Organised crime gangs
pose threat to Cuban development

By Dr Mark Galeotti
Jane's Intelligence Review
Armando F. Mastrapa III
Research Dept.
La Nueva Cuba
January 23, 2006

Cuban leader Fidel Castro's death or incapacitation would almost certainly lead to a crisis for the revolutionary regime and perhaps its collapse, opening up the country to dramatically increased domestic organised crime and also integration with transnational networks.
Currently, the Cubans are prepared to co-operate on a limited and pragmatic basis with the US, as well as with authorities in Jamaica and their other neighbours. Were the regime in Havana to become even less supportive of counternarcotics operations, whether because of rising corruption or state policy, this would pose a serious challenge to regional interdiction efforts. It would also open up new opportunities for organised crime, for which Cuba could become a new fall-back location for drug warehousing and processing facilities, or simply as a safe haven.
Less overtly, a rapid and under-controlled shift to market economics could, as happened in the post-Soviet states, open up the country for a criminalisation of its financial system. It could again become an offshore playground and magnet for organised crime money, not least as a money-laundering centre. Already Russian gangs, drawing on historical connections with the island and connections with the Cuban elite, have used its financial system to launder funds.
In the longer term, there are reasons to fear that Cuba risks returning to its old role as a criminal haven and playground. The regime will not survive Castro's death or incapacitation in its present form. Almost any scenario for the future carries with it dangers. It may collapse and be replaced by a democratising regime: while a welcome development, this is likely to mean a rapid and uncontrolled marketisation, throwing open great opportunities for organised crime. Alternatively, a coup from within the military or security forces is possible; if unsuccessful, this could create anarchy of the kind which bedevils Haiti, while if successful it could create the kind of corrupt dictatorship which has plagued Latin America.