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Accusations based on the transfer of "dual-use biotechnology" can be made against every nation trading anything from fertilizer to flu vaccines.

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Cuban President Fidel Castro speaks in Havana, April 27, 2002. Rafael Perez

Settling Old Scores With Cuba

by DuWayne Charles

MAY 9, 2002. In a rabble-rousing speech entitled "Beyond the Axis of Evil," U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, John R. Bolton, accused Cuba on Monday of trying to develop biological weapons of mass destruction and sharing its expertise with countries hostile to the United States.

The speech, delivered to an appreciative audience at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, in Washington, D.C., came just days before former President Jimmy Carter is due to visit Cuba, and hours after Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, in a make-nice gesture, released jailed dissident Vladimiro Roca.

"The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort," Bolton said. "Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could support bioweapons programs in those states," he added.

Bolton offered no proof other than the Caribbean nation's admittedly advanced biomedical industry, which has successfully developed drugs like a ground-breaking anti-meningitis vaccine. And, yes, Castro's visits last year to Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Accusations based on the transfer of "dual-use biotechnology" can be made against every nation trading anything from fertilizer to flu vaccines. The United States itself has ambitious biotechnology programs, selling vaccines and "dual-use biotechnology" around the world. The deadly anthrax actually used on American soil against American citizens months ago may have come from an American scientist from a supposedly abandoned American germ weapons program.

So why these vague warnings about Cuba? Why now? The timing of Bolton's speech appears to be a calculated attempt to sabotage Carter's trip and upstage Roca's release. The hardening of Washington's Cuba policy the speech signals may just be a sop to Jeb Bush's crucial Cuban-American backers. Or it could be something worse.

Despite his dissident credentials, bolstered by five years in jail, Roca's assertions that change is possible through peaceful means, and with President Fidel Castro in power, is anathema to Florida's hardline anti-Castroites, who would like the old man brought to his knees, not reformed by something as namby-pamby as the signature-gathering Varela Project, an internal Cuban effort to win a national referendum for political change. Win or, as is more likely, lose, the project signals an important step forward for a homegrown democracy movement on the island.

Also unpopular in some quarters is the trip by the conciliatory Jimmy Carter, soon to be the first U.S. President — in or out of office — to go to the island since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Coming on the heels of recent food shipments and stirrings in Congress about further relaxing the trade sanctions, the pro-embargo Cuban-American lobby will no doubt be relieved at a little Castro-bashing. While the Bush administration might be tempted to accommodate Republican-friendly agricultural lobbies anxious to sell corn and frozen chicken to the island, the Cuban-American votes that Jeb Bush will need in November come first.

If Bolton was just carrying water for Jeb, ordinary Cubans need not lose any sleep over their country's official inclusion in the global bully's expanded hit list. However, manipulating national security issues to rake in gubernatorial votes, or satisfy ideological peeves, is a perilous enterprise. Especially when the Castrophobic Otto Reich runs Bush's Latin America policy. Things can take a life of their own. They can get out of hand. Some, in Washington and Miami, may even hope they do.

DuWayne Charles has also written under the byline Chuck 45.

Related links:

For the complete text of John Bolton's Beyond the Axis of Evil: Additional Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction.

For the Center for Internacional Policy's rebuttal of Bolton's statements on Cuba.

For "Cuba, the terrorism list and what the U.S. should do," a Nov. 2001 overview by Philip Peters, of the libertarian Lexington Institute.

For Complete Coverage Cuba

For Complete Coverage Americas

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