Cuba gives the green light to U.S. air marshals onboard regular flights to the island

Posted: 07-Oct-16 11:14

Putting the controversy to rest, just before the end of last week, the Cuban government finally announced their approval of U.S. air marshals on commercial flights servicing the newly re-established U.S.-Cuba routes. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration confirmed the news as did Josefina Vidal, Director of the United States department at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (MINREX).

Cuba gives the green light to U.S. air marshals onboard regular flights to the island

Last Friday Cuban authorities confirmed the launching of new agreement that will make it possible for U.S. air marshals to be present on regularly scheduled flights between the U.S. and Cuba. The much-awaited news were also announced by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) through a statement published in El Nuevo Herald and echoed by the Director of U.S. department affairs for Cuba´s Ministry of Foreign Relations, Josefina Vidal, who was quick to divulge the news with the following Tweet on her account last Friday:

“On Sep. 26 #Cuba #US Arrangement on deployment of Air Marshalls on board airlines was amended to make it applicable to scheduled flights.”

The news come with a sigh of relief for the Obama Administration who faced intense pressure on recent weeks to deliver on their promise of reaching a bilateral agreement for air marshals to be able to fly on the new U.S. – Cuba commercial flights. The fact that the agreement had not been reached at the same time as the inauguration of Cuba flights put the Obama Administration on the spotlight and under heavy criticism by some members of Congress (particularly Senator Marco Rubio) over the security of the new flights to Cuba.

The problem was due to a misinformation (or rather untimely promise) made by the TSA last August which claimed that U.S. Air marshals had already been given the green light to fly on the new direct U.S-Cuba routes. We echoed such news at the time, which the TSA also made public during a statement release on El Nuevo Herald, and took them to mean (as did the rest of the world) that the TSA had already secured an agreement with the Cuban government for the presence of U.S. marshals on the new commercial flights.

But it wasn´t until now that such an agreement came to fruition and was fully enforced. By mid-September TSA had to bow its head and admit there were delays on the amendment of the agreements already in place for charter flights (but not extended to commercial flights). The recent twin announcement revealing that the green light has finally been given to U.S. air marshals to fly the new Cuba routes now eases the tension and confrontation between the White House and Congress.

TSA´s recently updated release read:

“With regard to Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) coverage on flights to/from Cuba, TSA has an arrangement in place for charter and scheduled commercial flights.”

Being more specific as to how this newly allowed intervention of U.S. air marshals on flights to Cuba would come into force, the statement concluded:

“As a general matter, to protect the operations and efficacy of our Federal Air Marshal program, TSA does not provide specific information about when or which flights are covered by our air marshals, as that could potentially compromise security.”

Preceding the announcement, Cuban authorities had met U.S. representatives in Washington last Wednesday to:

“...the security of the flow of people and goods between the two countries, and mutual concerns about cybersecurity.

Involved representatives from both countries included the Cuban Ministries of the Interior and Transport as well as the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations and the U.S. Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security. The intention behind said meetings was to review progress on pressing issues such as bilateral cooperation on topics like public health and against drug trafficking.


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