ASYMETRICAL MILITARY THREAT FROM CUBA AND SECURITY THREATS TO THE UNITED STATES
By Manuel Cereijo
US POLICY TOWARDS CUBA
It is important to understand that since the US confrontation in October of 1962 with the Soviet Union, the US policy towards Cuba has been one of containment of the communist regime. Certainly, whether by design or not, the result of our policy towards the communist island has not resulted in a substantive change in the style of government in Cuba in 40 years. The agreement our government made not to engage in de-stabilizing actions against the Castro regime, Castro's own dogmatic stubbornness and inability to change, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the weak application of the Helms-Burton law have resulted in essentially stabilizing existing conditions in Cuba for the last four decades.
It seems that this policy of containment was the acceptable policy to prior administrations. The Castro regime was perceived as a headache but not as a security threat to our government.
However, this policy of containment may not be sustainable in the near future. Significant geopolitical and technological changes are taking place. This short write-up is an attempt to shed some light on the interdependence of recent events and their impact on our national security. If these destabilizing changes are not addressed properly, they can take us to a situation where the communist island can become a significant security threat to the United States and other democracies in this hemisphere.
Let's remember that it was Castro who tried to convince the former Soviet Union to utilize nuclear weapons during the October missile crisis against the United States and is continuing to subvert democratic governments throughout this hemisphere.
The full range of Cuba's espionage activities are a very serious matter of concern. Cuban intelligence, in particular the DGI, remains a viable threat to the United States. The Cuban UN mission in Washington is the third largest UN delegation. His new developing relationship with China, his activities in Venezuela and Colombia, the elite training camp in Pinar del Rio province, his bio-weapons facilities, and his cyber-warfare capabilities are examples of his dedication to continue conducting and developing an asymmetric warfare capability in which the United States and the democracies of this hemisphere are the target.
CUBA ELITE FORCES TRAINING CAMP
Since mid 1980's Cuba established in Los Palacios, Pinar del Rio, in a region known as El Cacho, a Special Forces military training school. This school has trained elements of foreign countries, including elements from several Arab States that are fighting and conducting terrorism against democratic countries throughout the world. Castro recently visited some radical Arab States and showed support to the global terrorist movement. Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambra is a medical doctor that has treated Saddam Hussein and is a Colonel in the Cuban Army. Cuba and Iraq have close relationships regarding technologies of weapons of mass destruction.
This Special Forces military training school is named Baragua. It is situated in a valley near Pinar del Rio Mountains. It is a very large training camp with the most modern facilities provided by Russia first and now by China. The school is exactly located where the first missiles were discovered during the 1962 missile crisis.
The school was until recently under the command of General Jose Luis Mesa, a very close friend and confidant of Raul Castro. General Mesa is 50 years, old well mannered and speaks fluent English. He is a veteran of Vietnam and the African wars where he fought against those forces supported by the United States. Colonel Ramirez, a black Cuban, veteran of Angola and Vietnam, assists him. Colonel Ramirez is an expert on special warfare training. Presently they have the assistance of Chinese and Vietnamese instructors. The Special Forces training camp has a constant flow of about 2500 men in training. The most serious threats form these special trained troops are: Infiltration, subversion, sabotage, reconnaissance, commando attacks, espionage, and bio-warfare and cyber-warfare operations. This is clearly an offensive military capability training rather than defensive operations.
China is a relative new threat to the U.S. in Cuba. The presence of Chinese personnel in Cuba is now very obvious. The Electronic Warfare Battalion located at Bejucal, south of Habana, conducts intelligence operations, that is eavesdropping, cyber-warfare, telephone espionage and jamming operations capable of disrupting communications inside the United States. Since March of 1999, Chinese personnel have taken partially over the operations of the Bejucal base.
In February 1999, a top-level Chinese military delegation led by Chi Haotian, Defense Minister of China, visited Cuba. They met several times with Raul Castro. It was the first time a Chinese minister of defense visited Cuba. As reported in the Washington Times, China's state run shipping company, China Ocean Shipping Company, has sent "at least three shipments of weapons" during 2000 "to the Cuban port of Mariel". What are the Chinese doing in Cuba? What is their strategy? Should we be concerned about a significant increase in the Chinese presence in Cuba?
I can foresee future scenarios similar to the October missile crisis developing because of the Chinese presence in Cuba. This could eventually impact our Taiwan policy.
China could significantly increase their personnel and commitment to the Castro regime and, by the time we react, they will put the Cuba /Taiwan policy trade-off on the table. I believe we should be very concerned about letting them corner us into this untenable trade-off situation.
A new threat has developed in Venezuela, a country with a friendly history towards the U.S. Venezuela for many years has been a dependable supplier of energy to the U.S. and thus of strategic importance. Chavez was elected by a majority of voters in a democratic election in Venezuela. Upon being elected, Chavez has followed a voluntary alliance with Cuba. He has bailed out Cuba from its petroleum shortage and signed an unusual agreement based on an exchange of oil for medical and political advice.
Chavez has renamed the country "Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela". The significance of the name change is that Bolivar had visions of a united South American Country under one Bolivarian Republic. Chavez seems to be publicly declaring his intentions.
Chavez has pushed through a new constitution that gives him more power and seems intended in making Venezuela a socialist state. He has met several times with Castro and acts as a Cuban satellite in the continent. Castro is offering intelligence and military support to Chavez who is in the process of creating Castro-type militias and security apparatus.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin recently visited Caracas. It is known that President Chavez is considering the purchase of conventional weapons to rearm his country and built a parallel army alongside the regular Armed Forces, which he does not trust. What is China doing in Venezuela? Will they enter into a long-range alliance with Chavez similar to the one they have developed with Cuba? What is the strategic impact to the U.S. of these alliances? Would China use Cuba and Venezuela as bargaining chips in its relations with the U.S?
In Venezuela the intimidation of newspapers and television reporters has begun with the goal to eliminate freedom of expression. The indoctrination of children into communist ideology and the political subversion of the students of the Central University of Caracas have also begun. Chavez strategy is following the successful blueprint of Castro's takeover in Cuba.
According to pro-democracy Venezuelans, who are resenting the "involvement and invasion of Chinese and Cuban communists in their internal affairs", workers are being replaced "with Chinese and Cuban agents to the detriment of their national security"
Chavez is rather young and has the financial resources behind him to be a real threat to the energy supply and stability of the U.S. and the struggling democracies in Latin America. Chavez has already harbored and supplied Colombian guerillas.
The leftist, Castro inspired Colombian guerrillas known as the FARC, already control a Switzerland-sized area in the southern region of Colombia. For 37 years the FARC have been waging a deadly war against the constitutional government of Colombia. They now are gaining new ground with the support of Cuba and now Venezuela.
Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based monitoring group, recently issued a 20 page letter containing a detailed critique of rebel abuses including kidnappings, child recruiting, harsh treatment of war prisoners, assassinations, the use of indiscriminate missiles against the population, and drug trafficking. Colombia is now the most dangerous place to practice journalism. The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers said that there has been eight journalists killed in Colombia this year in what appears to be retributive attacks.
The FARC has publicly vowed to prevent even "a drop of petroleum" from being pumped out of the Occidental Petroleum Cano Limon oil field in eastern Arauca state with renewed sabotage of their pipelines. Government-run Ecopetrol operates the Cano Limon Pipeline, which takes oil from the Occidental-run oil fields to ports in the Caribbean coast. The pipeline has been bombed 109 times this year essentially shutting down oil production. The rebels are effectively reducing the supply of oil and protecting the production and distribution of drugs.
The U.S. is already involved in this war. The U.S. Congress approved a $1.3 billion Colombian aid package last year to provide training for three Colombian Army counter-narcotics battalions including 33 UH1H helicopters and specialized weapons systems. The problem is that neither the FARC nor the Colombian military is seen as strong enough to defeat the other. FARC is well funded, financing its operations by protecting and trafficking in drugs and with the renewed support of Chavez and Castro.
While the U.S. gets involved in far away conflicts, it is overlooking a potential explosive situation and a threat to its national security right in our own backyard. If we remain passive we will repeat the mistakes of the past and Venezuela could become another Cuba and Colombia another Vietnam.
Cuba has one of the most sophisticated biotech capabilities in the Western Hemisphere. Newt Gingrich wrote in March of 1998: "I am very concerned about recent reports indicating that Castro's secretive network of sophisticated biological and genetic research laboratories are being used by the military and Interior Ministry to develop biological weapons".
Bio-weapons can be used as strategic weapons of mass destruction. They are incredible powerful and dangerous. Their delivery systems are simple and hard to detect. That is why our policy towards Iraq has been one of containment and insisting on onsite verifications. A 1998 CIA publication notes that biological weapons have an advantage over nuclear weapons in that there are no reliable detection devices currently available nor are there recognizable signals of the human senses.
Cuba has the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology located west of Habana in Cubanacan. This is the most important institution in Cuba's biotechnology industry. The Center has state-of-the-art equipment with the capacity for research and manufacturing bio-weapons.
More than 700 skilled researchers and engineers work at this facility covering 43,000 square meters of laboratories.
Another state of the art facility is The National Bio-preparations Center, Biocen. Biocen is located in Bejucal, south of Habana province, at Carretera de Beltram. It is engaged in industrial production of human vaccines. Its culture media has a capacity of 40 tons. It has all the equipment and processes required for bacteria and virus weaponization. Biocen can be considered the brains of the weapons program. It provides scientific and engineering expertise for the projects commissioned by the military.
Another facility is the Carlos J. Finlay Institute, best known for the development of the world's first effective vaccine against both meningitis B and C. It is located in La Lisa, Habana. Over 950 persons work at the institute with an area of 23,00 square meters of research and processing equipment. Plant III area is well prepared for the production of bio-weapons.
Cuba has also the Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Center for Molecular Immunology. Both facilities have all the pertinent equipment to produce bio-weapons.
The interesting policy question is: Why do we worry so much about Iraq and disregard a significant security threat to the U.S. from a terrorist state 90 miles from our coast?
Even the most primitive biological weapons laboratory can produce enough of an agent to kill thousands in a city. Certainly, Cuba's advanced potential for biological warfare is a clear security threat to the United States.
As we rely more and more in computers, we become more vulnerable to cyber-terrorism. Imagine what could be the consequences of a virus attack in Wall Street that would cause their networks to crash. Or a disruption of our military command and control centers. Ninety percent of our military communications now passes over public networks. If an electromagnetic pulse takes out the telephone systems, it will shut down most of our military communications.
At Lourdes, a suburb of Habana, there is a Russian sophisticated electronic espionage base that employs 1,500 Russian engineers, technicians and staff. Russian spent over $3 billion dollars on Lourdes. The base is utilized in monitoring general U.S. communications and targeted telephones and electronic devices. The intelligence collection at Lourdes is not limited to penetrating secret U.S. military operations. Targets also include the interception of sensitive diplomatic, commercial and economic traffic, and private U.S. communications.
The Lourdes base also receives and collects intercepts by spy satellites, ships and planes in the Atlantic region, making it a full fledge command and control center with the means to conduct cyber-warfare against the United States.
The Bejucal base mentioned previously has the necessary equipment to interfere with Radio and TV Marti. This base offers offensive jamming equipment capable of disrupting communications deep inside the U.S.
In 1998 and 1999 the Pentagon military computer systems were subject to organized cyber attacks. Officials stated that these attacks at defense networks were a coordinated effort coming from abroad. There have also been coordinated probes and attacks against U.S. military research and technology systems including the nuclear weapons laboratories run by the Department of Energy. These attacks coincide with the Bejucal facility becoming fully operational and also with the presence of China military and intelligence personnel in Cuba.
China has become very active in Cuba's military telecommunications, cyber-warfare, and bio-warfare activities. China is investing to modernize the satellite tracking station at Jaruco and in modernizing the telecommunications base at Paseo, between 11th and 13th street in the Vedado section of Habana.
A cyber-terrorist could attack anywhere with the access of the Internet and destroy, alterate, and infiltrate valuable information or systems necessary for the security of our nation. A country such as Cuba could harbor cyber-terrorists or, having the capability, conduct electronic warfare against the U.S. Certainly the facilities and technology exists in Cuba to conduct electronic warfare with the very sophisticated Russian and Chinese state-of the-art equipment, technology and highly qualified personnel.
CUBA POLICY REVIEW
On May 18th, 2001 President George W. Bush in his remarks honoring Cuban Independence Day reminded the nation that "it is important for us to remember that our goal is not to have an embargo against Cuba, it is the freedom in Cuba".
Indeed, a change is needed in our policy towards Cuba. We need to develop a policy that actively seeks a change in government and eliminates the numerous security threats to our nation coming from this island just 90 miles from our shores. The risks of continuing with the past containment policy towards Cuba are far too great. We need a policy review that actively seeks a real solution to the national security threats that Cuba represents.
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