committed to strengthening international cooperation with other countries "that combat this scourge."

The investigation in Panama is ongoing. 


About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.