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Cuban Connection

Drug Trafficking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the 1920s to the Revolution

Eduardo Sáenz Rovner

Publication Year: 2009

A comprehensive history of crime and corruption in Cuba, ###The Cuban Connection# challenges the common view that widespread poverty and geographic proximity to the United States were the prime reasons for soaring rates of drug trafficking, smuggling, gambling, and prostitution in the tumultuous decades preceding the Cuban revolution. Eduardo S?enz Rovner argues that Cuba's historically well-established integration into international migration, commerce, and transportation networks combined with political instability and rampant official corruption to help lay the foundation for the development of organized crime structures powerful enough to affect Cuba's domestic and foreign politics and its very identity as a nation.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I am indebted to the scholars who read drafts of the book and offered valuable suggestions at various stages: Charles W. Bergquist (University of Washington), José C. Moya (UCLA and Barnard College), Bernardo Parra (Universidad Nacional de Colombia), and Francisco E. Thoumi (Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá). ...

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pp. 1-16

At the end of December 1956, two Colombian brothers, Rafael and Tomás Herrán Olózaga, were apprehended in Havana while holding a shipment of heroin valued at sixteen thousand dollars. The brothers, a chemist and pilot, respectively, were twins who hailed from elite families in Bogotá and Medellín. ...

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1. U.S. Prohibition and Smuggling from Cuba

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pp. 17-30

In 1914, the U.S. Congress received a flood of petitions, signed by 6 million people, urging it to ban alcoholic beverages.1 Six years later, a constitutional amendment prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages across the United States went into effect. ...

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2. Drug Trafficking and Political Anarchy during the 1930s

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pp. 31-44

In 1933 and 1934, Cuba underwent revolutions, creating a climate of political anarchy. The situation, coupled with a legal system of dubious integrity, intensified the country’s high level of illegal activity in general and its drug trafficking problem in particular.1 ...

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3. The Chinese and Opium Consumption in Cuba

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pp. 45-56

Opium had been used in China as a medicinal drug since the ninth century, hundreds of years before the European empires established colonial beachheads there. In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese began to use opium as well as precious metals, tobacco, and spirits such as brandy to obtain Chinese silk, tea, and spices. ...

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4. Corruption and Drug Trafficking in Cuba during the Second World War and the Early Postwar Years

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pp. 57-64

At the end of 1942, as the United States marked the first anniversary of its entrance into the Second World War, agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) found a quantity of morphine and cocaine from Cuba in Kansas City. The drugs had been siphoned from legally imported quotas and then brought back clandestinely into the United States.1 ...

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5. Lucky Luciano in Cuba

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pp. 65-74

In 1936, Salvatore Lucania, better known as Lucky Luciano, was convicted on charges of running a prostitution ring in New York City and sentenced to between thirty and fifty years in prison. Luciano had been born in Sicily but in 1906 moved with his family to the United States, where he climbed through the ranks of organized crime ...

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6. The Prío Socarrás Government and Drug Trafficking

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pp. 75-80

Under the government of President Carlos Prío Socarrás (1948–52), Cuba’s reports to the United Nations continued to maintain that the country’s drug problem involved primarily marijuana and a very limited amount of morphine and that the problem primarily affected lower-class elements of society.1 ...

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7. Gambling in Cuba

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pp. 81-94

In January 1950, Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver introduced a congressional resolution calling for a formal investigation into the network of organized crime in the United States. Kefauver was responding in part to an appeal made by the mayors of New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Portland for federal intercession to expose and combat syndicated crime. ...

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8. The Andean Connection

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pp. 95-102

The 1940s and 1950s saw the furtherance of trade in illegal drugs within a triangle connecting the Andean countries, Cuba, and the United States. Both Cuban drug traffickers and their Andean counterparts, a large majority of them foreign-born immigrants, were very opportunistic, time and again demonstrating the ability to adapt to changing circumstances ...

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9. Contacts in France

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pp. 103-112

Even before Cuba became a focal point on the international drug scene, the Mediterranean port of Marseille had been a center for narcotics processing and trafficking. Marseille was part of a chain of production that started in Asia: poppies cultivated and processed into opium paste in that part of the world made their way to French laboratories for conversion into heroin. ...

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10. The Batista Dictatorship and Drug Trafficking

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pp. 113-122

According to Harry J. Anslinger, the director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), while serving as Cuba’s dictator between 1952 and 1958, Fulgencio Batista failed to cooperate with U.S. antidrug efforts: “Our agents made more than fifty cases against Cuban pushers and dealers in the Batista era. ...

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11. Revolution

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pp. 123-134

As the guerrilla fighters of the 26 July Movement steadily gained the upper hand and achieved a series of military victories in different parts of the country, Fulgencio Batista, facing inevitable defeat, fled Havana shortly after midnight on 31 December 1958. In the aftermath of his departure and the collapse of his government, mobs roamed the city’s streets, ...

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12. The Diplomacy of Drug Trafficking at the Beginning of the Revolution

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pp. 135-146

In early 1959, as the Cuban Revolution unfolded, Harry J. Anslinger, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), demanded that the new government deport the mafia bosses who administered the island’s casinos, asserting that they were directly responsible for importing drugs from Cuba to the United States. ...

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pp. 147-152

The foreign traffickers who smuggled drugs from either Europe or Latin America to the United States using Cuba as a transit point abandoned the island after the revolution and relocated in other countries. Corsican Paul Mondolini left Cuba for Madrid in January 1960, returned to Havana at the beginning of the next month, ...


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pp. 153-210


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pp. 211-236


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pp. 237-247

E-ISBN-13: 9781469605722
E-ISBN-10: 1469605724
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807831755
Print-ISBN-10: 0807831751

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Drug traffic -- Cuba -- History -- 20th century.
  • Organized crime -- Cuba -- History -- 20th century.
  • Gambling -- Cuba -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Cuba.
  • Cuba -- Foreign relations -- United States.
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