CASTRO: A THREAT TO THE SECURITY OF THE UNITED STATES
There are 3 areas where Castro represents a threat to the security of the United States. These have been developed during, at least, the last 12 years, even though, since 1991 is when these efforts have been increased in funds and personnel. They permit an attack from Castro against the United States, with the possibilities of large casualties and disruption of the economy. There is also another option, involving radiation fallout. These areas are:
1. Special military elite force
2. Electronic espionage and interruption of computer communications
3. Bacteriological and chemical warfare
4. Nuclear radiation.
We will briefly describe each one below.
1. SPECIAL MILITARY ELITE FORCE
Since mid 80's, Cuba established in Los Palacios, Pinar del Rio, in a region known as El Cacho, a special training military school for an elite force of some 3,500 men. It is known as the Baragua school, it was founded by the de la Guardia brothers. They specialize in commando attacks, infiltration. They are considered by experts, to be a very professional group, with great potential to inflict damage to a country. They are between 20 and 35 years old, speak fluent English. The training operations of this military base were documented in 1997 by NBC, and shown as part of a special section of NBC Nightly News.
General Jose Luis Mesa is the military in command, and colonel Ramirez is the director of daily operations. Both men have experience in African wars, and Vietnam. Presently, the school has military assistance from Vietnam. Besides infiltration techniques and operations, these men can carry bacteriological and chemical warfare to the United States. We should ask, if Cuba is an island, with no border disputes, why the Cuban government maintains this expensive and otherwise not necessary base?
2. ESPIONAGE AND TELCOMMUNICATIONS INTERFERENCE
Russia maintains in Cuba the electronic espionage base of Lourdes, where they have spent $2,000 million, and, since November 1996, $125 millions in modernizing certain areas. The base can intercept telephone conversations, faxes, computer communications from the United States , as long as transmission medium is air waves. There were 800 Russian engineers and technicians working at Lourdes. As of end of 1998, the number has increased to 1,500. This base is located Southeast of La Habana, with an area of 28 square miles.
Russia pays Cuba $200 millions a year for the use of the base. The base has two groups of plates or tracking dishes, and its own satellite system. One group is to intercept general telephone calls, and the other is designed for specific numbers and functions. According to an ex-high officer of the Russian army, now in the United States, Colonel Lunev, the activities in Lourdes have increased tremendously since President Yeltsin ordered in 1996 to increase the Russian espionage from the base. Russia not only use the information for themselves, but they sell the information to other countries and/or groups.
Since 1995, Russia started the construction of a new base, in Bejucal, to be operated by Cubans. This new base is now operational, since March 1997. General Guillermo Rodriguez del Pozo, on behalf of the Minfar, was the liaison with the Russians in this operation. General Rodriguez del Pozo's son, Luis, is married to a Raul Castro's daughter. Luis is the main person in charge of all financial activities of the Minfar. He was also very active in the covert activities of Cuba against Chile's Pinochet.
Equipment for this base was brought secretly from the port of Riga, in Latvia. This country does not have an embassy in Cuba, but Cuba maintains a large embassy in Latvia. The last shipment arrived in Cuba during the hurricane Lili, and the ship almost sink. This base has another more important function, in addition to espionage. That of interrupting commercial and military computer communications in the United States, in case of a confrontation with this country.
The capacity to interfere with telecommunications and computer operations in the United States by several countries or groups, was admitted by former CIA director, Mr. Deutsch, in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on November 1966. Most recently, in 1999, there have been several attempts to penetrate Pentagon computers. This new activities was recently documented by ABC and NBC news. The military's key communications infrastructure linking combat, intelligence and command forces is dangerously vulnerable to attacks from cyberspace and requires urgent changes, according to a new study ordered by Congress. The command, control, communications computers and intelligence systems-known as C4I- is compromised by security problems. The Pentagon has acknowledged that the military's strength is our information technology and that our dependence on such assets, which may be subject to malicious attack, makes information technology our weakness as well.
Prior to the August 1991 coup attempt, the KGB was developing computer viruses with the intent of using them to disrupt computer systems during time of war or crisis. In 1991, a highly restricted project was undertaken by a group within the Military Intelligence Directorate of Cuba's Ministry of the Armed Forces. Major Guillermo Bello, and his wife Sara Maria Jordan, a Colonel, are in charge of these activities on behalf of the Minint.
The group was instructed to obtain information to develop a computer virus to infect US civilian computers. The group spent, initially, $50,000 to buy open source data on computer networks, computer viruses, SATCOM, and related communications technology. The most important engineers and scientists working on these efforts are Sergio Suarez, Amado Garcia, and Jose Luis Presmanes. They have been working on this project since 1991.
Computer viruses form another conventional disabling effect, known as information warfare technology, a new phase of international terrorism. Undetected, weapons like computer viruses, malicious codes, information distortion are a threat to the security of the United States. Increasing concentration of information in computers, computer systems, and networks that support command, control, communications, intelligence, and other military applications has made information technology a competitive weapon of unparalleled power and importance.
Experts have assessed that computers with network connectivity, or dial -up access can be entered by an electronic intruder from anywhere in the world. Gaining access to these computers through a network connection is relatively simple, costs very little, and typically involves little risk of detection. In general, to access an automated information system, an intruder must obtain user identification and passwords. These passwords may be provided by legitimate users, intentionally or unintentionally, found by testing common or logical passwords, or through the use of certain software tools. Once an intruder has gained access to a system of interest, he may install a trap door-a software mechanism that permit system protection to be circumvented and allows the intruder to reenter the system undetected.
Defense and defense related computers have been subjected to intrusions of this type on a number of occasions. For example, in 1989, a group from Germany used telephone lines to access 250 computer systems that included at least 90 US defense or defense related facilities. Since the last part of 1998, and so far through 1999, these kind of activities have increased in intensity and number.
Security concerns have forced recently the energy Department to suspend use of classified computers at three of the nation's top nuclear weapons lab. The shutdown affects the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Details of how this specific endeavor has progressed in Cuba are not known. However, Cuba has a large number of electronic and computer engineers, many of them educated or trained in Europe, who are considered experts in the fields of computers and telecommunications. Many of these, since there are not high technology firms in place anymore, have diverted their efforts to this area. Some of them are being used also as consultants by foreign governments. The main issue is that such efforts continue to be made and could potentially cause irreparable harm to the United States
3. BACTERIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WARFARE
Cuba has worked hard on this area since the mid 80's. They have created several centers and institutes that do work on research and development in the areas of biotechnology, biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, and related subjects. Within these centers, there are special groups, working on projects to develop chemical, biological, and bacteriological warfare.
These Centers ad Institutes are: the Biotechnology center, the Inmunology center, the Genetic Engineering center, the Tropical Medicine Institute, the Finlay Institute, the Biocen, the Academy of Sciences, the Oceanographic Institute, the Biological Preparations center, the Center for the Breeding of Laboratory Animals, the National Center for Animal and Plant Health, the Neuroscience center, and La Fabriquita, or Little Factory.
These centers are spread around La Habana, but many of them are in Playa, Arroyo Naranjo, and Bejucal. La Fabriquita is within the facilities of the naval Hospital, in La Habana del Este. For example: Biocen is in Carretera de Beltran, Km. 1 1/2, Bejucal, La Habana. The Biotechnology Center is in Calle 200 # 1922, Siboney, La Habana. Instituto Finlay is in Ave. 27 # 19805, La Lisa, La Habana.
Many Cuban engineers and scientists have been trained in former East Germany, Russia, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, and China. China's firm, Beijing Neuke Instrument Co. has collaborated very close with Cuba. Castro has spent, since 1991, over $ 3,500 millions in instruments, equipment, materials, with very little commercial application, only vaccines against hepatitis, meningitis, and the development of interferon. It was announced early in 1999 that the government has spent the equivalent of 1,000 millions of pesos, roughly $50 millions during 1998 in upgrading the facilities.
Two prominent Cuban engineers, Mario Limonta and Luis Herrera, are at the technical direction of operations. Also, the scientist Concepcion de la Campa Huergo has been very active in these efforts. The group works by sections, departments, where one group does not know the work of the other groups. They have developed, from marine technology, with the assistance of Japan, which never knew what the final product was, a paralyzing toxin, which is now ready to use.
In 1992, the Institute of Oceanographic studies, conducted an experiment with the Academy of Sciences, to find which places in the Cuban Coast were the best to let bottles and containers reach the United States coast line fastest and most effectively. The announced reason was a study of marine streams. They put notes inside the bottles, asking for replies. They found where in Cuba was best to throw containers with bacteriological material, or any floating devices. The north coast of the Habana Province was found to be the best, as well as the region around the town of Sagua La Grande. This has been documented by several finders of bottles as well as by engineers from Cuba who worked in the project.
To conduct a bacteriological attack, a country or a terrorist group does not need to have any sophisticated means of delivery, such as missiles. A container, the size of a 5 pound sugar bag, can bring bacteriological material capable of causing over 50,000 casualties in an urban area, depending on the flow of air and atmospheric conditions. An attack of this nature, carry out by members of the elite force, in conjunction with an interruption of computer communications, can be quite serious.
Cuba has acquired three 10,000 RPM centrifuge equipment, purchased in Milan, Italy. These are of very high capacity and they are shielded against lethal agents. Also, Cuba is involved in the so call "binary weapons", where to chemicals are used (harmless, otherwise) to form a toxic agent when a weapon is exploded. They can be disguised as common agricultural chemicals, which make them more difficult to detect. This new weapon is part of the ultra-lethal Novichok class. They have also the capability to develop A-232, made from agricultural and industrial chemicals that are not lethal until mixed.
These new agents are as toxic as VX, a persistent nerve agent, and as resistant to treatment as Soman. Also, more difficult to detect and easier to manufacture than VX. In fact, A-232, or A-234, can be made using common industrial solvent acetonitrile and an organic phosphate compound, disguised as a pesticide. They are also working in the development of certain virus for illnesses already in extinction, such as small pox. In the United States there are only 7 millions of the small pox vaccine.
Smallpox, variola virus, causes blistering and pustules on the face and arms. It is incredibly contagious and highly lethal in human populations that lack immunity to it. A dissemination of such virus in this country will be a national threat. The Federal government has already expressed the possibilities of the use of small pox agent, since small pox has been eliminated since 1979. The small pox vaccine wears off after ten to twenty years. None of us are immune any longer, unless we had a recent shot. Also, there is the possibility of combining several virus from different illnesses, which makes impossible a vaccination.
A generation ago, biological weapons were called germ-warfare weapons. Biological weapons are very different from chemical weapons. A chemical weapon is a poison that kills upon contact with the skin. Bioweapons are microorganisms, bacteria or viruses, that invade the body, multiply inside it, and destroy it. Bioweapons can be used as strategic weapons. That is, they are incredibly powerful and dangerous. They can kill huge numbers of people if they are used properly, and their effects are not limited to one place or a small target. Chemical weapons, on the other hand, can be used only tactically. It is virtually impossible to put enough of a chemical in the air in a high enough concentration to wipe out a large number of people over a large territory. And chemicals are not alive and can not spread through an infectious process. There are two types of biological weapons, those that are contagious and those that are not.
The most powerful Bioweapons are dry powders formed of tiny particles that are designed to lodge in the human lung. You can not see a bioweapon, you can not smell it, you can not taste it. The particles are about one to five microns in diameter. The particles are light and fluffy, and don't fall to earth. Given the right weather conditions, a bioweapon will drift in the air for up to a hundred miles.
There is a claim made by a Russian defector that Russia may have created a recombinant Ebola-smallpox chimera. One could call it Ebolapox. Ebola virus uses the molecule RNA for its genetic code, whereas smallpox uses DNA. The Ebolapox could produce the form of smallpox called blackpox. This is also known as hemorrhagic smallpox, is the most severe type of smallpox disease.
The Cubans also have carried out studies on the propagation of microorganisms by means of fumigation aircraft or micro-jets. They have made use of micro- jet on land, and in the air. This same system could become the basis for the application of bacteriological weapons. Obviously, Florida would be a main target. We should have in mind that crops in Florida have suffered severe damage this year.
The Fabriquita could be engaged in producing an anthrax toxin like the one reportedly being developed by the Russians, according to the defense publication Jane's. Russia's new variant of the anthrax toxin is totally resistant to antibiotics and could cause a catastrophe. Jane's said the Russian military arm had developed the toxin and three new nerve agents. Anthrax is a bacterium, a single-celled organism that feeds on meat. Anthrax grows explosively in warm meat broth or in living meat. Urban places consists of steel, cement, and meat. Anthrax spores end up sitting on the largest wet membrane in the body, the lungs. The organism quickly enters the blood stream.
Experts call anthrax a "classical" weapon, it is powerful, but it is far less efficient than many bioweapons. A kilogram of an advanced biological weapon released into the air should be able to make a plume as long as fifty miles. If the plume cuts through a city, the deaths number in the thousands. A far larger number of deaths will occur if the weapon is transmissible, that is, if it is contagious and able to jump from person to person by a chain of infection.
The United States, as recognized by government officials, is not prepared for a biochemical attack, or for germ warfare. Intelligence sources in the United States do not question if there will be an attack, but when will it be. Saddam Hussein and Castro are friendly allies. Castro has sent medical teams and scientists to Iraq. These activities are very suspicious. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright has warned that Iraq has enough anthrax to "kill every man, woman, and child in the world". Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambra, an orthopedic surgeon, very close to Castro, performed a very successful surgery on Hussein. Later on, he also attended one of Hussein's sons. Dr. Alvarez Cambra has been instrumental in the Cuba/Iraq relations. He is also President of the Cuba and Arabic Friendship Institute. Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambra also maintains close relations with Kadhafi, from Libya. It is possible also that Cuba is providing Iraq with intelligence information gathered through the Bejucal espionage base.
Since 1996, Cuba and Iran maintain very close collaboration in the field of germ warfare. The person key in these activities is Dr. Manuel Miyar Marruecos, el Chomi, a physician very close to Castro. The engineer Luis Herrera, Director of the Genetic Engineering Center and the Biotechnology Center is practically living in Teheran. Cuba sells to Iran fermentation equipment, as well as technology that Iran can not obtain through normal channels in the market.
Very recently, a very well known American scientist, who was instrumental in the development of the industry in Cuba, returned to the United States. This scientist worked from 1986 to 1998 in Cuba. He was also instrumental in assisting a recent defector from Cuba, now with Brandeis University, Rosensteil Institute, who has first hand information on the Iran/Cuba relations.
The fact is: Cuba has a largely developed biological industry, well above the economic and industrial development of the country. The biological industry in Cuba is the largest and the best in Latin America, well beyond the economic capabilities of the country. The commercialization of the industry has been to a minimum. There is enough evidence that Cuba is capable, through its equipment, investment, and expertise, to develop biological weapons.
4. NUCLEAR RADIATION
This area is directly related to the operation of the Juragua Nuclear Plant, in Cienfuegos. It could be either an accident or an incident. On June, 1997, it was announced by Russia and Cuba, an agreement to finish construction of the nuclear power generating plant in Juragua, Cienfuegos, in the south central part of Cuba.
The main task that remains for completion of the first unit is to finish the electromechanical part, as well as the sophisticated electronic and control systems. Structural or civil engineering construction is 95% finished. Operation of the plant, once construction is resumed, has been estimated to be 16 months. An additional $400 millions will be required to finish the first unit, and some $800 to finish the entire project, that is, the other unit.
Since 1995, Russia has given Cuba funds for some $50 millions to start reconditioning of the plant, which had been in standstill since 1992. On November 1995 Cuba began pre reconstruction activities in Juragua, such as cutting the wild grass, installing minor equipment, replacing eroded instruments. Also, they started calling back the work force who had been working in the plant at the time its construction stopped.
The IAEC, with headquarters in Vienna, has given Cuba approximately $3 millions since 1995, which Cuba has used for plant maintenance and upgrading. The United States contributes with 30% of the budget of the IAEC.
Even though Helms Burton states that any country that provides credit or finance the termination of the plant will be penalized by an equal reduction on any assistance or credit provided by the US, Russia could be willing to invest $200 millions for the termination of the plant. Russia wants to become the main builder of such plants in the third world. However, Russia needs financial and technical partners, since Cuba will provide only in kind service funds.
The difficulties in finding financing sources are due to the fact that the consumers, or users of the power generated by the plant, are the Cuban people. They pay in pesos, which is not a hard or accepted currency. There are two possibilities: to transfer part of the electrical energy generated by the plant, to a nearby country, by means of a submarine cable. Or, also, the Cuban government has expressed the possibilities of paying in dollars the equivalent peso consumption. There is an Spanish firm, which specializes in nuclear plants, which have been in conversation with the Cuban government.
It was recently approved, and is now under construction, a warning system to detect nuclear radiation from Juragua. The United States government, and Florida State University have joined efforts in installing the system. Sensors will be placed through Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, as well as in the Caribbean and Latin America. However, such a system is effective only to detect small leakages, such that a warning can be made. In case of a major accident, it is not possible to detect and evacuate in time.
The concerns raised in 1992 about safety of the plant are still valid. The department of X ray quality control has found that approximately 10% of the water pressure pipes, vital part of the cooling system of the plant, have been damaged after been embedded in concrete. Another area of great concern is the two levels of the bubbler/condenser trays, which, according to the Russian specifications should have a capacity of 27,500 cubic feet. The one in Juragua has 21,000 cubic feet. These trays contain water, boric acid, sodium thiosulfate, and potassium hydroxide. They avoid a rise in pressure in the initial phase of a loss coolant accident.
There are many other violations of the international norms and specifications for nuclear plants. For example, not building monolithic concrete floors and walls, not using the approved special concrete, not building monolithic metal walls, improper use of gauge in the electrical wiring of the plant.
The training and certification of the personnel that would operate the Juragua units is insufficient and not adequate. Their hands on training was limited to brief training periods in Russia on their model 230 reactors, which are quite different from the Juragua units. Most accidents in nuclear power plants are due to human errors. The personnel in charge of daily operations of a nuclear plant have to be psychological and emotional stable. The scarcity of food and medicine, poor transportation, poor living conditions, place the Cuban workers in the worst mental conditions to run such plant. There has been documented leakage radiation at similar water cooled VVER type reactors, built and design by the former Soviet Union, and operating in East Europe. Similar units were in operation in East Germany, Bulgaria, Slovakia. They were close when the Soviet bloc collapse, and extensive reconstruction work was taken to correct and improve deficient technology. Still some of them are not in operation. The group Greenpeace has called for all such plants to be shut down, stating that poor construction and lack of minimal safety systems make them ticking time bombs.
The air flow, and consequently, the radioactivity, or fall out, from Juragua has been carefully studied by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. Altitudes chosen for the calculations were near sea level, and 5,000 feet, because they are the most relevant to a radioactive release from a nuclear plant. The studies have been done during different months of the year, to account for all possibilities.
The calculations show an early arrival of radioactivity of 24 hours to Florida, with an average arrival time of 48 hours. The same study also show radioactivity affecting Georgia, the Carolinas, Louisiana, East Texas, the Caribbean, and Central America, all over a period of 24 to 72 hours. Radioactivity can affect areas as far away as Washington, D.C.
Another matter of great concern is the use, or better, the disposal of the nuclear waste generated at Juragua. Containing the waste involves three facets-the waste form, geological barriers, and engineered barriers. There will be a real challenge to properly isolate the nuclear waste generated by the power plant in Cuba.
Since the beginning of the nuclear era, scientists and engineers have examined many ways to safely disposal of nuclear waste. Still, the safest way remains to be a remote, deep, geologic repository as the best protection to keep the waste from affecting humans, as well as the ecology. The issue of the Juragua plant is of the utmost importance for the United States, as well as for Cuba, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
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