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Cuba Arrests Drug Trafficker Wanted in Colombia and US - 2002-03-20


Cuba says it has arrested a Colombian national who is wanted in his native country and in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry identifies the suspect as Rafael Miguel Bustamante Bolanos, and says he entered Cuba in January using a false passport. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the suspect belonged to a drug smuggling operation based in the Bahamas, and that he had escaped prisons in both Colombia and the United States where he served time for narcotics-related convictions.

Cuban officials have not indicated whether they intend to hand over the suspect to the United States. Earlier this year, Cuba extradited another alleged drug smuggler to the United States in what Cuban officials describe as a "goodwill gesture" and an "exceptional" measure, since the two countries have no formal diplomatic relations and no extradition treaty.

Cuba has called for greater cooperation with the United States in combating the illegal drug trade, saying the communist-run island could accomplish far more in halting smuggling if it worked in concert with U.S. anti-narcotics agents.

So far, however, the Bush Administration has reacted coolly to the overtures. The United States continues to maintain a decades-old economic embargo on Cuba, and lists the island among nations that sponsor terrorism.

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