Cuba escapes UN sanctions in North Korean weapons transport scheme


But it puts a North Korea ship-operating company on its sanctions list.

The United Nations has sanctioned a North Korean shipping company but spared Cuban entities in connection with a Cuban weapons shipment seized aboard a Pyongyang-bound freighter in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.

Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., a North Korean company that managed the freighter Chong Chon Gang when it was seized in Panama last summer, was added Monday to the list of violators of the embargo.

The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) committee that enforces the embargo said the company “played a key role in arranging the shipment of concealed cargo of arms and related materiel from Cuba.” Inclusion in the list carries banking and travel sanctions.

But the committee did not add to the list any of the Cuban enterprises or individuals involved in the shipment of 240 tons of Cuban MiG jet engines, anti-aircraft missile systems and munitions found aboard the Chong Chon Gang.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a statement that there were “irrefutable facts that clearly prove Cuba and (North Korea’s) intentions to violate sanctions by employing highly sophisticated deception and obfuscation techniques.”

“The United States remains concerned about attempts by North Korea to circumvent international sanctions, and strongly condemns any efforts by nations such as Cuba to assist in the illegal evasion” of the arms embargo, Power added.

Powell did not explain why no Cuban entities were added to the sanctions list, and her press office did not reply to El Nuevo Herald’s requests for comment.

Latin American diplomats at the U.N. had predicted earlier this year that Cuba would escape sanctions because Russia and China, which have vetoes on the Security Council , are close allies of Cuba.

“It’s unacceptable that even as the (UNSC) sanctioned the North Korean firm that operated the vessel carrying illegal arms from Cuba, it failed to similarly hold the Cuban regime accountable for its role in this flagrant violation of U.N. sanctions,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement Tuesday.

UNSC experts on the arms embargo reported earlier this year that the shipment violated the embargo, even though Cuba claimed that the weapons were not being “transferred” to North Korea because they were to be serviced and returned to Havana.

The experts also reported that Cuba had refused to identify the Cuban entities and individuals involved in the shipment, saying the contract with Pyongyang required business privacy.

Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican indicated last week that Power knew the identities of the Cubans involved and urged the ambassador to push the UNSC sanctions committee to include them on the blacklist of “designated” entities.

One of the Cubans allegedly involved is Brig. Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, in charge of several military enterprises and the port of Mariel, where the weapons were loaded on the freighter. He’s also a son-in-law of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro.

The Chong Chon Gang docked in Havana June 4-9 of last year to unload cargo, then loaded the weapons aboard in Mariel and later sailed east to Puerto Padre to load a cargo of sugar that hid the arms. Its automatic location reporting system was off during most of its Caribbean sail.

Panama authorities stopped it on July 15, as it prepared to cross the Panama Canal on a trip to Pyongyang, on suspicion that it carried drugs. Instead, they found what the UNSC experts described as the single largest weapons shipment ever seized for violating the embargo slapped on Pyongyang in 2006 because of its nuclear weapons and long-range missile development programs.

The freighter and 32 of its crew were released in February after payment of a $700,000 fine for failing to declare the weapons in its cargo. The captain and two other officers were freed in June. The weapons remain in Panama and the sugar is up for sale.

A second North Korean freighter that ran aground off the eastern coast of Mexico earlier this month after a stop in Havana, meanwhile, was pulled off the Tuxpan reef on Saturday, according to Mexican news reports.

The 430-foot Mu Du Bong had raised eyebrows because its Caribbean sail had paralleled somewhat that of the Chong Chon Gang — with stops in Havana and Mariel and periods when its automatic locator was not working.

The freighter was empty when it ran aground near the entrance to the port of Tuxpan, one of Mexico’s main sugar-exporting ports, according to Mexican news reports.

Its automatic locator reported that it was near Mariel on June 25 and in Havana June 29-30, but then went silent for nine days. It started working again July 10, when it showed the freighter was in Havana and later that it was sailing west in the Gulf of Mexico.

Read more Cuba stories from the Miami Herald

Sixteen migrants are found crammed in this tiny boat around Alligator Lighthouse, which is about four miles offshore of Islamorada in the FLorida Keys.


    More than a dozen Cuban migrants rescued at sea in Keys; several taken to hospital

    A small blue homemade boat with a blue-and-white sail was discovered floating near Alligator Reef Lighthouse, about four miles offshore of Islamorada, on Wednesday. Crammed inside the motorless vessel were 16 Cuban migrants lying down, suffering from dehydration, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Elsa Lopez looks at her clothes and shoes she wore when she left Cuba with her parents at the age of two at the time. Her items are among several donated by Exiles on display at the VIP opening and presentation of the The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom, at the Freedom Tower. The exhibit is a pictorial account of the struggles that the Cuban exile community has endured since Fidel Castro's rise to power, and the successes they have achieved in the United States, organized and curated by the Miami Dade College and The Miami Herald, on Wednesday September 10, 2014.


    Exhibition chronicles Cuban exiles story

    More than 1,000 people crammed into the Freedom Tower Wednesday night for a peek at an exhibition that honors one of the city’s oldest buildings – and captures the tales of hundreds of thousands of Cubans who fled the island and made Miami their new home.

This is the raft on which 16 Cubans sailed from Cuba to Alligator Reef Light off Upper Matecumbe Key this week.


    Cuban migrants found suffering from dehydration off the Keys

    Sixteen Cuban migrants were intercepted off the Upper Keys on Wednesday afternoon, and seven of them needed medical attention after suffering from extreme dehydration.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category