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Cuba Fires No. 3 Man Over Drug Scandal 'Deficiency'

June 29, 1989|From Reuters

HAVANA — Cuba's interior minister, Gen. Jose Abrantes, has been fired for "great deficiency" in this Communist nation's first drug trafficking scandal, the official newspaper Granma said today.

It said in a front-page announcement signed by President Fidel Castro that the Communist Party Politburo decided to name Gen. Abelardo Colome Ibarra as new interior minister, a job diplomats say ranks third in Cuba's power structure.

Abrantes, a well-known figure and long-time associate of Castro and his younger brother, Raul, became the first high-level government casualty in the scandal involving top Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, a hero of the Cuban revolution.

Granma said the Politburo decided to fire Abrantes in view "of the great deficiency in the direction of the Interior Ministry in relation to the conduct of a group of officials who during 2 1/2 years carried out with impunity drug trafficking operations."

Ochoa and six accomplices, including Interior Ministry Col. Antonio de la Guardia Font, have been charged with helping Colombia's Medellin drug cartel to smuggle six tons of cocaine into the United States between 1987 and this year through military air bases in Cuba.

A military court of honor earlier this week recommended that Ochoa be court-martialed for high treason, with all its 47 members saying he was a traitor and deserved death by firing squad.

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