Colombia Stops Chinese Ship Carrying Large-Caliber Weapons to Cuba

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A mysterious vessel flying the Chinese flag has left a port in Cartagena, Colombia, after being stopped by local officials for carrying large amounts of undocumented, large-caliber firearms, en route to Cuba– where Colombia is currently staging talks with the terrorist group FARC.

Colombian newspaper El Universal notes that the ship appeared in a Cartagena port Sunday night and appeared to have documentation for all the cargo aboard. Its itinerary included a stop in Cartagena to deliver a shipment of tubes for a petroleum company in Cartagena as well as a stop in another Colombian coastal city, Barranquilla, and a final stop in Havana.

Colombian newspaper El Tiempo cites a source stating that the ship appeared to have a commercial shipment for Cuba. As a source tells El Universal, however, authorities inspecting the ship found a high number of munitions for heavy weapons, as well as gunpowder, long-range weapons, “and other weapons of war.” The ship’s paperwork made no indication that weapons were aboard as cargo; Colombian authorities only found the weapons through a routine narcotics inspection.

Cuban dissident outlet 14 y Medio notes that documents listing ships currently docked in Cartagena do not show any vessels arriving in from China, or flying the Chinese flag. El Universal published an update this morning on the story reporting that sources have identified the ship as “Dan Dan Xia,” though now there is no evidence of the ship being anywhere near the port of Cartagena– or its second destination, nearby Barranquilla. The newspaper reports that the ship was in police custody until about 5 AM last night, with explosives experts on call in case the vessel had been docked in Colombia to engage in a terrorist attack.

The ship has raised some alarm among Colombians given its timing to arrive in the region: just as President Juan Manuel Santos announces further peace talks with the leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the world’s wealthiest non-jihadist terrorist group. Santos has sent five generals and an admiral in his military to negotiate with the terrorists in Havana, where they have been provided safe harbor for years– the primary reason Cuba remains on America’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list. The men are seeking to establish a permanent ceasefire with the terrorists, built upon a ceasefire currently “in place” since December. While the ceasefire means the FARC have reduced their active violent attacks on civilians, their past actions remain a threat to Colombian citizens: more than half of Colombia’s counties boast FARC-constructed minefields.

The Chinese shipment of arms may not have anything to do with the FARC, however, as yet another pivotal negotiation is taking place in Havana: talks between Obama administration officials and the communist government in Havana, which has been clear that “changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable” with regard to the oppressive political system. Instead of resulting in the two parties inching closer to a goal in reestablishing diplomatic relations, the first round of talks concluded with Cuban dictator Raúl Castro demanding President Obama give the Guantánamo Bay military base to the communist government.