Cuba and UK in anti-drug smuggling talks

By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

  • Published
Sailors stand on the deck of British Navy HMS Manchester Type 42 Destroyer as it enters Havana's Harbour
Image caption,
HMS Manchester has spent the past six months working to combat drug smuggling

The British navy is holding talks with Cuba on how to strengthen counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean.

The talks come as HMS Manchester entered the country's main port, becoming the first Royal Navy warship to visit Cuba since the revolution.

A Cuban honour guard and navy band playing Viva la Revolution welcomed the ship as she docked in Havana Bay.

Ship Commander Rex Cox said the visit aims to strengthen collaboration on counter-narcotics and disaster relief.

Cuba lies in a strategic position spanning the main sea routes between South America and the United States.

The communist-run island has long cracked down on both drug use and smuggling.

There is some co-operation with the US but Washington has yet to respond to offers from the Cuban government to formalise and expand these arrangements.

HMS Manchester, a Type 42 British destroyer, has spent the past six months in the Caribbean working on anti-drug smuggling operations. This led to the seizure of 240kg (530lb) of cocaine off the Colombian coast.

There is a contingent of US Coast Guard aboard since drug arrests at sea are prosecuted under US law.

It is believed that the US government has given them permission to take shore leave.

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