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Organizacion Autentica


By Jose R. Cardenas

On November 19, 2001, the Bush Administration opened a new U.S. diplomatic offensive against countries that pose a serious threat to international security through their pursuit, development, production and deployment of biological weapons, in violation of the global accord that bans such arms.

Speaking in Geneva before a United Nations' conference on the Biological Weapons Convention, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John R. Bolton publicly identified Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Sudan as known violators of the convention and said that a host of other nations known to possess a bioweapons capability would be contacted "privately" to register the Administration's grave concerns. Official sources say Cuba will be among the latter.

The Bush initiative indicates the seriousness and gravity of its commitment to disrupting and dismantling the international terrorist network, and the inclusion of Cuba in this particular effort is to be commended. With its extraordinarily effective international propaganda apparatus, Castro's Cuba has long been successful in evading scrutiny of its biotechnological capabilities. Enough circumstantial evidence exists (combined with the fact that the Castro regime prohibits international inspection of its facilities) to warrant significantly more attention than is traditionally paid to Cuba in this regard. Below is only an example of that which exists in the public domain regarding Cuba's biotechnological capabilities.

· In a transmittal letter accompanying the Defense Department's May 1998 report, The Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen wrote to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I remain concerned about Cuba's potential to develop and produce biological agents, given its biotechnology infrastructure. . . ." In its public Executive Summary, the report stated, "Cuba's current scientific facilities and expertise could support an offensive BW [bioweapons] program in at least the research and development stage. Cuba's biotechnology industry is one of the most advanced in emerging countries and would be capable of producing BW agents."

· In the October 2001 issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, José de la Fuente, the former director of research and development at Cuba's premier Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, wrote he was "profoundly disturbed" that Cuba was selling to Iran technology that could be used to produce biochemical weapons. He wrote, "No one believes that Iran is interested in these technologies for the purpose of protecting all the children in the Middle East from hepatitis, or treating their people with cheap streptokinase when they suffer sudden cardiac arrest . . .." During a May 2001 visit to Tehran, Castro proclaimed, "Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees."

· In October 2001, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham (D-FL) told the Miami Herald that Cuba "clearly has the capability of producing chemical and biological ingredients that could become weapons of mass destruction." He added that it was impossible to know what Cuba was up to because international inspection agencies have not been given access to facilities. He said, "Nobody, at least nobody that I'm aware of in the United States, feels that we know what Cuba's doing."

· An October 2001 study by the University of Georgia's Center for International Trade and Security found that safeguards to prevent terrorists and rogue nations from acquiring the equipment and material necessary to make biological and chemical weapons are dangerously inadequate. Cuba, one of 19 countries examined, rated a C- in limiting exports of such equipment and material. (Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 26, 2001.)

· An October 10, 2001, report on said, "With help from the Soviet Union's massive secret biological weapons program, Castro was able to build one of the world's most sophisticated biotechnology industries which can also be used to build weapons of mass destruction." Former Soviet scientist Ken Alibeck (see below) says he helped to train Cubans in this technology, which he now regrets. "This work would be used for developing biological weapons or biological agents. As a result of this, we helped Castro develop biological weapons. It was such a stupid decision…."

Also reported: Gen. Charles Wilhelm, a former Southcom Commander said: "The indications we have is that they have the capability to produce those type of substances." The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which investigates terrorist threats, said in a 1996 report, "Cuba has been a supply source [to terrorist groups] for toxin and chemical weapons."

· At an October 11, 2001, hearing of the House Intelligence Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), noted that the Pentagon lists 15 countries believed to have biological weapons-among them, Cuba. (Associated Press, October 11, 2001)

· In his 1999 book Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World-Told from the Inside by the Man Who Ran It (Random House), former KGB colonel Ken Alibek, second in command of the Soviet offensive biological warfare program until his defection in 1992, wrote that his former boss, Maj. Gen. Yuri Kalinin, visited several Cuban biotechnology facilities in 1990 and told him he was convinced the Castro regime was deeply involved in a biological warfare research effort. Alibek, who is widely respected in the U.S. biological warfare community, told the Miami Herald (June 23, 1999), "Kalinin saw no weapons production, but with his experience in offensive biological warfare work, it was his opinion that they were doing offensive work also. They are using the same cover stories we had developed, about factories to produce single-cell bacteria as animal feed. Maybe we were over-suspicious, but we did not believe their stories. . . .In my personal opinion, I have no question Cuba is involved."

· In an October 2, 2001, commentary in the Los Angeles Times, author Jeremy Rifkin (The Biotech Century, Tarcher Putnam, 1998) notes, "Iraq, long known as a threat for biological warfare, is not alone in its interest in developing biological weapons. In a 1995 study, the CIA reported that 16 other countries were suspected of researching and stockpiling germ warfare agents-Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Taiwan, Israel, Egypt, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, Bulgaria, India, South Korea, South Africa, China and Russia."

· In his 2001 book Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (Atlantic Monthly Press), Jonathan Tucker, a leading expert on biological and chemical weapons writes, "… leaks and rumors of uncertain reliability suggested that several countries might have inadvertently or deliberately retained specimens of the virus from the time when smallpox was a common disease. Possible suspects included China, Cuba, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Yugoslavia."

· In their 2000 book Living Terrors: What America Needs to Know to Survive the Coming Bioterrorist Catastrophe (Delta Publishing), experts Michael Osterholm and John Schwartz cited a 1999 report by the congressionally created Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction that said "most of the nations identified as sponsors of terrorism either have or are seeking weapons of mass destruction. (Those nations are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria)."

· In the July 12, 1999, issue of the New Yorker, Richard Preston, an expert on biological and chemical weapons, reported that the U.S. government "keeps a list of nations and groups that it suspects either have clandestine stocks of smallpox or seem to be trying to buy or steal the virus." The classified list is "said to include" Cuba along with nine other countries.

· A March 31, 1998, article in the Washington Post said, "Cuba has one of the most sophisticated biotech and pharmaceutical industries in the hemisphere. Because lethal biological materials can be produced by countries with biotech industries, it is difficult to determine when a country moves from simply having the capability to produce deadly viruses, to the intent or plans to do so." It said, "while [Clinton] administration officials do not allege that Cuba has such weapons, 'You can't say there's no capability,' said one defense official."

· According to Insight Magazine (July 20, 1998), "A classified annex to the Pentagon final report to Congress [in 1998] further warns: 'According to sources within Cuba, at least one research site is run and funded by the Cuban military to work on the development of offensive and defensive biological weapons.'"

· A December 1993 Office of Technology Assessment report "Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction" identified Cuba as one of 17 countries possessing a bioweapons capability.

· In 1988, syndicated columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak revealed that Soviet-supplied Cuban troops fighting in Angola had used chemical weapons against the U.S.-backed forces of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA. They cited evidence "scrupulously documented" by the senior United Nations consultant on chemical warfare, Dr. Aubin Heyndrickx of Belguim. Toxicologists certified that residue from chemical weapons-including sarin-was found in areas of recent action. When questioned by then-Sen. Dennis DeConcini about the then-rumours, Heyndrickx replied, "There is no doubt anymore that the Cubans were using nerve gases against the troops of Mr. Jonas Savimbi." Also, the columnists noted that Heyndrikcx had warned the United States that if Soviet-Cuban managers in Angola used gas in the past, they could use it in the future.

More evidence of Cuba's use of chemical agents in Africa surfaced in a July 28, 1998, Reuters report that Wouter Basson, former head of South Africa's covert chemical weapons program, had given a sworn statement implicating Cuba. He said that South Africa had been forced to begin its chemical weapons' program after Cuba had used chemical warfare on South African troops fighting in Angola. At the time they had been unprepared and defenseless. (South African troops fought in Angola until 1990.)

CANFNews is a service provided to keep interested observers abreast of the latest developments in Cuba and U.S.-Cuba relations. If you would like to be removed from this list please reply and in the subject line type Remove. If there is someone you would like to be added to this list please just forward their e-mail address. Thank you.

Jose R. Cardenas
Washington Director
Cuban American National Foundation


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