U. S. Says Cuba Has Limited Germ Weapons Effort

By Brugger, Seth | Arms Control Today, June 2002 | Go to article overview

U. S. Says Cuba Has Limited Germ Weapons Effort


Brugger, Seth, Arms Control Today


ON MAY 6, a senior U.S. official charged Cuba with pursuing biological weapons capabilities and said that Havana may be aiding other states conducting similar endeavors-activities that would contravene Cuba's obligations under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

Addressing the private Heritage Foundation on weapons of mass destruction threats, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said, "For four decades, Cuba has maintained a well-developed and sophisticated biomedical industry, supported until 1990 by the Soviet Union.... Analysts and Cuban defectors have long cast suspicion on the activities conducted in these biomedical facilities. Here is what we now know: The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited, offensive biological warfare research and development effort."

Bolton also said that Cuba has given dual-use biotechnology to other "rogue states" and that Washington fears that this technology could support biological weapons programs in those states. Bolton did not say which countries the United States believes Cuba has aided but mentioned that Cuban President Fidel Castro visited Iran, Syria, and Libya last year.

The undersecretary called on Cuba to halt its biological weapons-related cooperation with rogue states and to fully adhere to the Biological Weapons Convention, which Havana ratified in April 1972 and which outlaws offensive biological weapons development and transfers.

Bolton's speech came two weeks before a new Bush initiative that challenged the Cuban government to carry out sweeping political and economic reforms and followed a November statement in which the undersecretary fingered other countries for violating the BWC.

Bolton's statement was largely regarded as a new accusation, but it did not actually break new ground, as it closely mirrored mid-March testimony given by a senior State Department intelligence official before a Senate committee. That testimony appears to be the first time such a statement was publicly made by a U.S. official about Cuba's biological weapons capabilities.

Speaking May 10 on Cuban television, Castro dismissed Bolton's charges as a "treacherous" lie and said that weapons of mass destruction programs would ruin the economy of a small nation, such as Cuba. …

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