[News] 1971 CIA Link to Cuban Pig Virus Reported

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 29 10:45:17 EDT 2009

San Francisco Chronicle
January 10, 1977    Front page
1971 Mystery
CIA Link to Cuban Pig Virus Reported

New York
     With at least the tacit backing of U.S. Central Intelligence 
Agency officials, operatives linked to anti-Castro terrorists 
introduced African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971.
     Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter 
of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.
     A U.S. intelligence source told Newsday last week he was given 
the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at a U.S. Army base and CIA 
training ground in the Panama Canal Zone, with instructions to turn 
it over to the anti-Castro group.
     The 1971 outbreak, the first and only time the disease has hit 
the Western Hemisphere, was labeled the "most alarming event" of 1971 
by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. African 
swine fever is a highly contagious and usually lethal viral disease 
that infects only pigs and, unlike swine flu, cannot be transmitted to humans.
     All production of pork, a Cuban staple, halted, apparently for 
several months.
     A CIA spokesman, Dennis Berend, in response to a Newsday request 
for comment, said, "We don't comment on information from unnamed and, 
at best, obscure sources."
     Why the virus turned up in Cuba has been a mystery to animal 
investigators ever since the outbreak. Informed speculation assumed 
that the virus entered Cuba either in garbage from a commercial 
airliner or in sausages brought in by merchant seamen.
     However, on the basis of numerous interviews over four months 
with U.S. intelligence sources, Cuban exiles and scientists 
concerning the outbreak which occurred two years after then-President 
Nixon had banned the use of offensive chemical and biological warfare 
Newsday was able to piece together this account of events leading up 
to the outbreak.
     The U.S. intelligence source said that early in 1971 he was 
given the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at Ft. Gulick, an 
Army base in the Panama Canal Zone. The CIA also operates a 
paramilitary training center for career personnel and mercenaries at 
Ft. Gulick.
     The source said he was given instructions to turn the container 
with the virus over to members of an anti-Castro group.
     The container then was given to a person in the Canal Zone, who 
took it by boat and turned it over to persons aboard a fishing 
trawler off the Panamanian coast. The source said the substance was 
not identified to him until months after the outbreak in Cuba. He 
would not elaborate further.
     Another man involved in the operation, a Cuban exile who asked 
not to be identified, said he was on the trawler when the virus was 
put aboard at a rendezvous point off Bocas del Toro, Panama. He said 
the trawler carried the virus to Navassa Island, a tiny, deserted, 
U.S.-owned island between Jamaica and Haiti. From there, after the 
trawler made a brief stopover, the container was taken to Cuba and 
given to other operatives on the southern coast near the U.S. Navy 
base at Guantanamo Bay in late March, according to the source on the 
trawler. The base is 100 miles due north of Navassa.

     The source on the trawler, who had been trained by the CIA and 
had carried out previous missions for the agency, said he saw no CIA 
officials aboard the boat that delivered the virus to the trawler off 
Panama, but added: "We were well paid for this and Cuban exile groups 
don't have that kind of money . . ."
     He said he was revealing the information because he is a member 
of an exile group being investigated by the United States in 
connection with terrorist activity in Florida. His account was 
confirmed by another intelligence source in Miami. The source said he 
had no proof that the operation was approved by CIA officials in 
Washington, but added: "In a case like this, though, they would 
always give them (CIA officials in Washington) plausible deniability."
     The investigation referred to by the operative on the trawler 
involves a federal inquiry into terrorist acts allegedly carried out 
by Cuban exiles. Those include bombings and assassination attempts in 
the United States and Venezuela. Trained originally by the CIA for 
operations against Cuba, the exiles have become more restive as they 
view what they believe to be an increasing move toward rapprochement 
between Fidel Castro and the United States.

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