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West Nile Virus: Bioweapon or Divine Punishment?

The Center for International Policy has a very curious speaker in Wayne Smith, Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba appointed by Jimmy Carter. He proudly describes himself as a close friend of Fidel Castro.

Less than two months into his presidency, on March 15, 1977, Carter called for normalization of relations with Castro’s Cuba. He opened the US Interests Section in Havana and put Wayne Smith in charge. (This according to a declassified White House document as stated in the U.S. Cuba Policy Report, Vol. 9, No. 5, pg. 5.)

Turning his back on Castro’s crimes and blatant human rights violations, Smith began a relationship with Castro, palling around with him in his Jeep. Since leaving his official post in 1982, he has become one of the most vociferous defenders and apologists of Castro and his regime.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Wayne Smith ran an unsuccessful campaign to have Cuba removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist nations in spite of the evidence supporting its inclusion.(1) His promotion and ardent defense of a terrorist designated country — the number one enemy of the U.S. in the Americas — raises questions about Smith’s allegiance.

In his article of September 25, 2002, Mr. Smith(2) responds to suggestions that the West Nile virus (WNV) may have been purposely sent into the U.S. by Castro’s Cuba via migratory birds. Mr. Smith assures us that the virus in the U.S. could not have come from Cuba because ” this strain of West Nile virus first appeared in New York.”

The fact that it was first detected in New York doesn’t mean that is where it first existed in the U.S. It may well have already been present along the migratory routes between Cuba and New York, or “enroute” [sic] as Mr. Smith writes, but was undetected because virtually no one was looking for it at that time. Until it was detected the first time by an alert veterinarian in Queens, New York, in 1999, there was no reason to expect to find it in the U.S., since it has been known to exist in other parts of the world since 1937, but had never been found before in the Western Hemisphere.

Mr. Smith’s scientist’s story that it more likely arrived in New York by way of “infected mosquitoes trapped in the cargo hold of planes coming in from Israel” seems unlikely. Although it is true that the strain of the virus of 1999 was also found in Israel, it is more likely that it arrived from birds in our own backyard for reasons that will become obvious in the next several paragraphs. Elsewhere we have established a possible Cuba-Iraq bioterrorist link.(3)

Smith then states that long before reaching New York, birds deliberately infected in Cuba would no longer be contagious or would be dead from the disease. It is true that most infected birds with WNV, like humans, survive, but while infected, they carry the virus up to four days in their blood streams and are infectious during that time. Mosquitoes are necessary vectors, WNV being in the family of arboviruses (arthropod-borne disease), which are small, spherical, single-stranded RNA viruses, akin to Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, etc. Some of these diseases are more lethal than WNV, and we know from Prof. Manuel Cereijo(4) that Cuba obtained the St. Louis Encephalitis virus (which has up to a 20 percent mortality) from the CDC in the 1980s!

Additionally, a common practice among migrating birds of the world is that they travel in flocks, stopping to rest and feed together. Mosquito-transferred diseases can easily spread from one member of the flock to another.

Birds migrating from Cuba to the Florida Keys can easily make the trip in a little over three hours. They may stay a day or more roosting and eating together in the mangroves of the Keys or in the Everglades. The disease is spread among them by the ubiquitous mosquitoes. After three or four days, some of the diseased birds may die, but most recover. Freshly infected birds carry the disease to the next resting point where transmission can take place once again. After a couple of days, when ready to continue in their migration, the more newly infected birds in the flock fly along their route on their northward migration depending on their place of origin (reflected in their banding), bringing with them the WNV infestation as they go. This process continues for the (roughly) two-week trip to New York. If that is the first place WNV tests were done, then that is the first place it will be detected in the U.S.

Additional scientific details of bird migration provided by an ornithologist colleague of mine (Wotzkow) who previously worked in association with the Smithsonian Institution, adds additional credibility to the feasibility of the process. He refers to the comments made by the Smithsonian advisers mentioned by Smith as “a typical case of misrepresentation.” (He requested that his name not be used due to the partisan, political aspects present in scientific arena.) He continues:

Radar has . . .allowed us to examine the speed at which migrants travel. Small songbirds have airspeeds of about 34-40 kmh, [approximately 21-25 mph] larger songbirds about 50 kmh [31 mph] and more shorebirds and ducks 64-80 kmh [40-50 mph]. Tens of thousands of birds of about 60 species cross the 240 km [150 miles] from Florida to Cuba where many elect to remain for the winter months. The total distances flown by individual birds during the journey between their breeding and non-breeding areas can be spectacular. Hudsonians godwits (Limose haemastica) migrate from Canada to the southern coasts of South America, a distance of 4500 km [2800 miles] in about three days!

An individual of another shorebird, the lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flayipes), that was banded at Cape Cod, Massachusetts on 38 August, 1935, was killed 3045 km [1900 miles] away in Martinique, West Indies 6 days later! It had traveled an average daily distance of more than 506 km [314 miles]! What is even more impressive is the ability of individual long-distance migrants to precisely return to the same nesting areas, and in some cases also wintering sites and migration staging areas year after year.

There is evidence that birds are born with a built-in universal map with coordinates of breeding and wintering grounds. We now know that birds use a variety of compasses to navigate, including magnetic, sun, stars and moon.

He concludes his comments to me, “It is regrettable that some scientists at the Smithsonian give a misleading picture to less informed readers.”

The Smithsonian seems to have a special connection to the bird research and other projects going on in Cuba. Their cooperation continued unabated after the 1959 Revolution. Smithsonian scientists have even been known to buy jeeps as “private”donations for Cuban institutions.

Random testing of dead birds has been going on for years, but the fact is the CDC and the public are now more aware of the disease so that dead birds are more likely to be reported, collected, and tested — precisely because WNV was found in that raven at the New York zoo three years ago.

Bird migration is a complex process but it was developed and is maintained by Mother Nature. Castro often publicly boasts of Cuba’s biotechnology industry. Indeed, her scientists have had decades to study and learn to pervert Mother Nature’s process. I (Wotzkow) witnessed Cuban researchers from the appropriate disciplines investigating the details for the two-year period I worked there, and I know it continued after I was fired, enabling the research leaders to work out the fine points. When scientists who were asked to work on specific isolated segments of the process got wind of the immoral nature of the overall goal and refused to continue their work on moral grounds, a special law (501) was conceived by Wilfredo Torres (former President of the Cuban Academy of Science) to enable declaring them enemies of the state and they were (as they still often are) replaced with military workers.

Smith’s next point refers to the risks for Cuba itself from such a plan. It “would amount to shooting one’s self in the foot-knowingly.” A series of books could be written about Castro shooting Cuba in her foot. He proudly took a highly prosperous country with a vast middle class majority and converted it into a country with a vast lower class majority. Yes, he is very proud of his “accomplishment”. The illness or death from WNV of a few members of the lower class he created does not amount to shooting a foot. In his view, it isn’t even cutting a toenail a little too short.

It should also be pointed out, nevertheless, that as the mosquito population in the U.S. dies down in late fall, so does the WNV infestation in the bird and human populations. Birds die or immunity is established so that few infected birds are likely to return to Cuba.

Mr. Smith proudly quotes a senior scientist of the Smithsonian who easily sweeps away all of this by saying it “just feeds into the fears of the public. It sounds like something to use just to attack’s important to get scientific credibility into the mix.” But Mr. Smith offers no science from the scientist. Just political statements. He also does not refute that the Smithsonian has been happily providing bird migration research information and monetary support to Cuba, without even looking into the possibility that it could be used for detrimental purposes.

Smithsonian cooperation is just one of the components present that gives Cuba all the capabilities it needs to carry out what we are suggesting. No, we do not have actual proof-Castro is very careful to make sure that only those he can trust implicitly have that information. The rest have, by careful design, firsthand knowledge only of a specific part, but he understands very well the grand design and the consequences of the world’s obtaining knowledge of what he is up to.

Attempting to refute “defecting scientists,” Smith mentions Luis Roberto Hernandez’s letter of September 17, 2002, to Yet, although Hernandez did make some corrections, he did not deny the existence of the Frente Biologico (Biologic Front, Cuba’s bio-warfare research labs) or capabilities for bioterrorism, only that he refused to work in the facility and thus has no first-hand knowledge, all the more reason Smith’s refusal to support an investigation of Cuba’s biotechnological facilities by independent parties is unconscionable.

When you live as an ordinary citizen inside a totalitarian country like Cuba and suffer the crushing power of the system and especially Castro himself, you develop a unique knowledge. Firsthand experience teaches more about a communist system than thousands of books on Marxist theory. The depth of our knowledge of the life of the common man there far exceeds that of someone who lived there for a few years in the capacity of a personal friend of the ruler.

When Cubans first went into exile in 1959 and 1960, they warned that Castro was building a communist regime in Cuba, but nobody listened. In 1961 Castro declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and the Cuban exiles were proven right. From 1961 on, they warned that the Soviet Union was placing nuclear weapons in Cuba, but nobody listened. In October 1962, the U.S. was able to photograph them and a crisis began that put the world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. The exiles were right again.

The exiles continued warning that Castro was dangerous and capable of anything. They were proven right again when years later it was found that during the 1962 Missile Crisis, he wrote to Soviet Prime Minister Khrushchev on October 26, 1962, asking for a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S.

For over a decade Cuban exile scientists, former intelligence agents and even Soviet Union’s highest-ranking military spy ever to defect, Colonel Stanislav Lunev, have been talking about Castro’s bioterrorist facilities and capabilities, but nobody listened.

Smith contradicts himself in his handling of his first two paragraphs regarding the position of the U.S. State Department on Cuba’s potential for bioterrorism. But once Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John R. Bolton mentioned Cuba’s involvement with biological weapons on May 6, 2002, the Cuban exiles were proven to be right once again.

On June 5, 2002, Carl Ford, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research testified before a Senate Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere that the “nature of biological weapons makes it difficult to procure clear, incontrovertible proof that a country is engaged in illicit biological weapons research, production, weaponization and stockpiling” and that “Cuba’s sophisticated denial and deception practices make our task even more difficult.”(1)

I (Wotzkow) am not blindly accusing Cuba of sending the WNV to the U.S. What I am saying is that based on my firsthand experience working at the Zoology Institute (from December 1979 until I was fired in March of 1982 for refusing to continue working on Castro’s pet project about migratory birds), as well as that of my colleagues at the Frente Biologico, and my observations inside Cuba until my defection in 1992 to Switzerland, everything points in that direction.

It is puzzling that while everybody was interested in knowing where the AIDS virus in the U.S. came from (it was found to originate in Africa and to have been brought to the U.S. by a French-Canadian airline steward named Gaetan Dugas), there seems to be little interest in the U.S. source of WNV. Especially since it hadn’t appeared before in our hemisphere.

Wayne Smith says in his article that the few American citizens affected by WNV means the “West Nile virus is by no means an ‘ultimate weapon’ as suggested by some exiles.” But if people may be dying of a purposely-launched disease from a terrorist designated nation, that is a matter of serious concern. And again, we are not saying that we have proved “conclusively” that Castro has launched a biological warfare attack against the United States, but that there is enough evidence for the U.S. to be suspicious, and that we have enough reasons to ask for a UN inspection of the island by knowledgeable, independent scientists.

Cuba is just 90 miles south and a resting station for millions of migrating birds. According to the CDC, the current figures are 3507 people in the U.S. infected and 206 dead. The disease is now fortunately dwindling with this fall’s cold weather.

It is time that we at least accept the possibility and investigate what is behind Castro’s inordinate interest in migrating birds. Is the introduction of WNV by way of migratory birds just the beginning, the beginning of worse things to come?


1. Galliano RJ. State Department Reaffirms Cuba’s Biological Weapons Research and Development Effort. U.S. Cuba Policy Report 2002;9(6):4.

2. Smith W, Landau A. CIP Refutes West Nile-Cuban Migratory Birds Conspiracy Theory. Center for International Policy, September 25, 2002.

3. Blazquez A. Cuba, Castro and Bioterrorism, Medical Sentinel 2001;6(4):118-120. See also Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton in (Appendix K) Faria MA Jr., Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise, Macon, GA, Hacienda Publishing, Inc., 2002, p. 380-387.

4. Cereijo M. The West Nile Virus: Nature or Bioterrorism. April 2002, .

Written by Carlos Wotzkow, Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D., Agustin Blazquez, and Jaums Sutton

Carlos Wotzkow is an Ornithologist who has written dozens of papers in scientific publications in Europe and the U.S. He is a Veterinary Technician and a Consultant in human behavior, alcohol, ethic and deontology, Author of the books Natumaleza Cubana (1998) and Covering and Discovering (2001) with Agustin Blazquez, and hundreds of articles on the destruction of the environment, politics and human rights in Cuba. His articles are distributed monthly in magazines and via the Internet. He has lived in exile in Switzerland since 1992, in Bienne since 1994.

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D., Editor-in-Chief, Medical Sentinel of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine: Historic Perspectives on the Battle Over Health Care Reform (1995); Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997); and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002), Macon, GA, Hacienda Publishing, Inc., Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.), Mercer University School of Medicine. Dr. Faria trained and practiced private and academic neurosurgery for sixteen years and in addition to editing and publishing in medical journalism, he is also a contributor to and a columnist for Web site:

Agustin Blazquez is an artist; a writer, an author and a documentalist specialized in Cuban issues. His over 200 articles about Cuba have been published and circulated all over the world in various newspapers, books, magazines, and Internet periodicals. He has been featured on radio and television talk shows. He wrote with Carlos Wotzkow the book Covering and Discovering (2001). He recently he wrote the introduction and collaborated with author Luis Grave de Peralta in the translation to English of the upcoming book The Mafia of Havana: The Cuban Cosa Nostra. He has produced and directed more than 35 video productions, mostly artistic and musical. His better-known documentaries are COVERING CUBA (1995), CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles (1999), COVERING CUBA 2: The New Generation (2000). He just completed the documentary COVERING CUBA 3: Elian (2002) to be released soon.

Jaums Sutton is an editor and collaborator of articles and books with various authors. He is a researcher and technical advisor of computer video production as well as an interviewer and assistant director of documentary productions.

This article may be cited as: Wotzkow C, Faria MA, Blazquez A, Sutton J. West Nile Virus: Bioweapon or Divine Punishment?, November 22, 2000. Available from:

Copyright ©2000 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.

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