Watch CBSN Live

U.S. Drug Chief Doubts Castro

The Clinton Administration's top drug official has doubts about Cuban president Fidel Castro's latest call for cooperation with the U.S., reports CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer.

Drug policy director Barry McCaffrey describes Cuba as a target for international drug criminals but he says it's difficult for the U.S. to cooperate with the Castro regime, which he termed "a government that is so unresponsive to democratic principles and human rights."

"Here we have this sort of goofy Marxist failing economy, a country whose people who have absolutely no recourse to the rule of law," McCaffrey told CBS Radio News. "Their human rights are not protected."

McCaffrey concedes Cuba is trying to confront drug criminals but with "little effectiveness." He was interviewed by telephone from Colombia, which he says faces a regional drug crisis of its own.

Fidel Castro speaking in Cienfuegos
Castro Monday night called on the United States to join Cuba in the fight against narcotics trafficking, setting aside politics to help save the world's youth from drugs.

Several attempts by Cuba to form an anti-crime pact with its northern neighbor have failed in recent months because of opposition by some members of Congress and by Cuban exile leaders in Miami, Castro said in a wide-ranging four-hour speech.

Such opposition is "sabotaging an agreement that would objectively become one of the greatest alliances against drug trafficking," Castro told tens of thousands gathered in this southern coastal city for his annual Revolution Day address.

By their actions, opponents of an agreement are "responsible in large part for the hundreds of tons of drugs that will fall into the hands of young Americans," the leader insisted.

Castro also declared war on traffickers who try to take advantage of Cuba's strategic location in the Caribbean to transport drugs to the United States and promised prosecution for those arrested.

"They will be tried in Cuba, without a single exception," Castro promised.

A recent toughening of Cuba's penal code allows top-ranking civilian members of the communist government found guilty of drug trafficking to be sentenced to death.

Speaking in the open plaza under cloudy skies near a wide blue bay, Castro rejected persistent rumors and charges from what he called the "counterrevolutionary mafia of Miami" that he and his government aid traffickers who use the island as a transshipment point.

"There is no country more moral than Cuba, nor more above board in its conduct," Castro said.

Earlier in the speech, Castro included Canada in his traditional attack on the United States, accusing both countres of dirty tricks aimed at harming Cuba during the Pan American Games in Winnipeg.

"We have never seen so many tricks, so much filth in the Pan American Games," Castro told Communist Party faithful and other guests during the annual July 26 address marking the start of the revolution that brought him to power four decades ago.

Castro criticized the local media in Canada for calling on Cuban athletes to defect and criticized "hostile" treatment of the Cuban delegation. He also criticized changes in the rules of competition for baseball, "the most important, the most attractive sport."

"We are competing in enemy territory," Castro said of Canada.

Relations between Cuba and Canada were long friendly but have soured recently as Canada has increasingly taken the communist country to task for its human rights record. A key issue has been Canada's opposition to the sentencing of four government opponents convicted of inciting sedition through words and documents.

In the audience were 150 members of the Venceremos Brigade, a group of Americans who come to Cuba annually to perform field work or other tasks in support of the communist government.

"When I heard his helicopter land, I almost began crying," said Teresa Calderon, 66, a resident of New York.

The yearly ceremony marks the disastrous July 26, 1953, attack by the Castro brothers and their followers on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago. The attack launched the revolution against the dictatorship of then-President Fulgencio Batista.

Although the attackers were all either killed or jailed, the movement later regained strength and triumphed on New Year's Day 1959 after Batista fled the country.

The site of the central speech varies every year and is chosen from among provincial capitals based on their economic performance.

This year, Cienfuegos shares the honor with the central province of Matanzas, on Cuba's northern coast, where a second Revolution Day speech will be held Aug. 2.

Cienfuegos, a city of 125,000, is one of Cuba's major industrial centers, boasting one of the world's largest sugar exporting facilities, an oil refinery, a paper mill, a cement plant, a thermal power plant and much of Cuba's shrimp fleet.