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What undoubtedly was an even more sensitive venture was the use of chemical
and biological weapons against Cuba by the United States. It is a remarkable record.
In August 1962, a British freighter under Soviet lease, having damaged its
propeller on a reef, crept into the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico for repairs. It was

bound for a Soviet port with 80,000 bags of Cuban sugar. The ship was put into dry
dock and 14,135 sacks of sugar were unloaded to a warehouse to facilitate the repairs.
While in the warehouse, the sugar was contaminated by CIA agents with a substance
that was allegedly harmless but unpalatable. When President Kennedy learned of the
operation he was furious because it had taken place in US territory and if discovered
could provide the Soviet Union with a propaganda field-day and could set a terrible
precedent for chemical sabotage in the cold war. He directed that the sugar not be
returned to the Russians, although what explanation was given to them is not publicly
known.19 Similar undertakings were apparently not canceled. The CIA official who
helped direct worldwide sabotage efforts, referred to above, later revealed that "There
was lots of sugar being sent out from Cuba, and we were putting a lot of contaminants
in it."20
The same year, a Canadian agricultural technician working as an adviser to the
Cuban government was paid $5,000 by "an American military intelligence agent" to
infect Cuban turkeys with a virus which would produce the fatal Newcastle disease.
Subsequently, 8,000 turkeys died. The technician later claimed that although he had
been to the farm where the turkeys had died, he had not actually administered the virus,
hut had instead pocketed the money, and that the turkeys had died from neglect and
other causes unrelated to the virus. This may have been a self-serving statement. The
Washington Post reported that "According to U.S. intelligence reports, the Cubans”and
some Americans”believe the turkeys died as the result of espionage."21
Authors Warren Hinckle and William Turner, citing a participant in the project,
have reported in their book on Cuba that:

During 1969 and 1970, the CIA deployed futuristic weather modification
technology to ravage Cuba's sugar crop and undermine the economy. Planes from
the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in the California desert, where hi tech was
developed, overflew the island, seeding rain clouds with crystals that precipitated
torrential rains over non-agricultural areas and left the cane fields arid (the
downpours caused killer flash floods in some areas).22

In 1971, also according to participants, the CIA turned over to Cuban exiles a
virus which causes African swine fever. Six weeks later, an outbreak of the disease in
Cuba forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic. The
outbreak, the first ever in the Western hemisphere, was called the "most alarming event"
of the year by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.23
Ten years later, the target may well have been human beings, as an epidemic of
dengue fever swept the Cuban island. Transmitted by blood-eating insects, usually
mosquitos, the disease produces severe flu symptoms and incapacitating bone pain.
Between May and October 1981, over 300,000 cases were reported in Cuba with 158
fatalities, 101 of which were children under 15.24 In 1956 and 1958, declassified
documents have revealed, the US Army loosed swarms of specially bred mosquitos in
Georgia and Florida to see whether disease-carrying insects could be weapons in a
biological war. The mosquitos bred for the tests were of the Aedes Aegypti type, the
precise carrier of dengue fever as well as other diseases.25 In 1967 it was reported by
Science magazine that at the US government center in Fort Detrick, Maryland, dengue
fever was amongst those "diseases that are at least the objects of considerable research
and that appear to be among those regarded as potential BW [biological warfare]
agents."26 Then, in 1984, a Cuban exile on trial in New York testified that in the latter
part of 1980 a ship travelled from Florida to Cuba with

a mission to carry some germs to introduce them in Cuba to be used against the
Soviets and against the Cuban economy, to begin what was called chemical war,
which later on produced results that were not what we had expected, because we
thought that it was going to be used against the Soviet forces, and it was used
against our own people, and with that we did not agree.27

It's not clear from the testimony whether the Cuban man thought that the germs
would somehow be able to confine their actions to only Russians, or whether he had
been misled by the people behind the operation.
The full extent of American chemical and biological warfare against Cuba will
never be known. Over the years, the Castro government has in fact blamed the United
States for a number of other plagues which afflicted various animals and crops.28 And in
1977, newly-released CIA documents disclosed that the Agency "maintained a
clandestine anti-crop warfare research program targeted during the 1960s at a number of
countries throughout the world."29

It came to pass that the United States felt the need to put some of its chemical
and biological warfare (CBW) expertise into the hands of other nations. As of 1969,
some 550 students, from 36 countries, had completed courses at the US Army's
Chemical School at Fort McClellan, Alabama. The CBW instruction was provided to
the students under the guise of "defense" against such weapons”just as in Vietnam, as
we have seen, torture was taught. As will be described in the chapter on Uruguay, the
manufacture and use of bombs was taught under the cover of combating terrorist

The ingenuity which went into the chemical and biological warfare against Cuba
was apparent in some of the dozens of plans to assassinate or humiliate Fidel Castro.
Devised by the CIA or Cuban exiles, with the cooperation of American mafiosi, the
plans ranged from poisoning Castro's cigars and food to a chemical designed to make
his hair and beard fall off and LSD to be administered just before a public speech. There
were also of course the more traditional approaches of gun and bomb, one being an
attempt to drop bombs on a baseball stadium while Castro was speaking; the B-26
bomber was driven away by anti-aircraft fire before it could reach the stadium.31 It is a
combination of such Cuban security measures, informers, incompetence, and luck
which has served to keep the bearded one alive to the present day.
Attempts were also made on the lives of Castro's brother Raul and Che Guevara.
The latter was the target of a bazooka fired at the United Nations building in New York
in December 1964.32 Various Cuban exile groups have engaged in violence on a regular
basis in the United States with relative impunity for decades. One of them, going by the
name of Omega 7 and headquartered in Union City, New Jersey, was characterized by
the FBI in 1980 as "the most dangerous terrorist organization in the United States".33
Attacks against Cuba itself began to lessen around the end of the 1960s, due probably to
a lack of satisfying results combined with ageing warriors, and exile groups turned to
targets in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
During the next decade, while the CIA continued to pour money into the exile
community, more than 100 serious "incidents" took place in the United States for which
Omega 7 and other groups claimed responsibility. (Within the community, the
distinction between a terrorist and a non-terrorist group is not especially precise; there is
much overlapping identity and frequent creation of new names.) There occurred
repeated bombings of the Soviet UN Mission, its Washington Embassy, its automobiles,
a Soviet ship docked in New Jersey, the offices of the Soviet airline Aeroflot, with a

number of Russians injured from these attacks; several bombings of the Cuban UN
Mission and its Interests Section in Washington, many attacks upon Cuban diplomats,
including at least one murder; a bomb discovered at New York's Academy of Music in
1976 shortly before a celebration of the Cuban Revolution was to begin; a bombing two
years later of the Lincoln Center after the Cuban ballet had performed ...34
The single most violent act of this period was the blowing up of a Cubana
Airlines plane shortly after it took off from Barbados on 6 October 1976, which took the
lives of 73 people including the entire Cuban championship fencing team. CIA
documents later revealed that on 22 June, a CIA officer abroad had cabled a report to
Agency headquarters that he had learned from a source that a Cuban exile group
planned to bomb a Cubana airliner flying between Panama and Havana. The group's
leader was a baby doctor named Orlando Bosch. After the plane crashed in the sea in
October, it was Bosch's network of exiles that claimed responsibility. The cable showed
that the CIA had the means to penetrate the Bosch organization, but there's no indication
in any of the documents that the Agency undertook any special monitoring of Bosch and
his group because of their plans, or that the CIA warned Havana.35
in 1983, while Orlando Bosch sat in a Venezuelan prison charged with
masterminding the plane bombing, the City Commission of Miami proclaimed a "Dr.
Orlando Bosch Day."36 In 1968, Bosch had been convicted of a bazooka attack on a
Polish ship in Miami. Cuban exiles themselves have often come in for harsh treatment.
Those who have visited Cuba for any reason whatever, or publicly suggested, however
timidly, a rapprochement with the homeland, they too have been the victims of
bombings and shootings in Florida and New Jersey. American groups advocating a
resumption of diplomatic relations or an end to the embargo have been similarly
attacked, as have travel agencies handling trips to Cuba and a pharmaceutical company
in New Jersey which shipped medicines to the island. Dissent in Miami has been
effectively silenced, while the police, city officials, and the media look the other way,
when not actually demonstrating support for the exiles' campaign of intimidation.37 In
Miami and elsewhere, the CIA”ostensibly to uncover Castro agents”has employed
exiles to spy on their countrymen, to keep files on them, as well as on Americans who
associate with them.38
Although there has always been the extreme lunatic fringe in the Cuban exile
community (as opposed to the normal lunatic fringe) insisting that Washington has sold
out their cause, over the years there has been only the occasional arrest and conviction
of an exile for a terrorist attack in the United States, so occasional that the exiles can
only assume that Washington's heart is not wholly in it. The exile groups and their key
members are well known to the authorities, for the anti-Castroites have not excessively
shied away from publicity. At least as late as the early 1980s, they were training openly
in southern Florida and southern California; pictures of them flaunting their weapons
appeared in the press.39 The CIA, with its countless contacts-cum-informers amongst
the exiles, could fill in many of the missing pieces for the FBI and the police, if it
wished to. In 1980, in a detailed report on Cuban-exile terrorism, The Village Voice of
New York reported:

Two stories were squeezed out of New York police officials ... "You know, it's
funny," said one cautiously, "there have been one or two things ... but let's put it
this way. You get just so far on a case and suddenly the dust is blown away. Case
closed. You ask the CIA to help, and they say they aren't really interested. You
get the message."" Another investigator said he was working on a narcotics case
involving Cuban exiles a couple of years ago, and telephone records he obtained
showed a frequently dialed number in Miami. He said he traced the number to a

company called Zodiac, "which turned out to be a CIA front." He dropped his

In 1961, amid much fanfare, the Kennedy administration unveiled its showpiece
program, the Alliance for Progress. Conceived as a direct response to Castro's Cuba, it
was meant to prove that genuine social change could take place in Latin America
without resort to revolution or socialism. "If the only alternatives for the people of Latin
America are the status quo and communism," said John F. Kennedy, "then they will
inevitably choose communism."41
The multi-billion dollar Alliance program established for itself an ambitious set
of goals which it hoped to achieve by the end of the decade. These had to do with
economic growth, more equitable distribution of national income, reduced
unemployment, agrarian reform, education, housing, health, etc. In 1970, the Twentieth
Century Fund of New York”whose list of officers read like a Who's Who in the
government/industry revolving-door world”undertook a study to evaluate how close
the Alliance had come to realizing its objectives. One of the study's conclusions was
that Cuba, which was not one of the recipient countries, had

come closer to some of the Alliance objectives than most Alliance members. In
education and public health, no country in Latin America has carried out such
ambitious and nationally comprehensive programs. Cuba's centrally planned
economy has done more to integrate the rural and urban sectors (through a national
income distribution policy) than the market economies of the other Latin American

Cuba's agrarian reform program as well was recognized as having been more
widesweeping than that of any other Latin American country, although the study took a
wait-and-see attitude towards its results.43
These and other economic and social gains were achieved despite the US
embargo and the inordinate amount of resources and labor Cuba was obliged to devote
to defense and security because of the hovering giant to the north. Moreover, though not
amongst the stated objectives of the Alliance, there was another area of universal
importance in which Cuba stood apart from many of its Latin neighbors: there were no
legions of desaparecidos, no death squads, no systematic, routine torture.
Cuba had become what Washington had always feared from the Third World”a
good example.

Parallel to the military and economic belligerence, the United States has long
maintained a relentless propaganda offensive against Cuba. A number of examples of
this occurring in other countries can be found in other chapters of this book. In addition
to its vast overseas journalistic empire, the CIA has maintained anti-Castro news-article
factories in the United States for decades. The Agency has reportedly subsidized at
times such publications in Miami as Avarice, El Mundo, El Prensa Libre, Bohemia and
El Diario de Las Americas, as well as AIP, a radio news agency that produced programs
sent free of charge to more than 100 small stations in Latin America. Two CIA fronts in
New York, Foreign Publications, Inc, and Editors Press Service, also served as part of
the propaganda network.44

Was it inevitable that the United States would attempt to topple the Cuban
government? Could relations between the two neighboring countries have taken a different
path? Based on the American record of invariable hostility towards even moderately leftist
governments, the answer would appear to be that there's no reason to believe that Cuba's

revolutionary govern-: ment could have been an exception. Washington officials, however,
were not immediately ill-disposed towards the Cuban Revolution. There were those who
even expressed their tentative approval or optimism. This was evidently based on the
belief that what had taken place in Cuba was little more than another Latin American
change in government, the kind which had occurred with monotonous regularity for over a
century, where the names and faces change but subservience to the United States remains
Then Castro revealed himself to be cut from a wholly different cloth. It was not to
be business as usual in the Caribbean. He soon became outspoken in his criticism of the
United States. He referred acrimoniously to the 60 years of American control of Cuba;
how, at the end of those 60 years, the masses of Cubans found themselves
impoverished; how the United States used the sugar quota as a threat. He spoke of the
unacceptable presence of the Guantanamo base; and he made it clear enough to
Washington that Cuba would pursue a policy of independence and neutralism in the
cold war. It was for just such reasons that Castro and Che Guevara had forsaken the
prosperous bourgeois careers awaiting them in law and medicine to lead the revolution
in the first place. Serious compromise was nor on their agenda; nor on Washington's,
which was not prepared to live with such men and such a government.
A National Security Council meeting of 10 March 1959 included on its agenda the
feasibility of bringing "another government to power in Cuba".45 This was before Castro
had nationalized any US property. The following month, after meeting with Castro
in Washington, Vice President Richard Nixon wrote a memo in which he stated that he
was convinced that Castro was "either incredibly naive about Communism or under
Communist discipline" and that the Cuban leader would have to be treated and dealt with
accordingly. Nixon later wrote that his opinion at this time was a minority one within the
Eisenhower administration.46 But before the year was over, CIA Director Allen Dulles
had decided that an invasion of Cuba was necessary. In March of 1960, it was approved
by President Eisenhower.4' Then came the embargo, leaving Castro no alternative but to
turn more and more to the Soviet Union, thus confirming in the minds of Washington
officials that Castro was indeed a communist. Some speculated that he had been a covert
Red all along.
In this context, it's interesting to note that the Cuban Communist Party had long
supported Batista, had served in his cabinet, and had been unsupportive of Castro and his
followers until their accession to power appeared imminent.48 To add to the irony,
during 1957-58 the CIA was channeling funds to Castro's movement; this while the US
continued to support Batista with weapons to counter the rebels; in all likelihood,
another example of the Agency hedging its bets.49
If Castro had toned down his early rhetoric and observed the usual diplomatic
niceties, but still pursued the policies of self-determination and socialism which he felt
were best for Cuba (or inescapable if certain changes were to be realized), he could only
have postponed the day of reckoning, and that not for long. Jacobo Arbenz of
Guatemala, Mossadegh of Iran, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana, and other Third World
leaders have gone out of their way to avoid stepping on Washington's very sensitive toes
unnecessarily, and were much less radical in their programs and in their stance toward


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