39 years in jail for marijuana trafficking

The past first of May, ended his long sentence in a federal prison for introducing cannabis, the Cuban pilot Antonio Bascaro

It seems a lie but it is true. On May 1, the doors of the Miami Federal Correctional Institution were opened to release, after 39 years in prison, this Cuban pilot who has been behind bars for 39 years, three months and nine days. After being caught while trafficking with marijuana.

After having a breakfast of four eggs, pork and wearing his old cap of the Bay of Pigs fighters, Antonio Bascaro celebrated his freedom for a crime without marijuana traffic violence.

Along with his three children, his grandchildren and friends, this Cuban pilot had breakfast at a Cuban restaurant very close to the prison in Miami where he has passed the biggest condemnation of marijuana trafficking in the legal history of the United States.

Antonio Bacaro said that the night before his release I was not able to sleep due to nerves. It was also very emotional the farewell of so many colleagues and friends made for more than 39 years in prison.

Being 83 years old, the Cuban pilot could not contain tears of joy at seeing the sun for the first time after so many years.

At the end of the 1970s, a federal court sentenced Antonio Bascaro, pilot of Cuban light aircraft, to spend 39 years, three months and nine days in a maximum security federal prison accused of being part of a criminal organization and trying to introduce Colombian marijuana in the United States. He was accused of having passed, in total, 270,000 kilos of marijuana.

Now that the small houses of his Little Havana (Miami), the neighborhood where the pilot used to move, have disappeared, and the neighborhood has been invaded by dazzling skyscrapers, Antonio Bascaro does not know what to do or where to go. Everyone that he knew does not exist anymore. Interestingly, many of those homes of his youth are nowadays dispensaries where the same marijuana that he transported is sold, but for medicinal purposes.

However, what many may seem like good news, could become a real hell for this pilot. On the one hand, he is not an American citizen and, upon having a conviction, he can be deported. But where?

If he is deported to Cuba he could be imprisoned, since he fought against Fidel Castro. He considers the possibility of repatriating him to Guatemala, a country where he had children but currently does not know anyone or anything and that was also the country that deported him to the United States to be tried.

In 1977 Florida was the drug capital in the United States and Miami was the favorite city of drug traffickers. Little Havana was a place where traffickers moved between discretion and betrayal.

The Cuban and Colombian mafias were shot to death in the streets for the control of the sale of drugs. Who does not remember the film “Scare Face”, starring Al Pacino and describing the Miami of that time?

While in the city of Miami the “Cocaine Cowboys” had gone from marijuana to cocaine, in Little Havana they continued selling and consuming marijuana.

Bascaro had a friend in Little Havana who owned a jewelry store, which was actually a cover. This friend proposed to enter the business, which accepted the young pilot.

At that time Bascaro had already met his daughter’s mother in Guatemala and had financial problems. He felt enormous pressure to keep his family properly and the lack of resources had him very worried. Trafficking with marijuana seemed to be a good solution.

During the almost 4 decades spent in prison, the different governments of the United States have shown leniency with cannabis-related crimes and there have been significant reductions in sentences. But Bascaro never benefited from any.

Since his conviction was in 1980, many laws benefited other prisoners who were imprisoned after him. But by taking so much time behind bars, the reductions were applied to people who had been imprisoned after him.

Of medicinal vocation from childhood, at the end he entered the Naval School of Cuba in 1952 and was sent to study Aviation at the University of the Air in the United States, at his base in Pensacola, Florida, in 1954. Bascaro was a fantastic student and he graduated with honors.

In 1956 he returned to Cuba and joined the Naval Aviation. He worked as a Naval Aviator Pilot at the Naval Air Base of Mariel, until the revolutionary Fidel Castro entered Cuba and Bascaro volunteered to lead the Air Patrols and avoid any disembarkation of the guerrillas.

Bascaro was the youngest captain of the Cuban Navy. It was the year 1958 and the young pilot had a forced landing in the mountains that controlled Raul Castro and was captured by the rebels and taken to the hospital.

After seeing the exceptional value of this young pilot, Raul Castro himself tried to convince him to fight with them. When he refused, he spent more than 1 year in the prison of El Morro (Havana).

Luckily, he escaped from prison and, after hiding for more than two months, he requested political asylum at the Embassy of Uruguay and was able to leave Cuba to join the team responsible for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Already in 1961 he joined the 2506 Brigade, whose objective was the invasion of Cuba. He was trained by the CIA in Guatemala and became part of squadrons B-26 and P-51. Soon he was assigned to the organization and training of the P-51 Squadron. After a failed operation, many of their companions were hidden in the swamps and later taken prisoner.

At first he believed that Castro would shoot them all.

That caused him a deep disappointment and many of his teammates left active service for the sadness they felt to see how the 2506 Brigade had sent them to certain death. However, the dictator did not shoot them and used them to barter for medicine and other services.

After several combat operations, Bascaro was ready to fly any type of aircraft.

After this, Bascaro returned to Guatemala, after ending his struggle to liberate Cuba from Castro.

Already in 1978, that criminal organization to which Bascarro belonged and whose leader was the also Cuban José Luis Acosta, had grown a lot and had economic and political power. The band was perfectly structured and had in its ranks with Colombian suppliers, planes, boats, lawyers and corrupt policemen of Florida. The organization was perfectly organized for marijuana trafficking.

Although he did not know it back then, the beginning of his fall was brewing. One of the boats that the organization used as a cover ran aground in the Gulf of Mexico, and the crew was arrested.

Immediately, the FBI took care of the matter and investigations began and the members’ phones were tapped. Finally, on February 21, 1980, Bascaro was arrested in Guatemala and sent to Miami, where the DEA took charge of him.

Amy Povah, president of the Can-Do Foundation, an NGO that seeks to reduce the penalties for detainees for drugs in the United States, believes that the sentence that Bascaro has paid will one day appear in the legal history of the United States due to its injustice and arbitrariness.

Nickolas Geeker, the prosecutor who condemned Bascaro, says he could not understand why he had been treated so unfairly for marijuana trafficking.

During the more than 39 years that he was in prison, Bascaro dedicated himself to study. He obtained several psychology courses and he only needs 20 credits to obtain the Bachelor in Business degree (bachelor in business), and successfully completed the Real Estate and Stockmarket courses.

But many years in prison for marijuana trafficking have caused him a very negative impact. His health is deteriorated, he is an old man whose only hope is to be able to be useful to society and his family, if God allows it, he says after having developed a solid faith.

In short, never in the history of the United States has a person been held for so many years in prison for marijuana trafficking.

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