Weapons seizure should halt efforts to cozy up to Cuba
July 25, 2013|By Guillermo I. Martinez
This column is dedicated to all those fools who believe the United
States should lift sanctions on Cuba to improve relations with the
island’s Communist regime.
It was a “coincidence” that on the days that the United States and Cuba
were scheduled to start talks on immigration, Panamanian officials
discovered a contraband of old Soviet-era weapons on a North Korean
cargo attempting to cross the Panama Canal. The Chon Chon Gang left
Manzanillo, Cuba and was headed to North Korea with a cargo of sugar and
240 tons of undeclared weapons in well-hidden compartments.
Both Havana and Pyongyang quickly protested the seizure and accused the
United States of being the instigator. The U.S. government may have been
concerned about a possible shipment of drugs. Instead the Panamanian
marines engaged in a violent standoff against the North Korean crew,
protecting the weapons hidden under the sugar.
Days after the seizure Panamanian marines were still searching the dirty
and smelly ship looking for more hidden compartments where more weapons
could be found. First they found old radar systems and 30-year-old
anti-missile weapons. Then they found two Mig-21s.
Both the North Korean and the Cubans said the weapons were “obsolete
defensive weapons” that had been sent to North Korea for repairs and
then an eventual return to Cuba.
No U.S. government official or pundit has accepted at face value the
explanations given. Both governments are lying.
Jaime Suchliki, the Director of the Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at
the University of Columbus, has made the most comprehensive effort at
putting the incident in perspective.
He poses several questions:
•If the weapons were being sent from Cuba to be repaired in North Korea,
why were they hidden in the hold of the ship under thousands of Cuban
•Why did the North Korean crew resist the Panamanian boarding of their
ship in Panamanian waters? And why did the ship’s captain try to commit
•If Cuba needed to repair these weapons, why didn’t Gen. Raul Castro
send them to Russia? After all, these were Russian weapons.
Suchiliki posits the possibility that these weapons were ultimately
destined possibly to an African country, like the Congo. North Korea has
indeed sent weapons to its Communist allies in the Congo. Is it possible
that Cuba has now joined the effort, Suchliki asks.
Maybe, just maybe, Cuba was sending these weapons to North Korea in
exchange for more modern weapons that would help Pyongyang’s efforts at
pressuring the United States into direct talks between the two nations.
So far, nobody has a definite answer.
What we do have is a clear effort by two nations who consider the United
States an enemy state attempting to hide a weapons-exchange program.
This is not good for U.S. security.
The incident also questions the renewed efforts by the Obama
Administration of improving relations with the Cuban government. Isn’t
it obvious Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and
Syria have strong diplomatic ties, all aimed at undermining U.S.
diplomacy in Latin America, the Middle East and the Far East? Why then
does the United States continue to hold immigration talks with Cuba?
People forget that the embargo was imposed because Cuba expropriated
without compensation billions of dollars of U.S. property in the island.
Cuba has not offered to repay for those properties. So why should the
United States seek to lift the embargo?
Again, it is important to remember the embargo does not forbid Cuba from
buying food and medicine from the United States. It only demands that
Cuba pay for their purchases in cash.
The seizure of the North Korean vessel should be a new warning that one
should not approach Cuba to improve relations. Cuba is an enemy of the
United States and should be treated as such.
Guillermo I. Martínez on Twitter at @g_martinez123, or email him at
Source: “Weapons seizure should halt efforts to cozy up to Cuba – Sun