The Mafia in Cuba (Part IV) - The End of Mobsters in Cuba.
By: Antonio Pillo Jr.
On the morning of January 1, 1959, when Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista hastily packed his bags and fled Cuba, so did the last of the Italian-American Mafia. Once the revolutionary triumph was declared, people's reactions against casinos, slot machines, gambling, etc., were explosive, and many casinos were razed by popular anger.
While the revolutionary government decreed the closing of all casinos, the government also showed its immediate disposition towards cooperating with international law enforcement and police forces from other countries looking for criminals once protected by Batista's dictatorship.
During an interview with Bohemia magazine in May 1959, Harry J. Anslinger, then Commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, praised the attitude with which the revolutionary government had started the fight against drug trafficking. Anslinger had once said that “Cuba had become in recent years the world center of drug trafficking” and that cocaine trafficking in Havana, for example, was then “higher than that recorded anywhere else in the world”.
According to the U.S. official, Anslinger had sent a list to Batista's secret police department with the names of several drug traffickers, including Jack Lansky and Dino Cellini. “We ended our collaboration with the Batista government authorities when we realized the futility of our efforts. Giuseppe Cattatenoti and Giuseppe Di Giorgio were deported from the U.S. two years ago and now we have news that they operate casinos in Cuba; they are both on the drug list sent to Cuba.”
In the same interview, Anslinger told Bohemia that the authorities, police and judges used to arrest drug dealers and mobsters that were later freed or, worse, failed to follow through on arrests and legal actions.
He said in the interview that he hoped the new revolutionary government would continue the policy started against criminals and gangsters (e.g. Santos Trafficante was incarcerated in La Cabaña prison but there was no extradition request) since it was the first year Cuba showed interest in sending a representative to the Narcotics Committee of the Global Health Committee.
Of course, the Mafia was not going to stand back with their arms crossed after losing millions due to the new political and social measures. It is likely that La Cosa Nostra succeeded in saving large amounts of money through the assistance of their Cuban underlings. However, it has also been documented that as the Mafia attempted to send funds to the United States, other substantial sums were confiscated by the police along the border.
The Mafia decided to eliminate the then Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government, Fidel Castro, who was the key motivating factor behind all the changes that were being made to free Cuba from the social crisis in which it lived, and in particular, was the driving force to destroy gambling, drugs, prostitution, and other illicit businesses.
Trafficante Jr, Meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana, head of the Chicago Outfit, and Carlo Gambino from New York, knew that Fidel could only be diverted from his ideas by assassinating him. Together, they developed and implemented several schemes that eventually failed, assisted by Cuban citizens who had at one time or another been their employees or associates. But the more serious proof of how close the Italian-American Mafia could get to achieving their revenge and claiming their companies was the connection between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and La Cosa Nostra as partly disclosed in the CIA's “Family Jewels” document.
Cuban researchers have shown how the CIA decided to use Italian-American Mafia members to eliminate Fidel Castro. Links between mobster John Rosselli and CIA agent Robert Maheu became quite famous. Starting on August 1960 and after several negotiations between both parties, the “Contract” was approved and the Mafia began the preparation phase. Sam Giancana, Jimmy Rosselly and Santo Trafficante Jr., together with other people in Cuba who welcomed La Cosa Nostra hit man, would play key roles. Past and present tell us that this and other plans failed.
Lansky, who never bothered to get involved in the political violence, continued his life as a millionaire and was considered by the 1980 press media as one of the 400 richest men in the USA, next to Rockefeller, David Packard, the widow of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and others.
Lansky lived and died in the shadows, just as he liked it until in January 1983, he died of natural causes. Trafficante Jr., gave the FBI a lot of trouble. He followed in the footsteps of his predecessor and took charge of the Tampa Family, seizing all of Florida. For over 30 years he ran gambling rings, narcotics trafficking, as well as all kinds of theft and fraud activities. He died in 1987 at age 73, giving headaches to U.S. authorities up until the very end.