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Posted July 28, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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[url=http://www.greenleft.org.au]http://www.greenleft.org.au[/url] | Green Left Weekly | By RICHARD LEVINS

Every once in a while, stories appear in the corporate press about “Castro’s secret biological weapons”. The term “Castro” is used interchangeably with “Cuba”.

The stories usually originate in publications linked to right-wing Miami-based Cuban emigres (and more recently from the US administration’s “hawks”).

I am now able to confess (without guarantee of book or movie rights) that for more than 35 years I have been an active participant and observer of three of Cuba’s major biological weapons programs and can testify to their deceptive locations and advanced status of development.

The three major programs are: universal, free and quality health care; ecological agriculture; and preservation of sustainable biodiversity.

Cuba’s health program is recognised as one of the most effective in the world. Infant mortality, at 6.5 per 1000 live births, is tied with Canada for the best in the western hemisphere. Life expectancy is up among the industrialised high-income countries. Cuba has the highest number of physicians per capita in the world, the most complete coverage of infant immunisations and the most equitable access to medical care.

Cuban health education includes an active promotion of increased vegetable consumption, while urban gardens provide 3 million tonnes of fresh produce per year for 11 million people. An outbreak of dengue fever, now a major scourge in the world tropics, was contained by mass mobilisations to eliminate breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Cuban vaccines, such as the one against meningitis, are widely used in Latin America. Cuba has been able to send public health teams abroad, to Central America and Africa, and receives patients from all over the world in their specialised hospitals and clinics, including some 11,000 Ukrainian children injured by the Chernobyl meltdown.

After a period of trying out high-tech industrialised approaches to agriculture, Cuba is rapidly advancing toward ecologically sound organic production. Chemical fertilisers are being replaced by the use of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, fungi that mobilise soil minerals, earthworms, compost, animal manure and recycling the residues from processing of the harvests.

Pesticides are being replaced by polyculture (the mixed plantings that confuse or obstruct herbivores), natural enemies (predatory ants, mites, ladybugs, lacewings and others), parasites of insect pests (mostly wasps and flies), fungus infections of the pests and the application of natural products such as neem or mineral oil. In increasingly diversified farms, goats and horses contribute to weed control.

Almost all the urban vegetable, and about half the total food production, is organic.

Cuba leads the world in active compliance with international environmental agreements. Freon gas is being replaced in Cuban refrigerators by a Cuban coolant derived from sugar cane in order to protect the ozone layer.

Special programs protect the fragile mangroves along the coast, resist desertification and ensure integrated development of the mountains. Forests covered some 14% of Cuba’s land at the time of the revolution. It has now increased to some 21%; the target is around 27%. The press often reports the completion of local reforestation and clean-up programs.

These three programs are the cores of Cuba’s biological weapons program. The policy question is, how can the international community respond?

The United States, on its own, as the one world superpower, can warn Cuba that if they persist with their public health strategy, the US will provide universal health care for all residents and offer women 11 prenatal clinic visits free. If they do not dismantle their national parks and reserves, Washington will forbid oil drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. If “Castro” continue to push organic agriculture, we will progressively ban the most toxic pesticides and fund an organic research program comparable to the Human Genome Project.

The Cuban scheme to reduce primary school class sizes to 20 students per teacher is a dual-use program aimed at educating all children in the sciences and humanities, and is capable of producing scientists capable of producing more weapons. With 2% of the population of Latin America, they already have 11% of the scientists, and if this trend continues for 400 years almost every scientist south of the border will be a Cuban! The US cannot wait indefinitely. We must respond by cutting primary school classes to 18 children per teacher!

Together with our allies, we should call an international conference at which we will introduce and offer to fund a Biological Weapons Proliferation Treaty which obliges all countries, in a multilateral Coalition of the Reluctant, to catch up with Cuba. Only then will the danger to our freedoms disappear.

[Richard Levins is a Michael Friedman PhD candidate in ecology, evolutionary biology and behaviour at the City University of New York, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History.

From Counterpunch, visit [url=http://www.counterpunch.org]http://www.counterpunch.org[/url]

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