Cuba denounces US biowarfare
Text of the Cuban report given to the UN secretary-general ´
I. DESCRIPTION OF THE FACTS
On 21 October 1996, at 10:08 hours, crew members of scheduled flight CU-170 of Cubana de Aviación (Cubana Airlines), on board a Fokker-27 aircraft, flying the Havana-Las Tunas route, upon crossing the Girón air corridor in the western region of Cuba, noticed a single-engine airplane flying from north to south, at about 1000 feet (300 meters) above them, apparently spraying or sprinkling unknown substances - some seven times - in an intermittent manner.
At that very moment, the Cubana de Aviación Fokker aircraft was located 25 to 30 kilometers south of Varadero, in Matanzas province, flying at an altitude of 9000 feet and at a speed of 400 kilometers per hour.
According to scheduled flights, objective radar control and recordings of radio conversations between the airplanes and ground control when the development took place, the airplane flying over the Girón corridor from north to south in a course perpendicular to the Cubana de Aviación flight was fumigation aircraft Model S2R, register N3093M, of the civilian aircraft registry of the United States of America, operated by the State Department of that country, as stated in the flight authorization requested to the Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba, and in accordance with the United States public registry of civilian aircraft. The above-mentioned airplane had taken off from Patrick United States Air Force Base, in Cocoa Beach in the state of Florida, bound for Grand Cayman.
The Cubana pilot immediately reported to flight control on the release of unknown substances, in the form of a white or grayish mist, by the S2R airplane. The Cuban air controller established communication with the United States aircraft and asked whether it was having any technical problem, to which the pilot's answer was "No". He was also asked about the type of aircraft he was flying, answering that it was a single-engine AY-65. That conversation is recorded on tape.
On 18 December 1996, the first signs of the presence of a Thrips plague appeared in Matanzas province, at potato plantations of the Diamand variety, sowed 38 days before on the Lenin State Horticultural Farm, in Jovellanos municipality. Samples of these organisms were sent to the Central Quarantine Laboratory of the National Pest Control Center.
On 26 December 1996, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented a note of complaint to the United States Interest Section in Havana regarding the incident that had occurred in the Girón corridor, urging the United States party to take appropriate measures aimed at the clarification of the event.
On 12 February 1997, the United States Interest Section in Havana handed over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba a reply to that note stating that on the day of the incident, the United States pilot had, during his flight, seen a Cuban commercial airplane flying below, and as he was not certain of having been seen, "following caution and safety procedures, and with the purpose of securing a positive visual contact, the pilot used the `smoke generator' of his aircraft, in order to indicate its location" adding that "the smoke vanished and no fluid was poured from the airplane."
On 14 February 1997, the Central Quarantine Laboratory confirmed that the insect examined was the Thrips palmi karav, exotic to Cuban territory until that moment.
The Thrips palmi is indigenous to Asia. Since 1985 it has scattered across certain Caribbean zones, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. It is a polyphagous phytophagan that infects practically all crops, weeds and ornamental plants. It is reported to be a vector of viruses such as that known as TSWV. It is an insect of difficult diagnosis, unknown to the majority of Cuban specialists. It is self-propagated within a field, and into neighboring ones, disseminating mostly when seedlings, fruits and vegetable material, including topsoil, are moved from one place to another. It also scatters by aerial means, particularly its larvae. It is resistant to temperature changes. Its reproductive cycle lasts between 15 and 21 days, depending on the host plant.
Taking into account the levels of highest density of the insect population, it could be ascertained that the primary source of the outbreak was located on the above-mentioned Lenin State Horticultural Farm. Smaller outbreaks were pinpointed in fields close to the villages of Máximo Gómez and Bolondrón, also in Matanzas province, a few kilometers away from the main source.
In the first half of January 1997, outbreaks of the same insect were spotted in municipalities south of Havana province, bordering Matanzas, affecting corn, beans, squash, cucumbers and other crops.
Once the insect was identified, the government of Cuba adopted a program of emergency measures to fight it, including chemical control, through the purchase of pesticides, which, in spite of their high cost, have not achieved effective results.
At the end of March 1997, the government of Cuba, complying with international regulations, informed the United Nations secretary-general and the Center for Disarmament about the presence of Thrips palmi karav in its territory, and notified this finding to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to which Cuba applied for technical and financial assistance to fight the pest.
At present, Thrips palmi has spread virtually throughout Matanzas and Havana provinces, in two municipalities of Cienfuegos province, in some municipalities of Pinar del Río province and in the Isle of Youth. Its presence has not been detected in the central and eastern provinces of the country.
II. RESULTS OF THE INVESTIGATIONS
The S2R aircraft, register N3093M, is used by the State Department of the United States in the struggle against drug trafficking, to destroy crops. The aircraft utilizes two sprinkling systems: one for the use of aerosols and liquid particles and another for dropping solid particles. No smoke generator is known to be installed aboard this aircraft.
The specialists appointed by the Cuban party to clarify the event considered unlikely a voluntary or involuntary leakage of fuel or oil, which is confirmed by the answer given by the United States airplane pilot himself to the Cuban air controller.
The argument used by the United States party in its note of reply regarding the smoke release, appears, from the technical point of view, weak and in contradiction with the conversation held during the flight. On the other hand, it is not a standard procedure established for this kind of situation. The pilot of the Cubana de Aviación Fokker asserts on the basis of his visual observation and his previous experience as a pilot of fumigation airplanes, that the release made by the United States aircraft was not of smoke but of a substance.
Bearing in mind the place where the unknown substance was released, it can be established that the area with the greatest risk of infection is a zone covering 15 to 20 kilometers to the west and 20 to 25 kilometers to the east of the Girón air corridor, although the whole territory of Matanzas province is considered a probable infected zone. These zones match those actually infected both by the primary and secondary outbreaks.
Considering the insect population found on 18 December 1996, at the main source of the outbreak, specialists of the Cuban National Pest Control Center estimated the beginning of the plague to date back to three or four previous generations. Bearing in mind the reproductive cycle of this insect, the beginning of the infection can be ascertained as approximately 21 October 1996, which was precisely the date when the United States S2R aircraft flew over this point.
Mindful of the distribution of the agent in countries like Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, it would be expected that any natural occurrence would be in the eastern region of Cuba, the closest to those countries. Its appearance more than 600 kilometers away from that region is, therefore, odd and suspicious.
Although at first sight it could be expected that the flight altitude of the S2R aircraft is not the most appropriate for the dissemination of biological agents, information is available regarding experiments made by U.S. citizens themselves in which that type of agent was dropped from even higher altitudes. On the other hand, the enduring features of the insect, mainly in its larva state, make its survival possible at these altitudes.
Because it is a polyphagous phytophagan that strikes and severely damages practically every crop, and that it is also resistant to a considerable variety of pesticides, the Thrips palmi can be considered as an ideal biological agent which is able to inflict heavy damage on agricultural food crops. In a document entitled "Report of the Subgroup for Investigation of Claims of Use or Escape of Agents which Constitute Biological or Toxin Weapons", of 29 February 1996, prepared by the Federation of American Scientists, Thrips palmi is included among the invertebrates that could come within the purview of the Convention on Biological Weapons.
In this particular case, the behavior of the plague in Cuba shows a polyphagia bigger than the one described in scientific literature.
The analysis of the facts and the results of the investigations allow us to relate, with a high degree of accuracy, the appearance of Thrips palmi in Matanzas province with the dropping, on 21 October 1996, of an unknown substance by an aircraft operated by the United States State Department.
There is reliable evidence that Cuba has once again been the target of biological aggression.
© GRANMA INTERNATIONAL 1997. ELECTRONIC EDITION. Havana, Cuba