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Biological Chronology

1994-1999

This annotated chronology is based on the data sources that follow each entry. Public sources often provide conflicting information on classified military programs. In some cases we are unable to resolve these discrepancies, in others we have deliberately refrained from doing so to highlight the potential influence of false or misleading information as it appeared over time. In many cases, we are unable to independently verify claims. Hence in reviewing this chronology, readers should take into account the credibility of the sources employed here.

Inclusion in this chronology does not necessarily indicate that a particular development is of direct or indirect proliferation significance. Some entries provide international or domestic context for technological development and national policymaking. Moreover, some entries may refer to developments with positive consequences for nonproliferation.

19 August 1994
Fidel Castro's daughter, Alina Fernandez, appears on Larry King Live, and accuses Castro of leading a BW program within Cuba. She states, "Cuba, many years, accused the United States of creating these viruses that were affecting the Cuban people, and in reality, they're creating these viruses in laboratories in Cuba." She continues, "In fact, he [Castro] construct some of those virus...in a laboratory belonging to the armed force."
—Larry King, "Fidel Castro's daughter on the latest from Cuba," CNN, 19 August 1994.

14 October 1994
Eight Cuban science institutions sign an agreement with China's International Scientific Center in order to further joint scientific development. The Cuban institutions involved in the cooperative project are Neuronic, Inc (development of equipment for brain research); Eron, Inc (blood by-products); CIGB; Finlay Institute; Center for Molecular Immunology; Dalmer Laboratories; and the Immunological Testing Center (SUMA).
—Prensa Latina News Agency, 14 October 1994, "Scientific organizations sign agreements with PRC," BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 25 October 1994.

1995
CIGB begins a major effort to engineer both plants and animals for potential inexpensive drug production.
—Paul Elias, "US-Cuba scientific relations transcend politics," Associated Press, 1 December 2002.

3 July 1995
Cuba's Biopreparations Center has reportedly started producing hepatitis B vaccine for export to Iran.
—"Iran Pharma links, higher spending," Pharma Marketletter, 3 July 1995.

11 September 1995
Cuba and Iran have signed a deal on biotechnology transfer between the Pasteur Institute in Iran and Hebor Biotech SA of Cuba, specifically in relation to production of the hepatitis B vaccine. Iranian scientists will also travel to Cuba to study biotechnology.
—"Pasteur Institute (Iran)/Heber Biotech study," Pharma Marketletter, 11 September 1995.

July 1996
Cuban officials are to begin human tests on a new AIDS vaccine developed by CIGB.
—Dalia Acosta, "Tests to start on AIDS vaccine," Inter Press Service, 28 July 1996.

28 August 1996
Latin American Newsletters (LAN) suggests that Cuban products with no medical application might be the most successful exports, following recent questions about the quality of Cuban medicine. Jamaica ended its recognition of Cuban medical qualifications after questionable experiences with Cuban-trained doctors. LAN also reports that the Cuban biotech industry has not yet reached the $100 million mark, and has only been truly successful in exports to other Latin American countries, particularly Colombia. Currently Cuba is studying an enzyme that reduces energy consumption in the sugar refining process by almost 50 percent.
—"Cuban biotech exports disappoint," Biotechnology Business News, 28 August 1996.

13 September 1996
Rodrigo Alvarez Cambras, president of the Cuba-Iraq Friendship Association, meets with Saddam Hussein on his trip to Baghdad to discuss health and trade relations.
—Radio Havana, 13 September 1996; in "Scientist meets Iraqi leader, to discuss medical supplies," FBIS FTS19960913000481, 13 September 1996.

4 October 1996
Cuba and Algeria agree to terms of pharmaceutical cooperation involving Cuban assistance in vaccines and medicine, along with epidemiological research exchange and help in training scientific specialists. This is part of a continuation of medical exchange between the two countries.
—"Cuba, Algeria sign medical cooperation treaty," Xinhua News Agency, 4 October 1996.

2 November 1996
Iraq and Cuba sign an agreement calling for coordination in international forums and organizations in Havana. The Cuban deputy foreign minister states, "The advanced relations with Iraq are the result of the determination displayed by the presidents and parties in the two countries."
—Baghdad INA, 2 November 1996; in "Cooperation, coordination agreement signed with Iraq," FBIS FTS19961102000262, 2 November 1996.

1997
Cuban biotechnology gains recognition as GlaxoSmithKline licenses its meningitis B vaccine, the only vaccine of its kind.
—Geoff Dyer, "YM Bio springs a Cuban surprise: The Caribbean island is winning a reputation for its talents in drug discovery," Financial Times, 14 June 2002.

29 April 1997
Cuba becomes the first State Party of the BWC to utilize Article V to request an investigation into Cuban allegations of a US-biological warfare attack against the island. Cuba states that on 21 October 1996, a single-engine State Department plane, en-route from Patrick United States Air Force Base, Florida to Grand Cayman, was seen releasing an unknown substance from the aircraft seven times, as it was flying 30 kilometers south of Varadero, in Matanzas Province. Cuban air control radioed the US pilot, asking if he was having technical difficulties, to which the pilot responded that he was not. On 18 December 1996, the insect Thrips palmi parasite appeared in Matanzas Province, the first such infestation in the country. Cuba alleges that the appearance of the insect is a result of a US biological attack; however, the United States asserts that the aircraft simply emitted smoke from its smoke generator in order to be become more visible to an approaching Cuban aircraft. Twelve BWC State Parties discussed the Cuban claim, and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support Cuban allegations (China and Vietnam were not able to draw any conclusion, while the other states, excluding North Korea, whose assessment was not forwarded by the BWC meeting chairman, found that there was no relationship between the US flight and the appearance of Thrips palmi on the island).

This was not the first accusation Cuba has made against the United States regarding biological warfare, as the island has considered itself a target of the United States since Castro's rise to power during the revolution.
—Raymond Zilinskas, "Cuban allegations of biological warfare by the United States: Assessing the evidence," Critical Reviews in Microbiology, 25(3): 173-277, 1999; "Note verbale dated 28 April 1997 from the permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General," United Nations General Assembly, 29 April 1997.

27 May 1997
Cuba is reportedly attempting to clone rabbits with the same technique used by scientists who cloned "Dolly," the sheep.
—Jane's Foreign Report, 27 May 1997.

1 June 1997
Rodrigo Alvarez Cambra confirms that Saddam Hussein has been his patient over the past two decades, but provides no other details. He has developed a "close relationship with Saddam" in the time they have worked together.
—Marie Colvin, "Saddam suffered 'desert droop,'" London Sunday Times, 8 June 1997; in "Extent of Hussein's back injury revealed," FBIS FTS19970609000203, 8 June 1997.

17 June 1997
Alvarez Cambra discusses Saddam's medical condition, stating that he led a group of specialists to Iraq 20 times over the past two decades in order to treat Saddam.
Prensa Latina, 17 June 1997; in "Cuban orthopedist denies reports on Saddam Hussein's health," FBIS FTS19970617001205, 17 June 1997.

1998
An agreement between Iran and Cuba provides Iran with Cuban technology for production of the hepatitis B vaccine, and transfers interferon, along with other medicines, to Iran from Cuban research centers.
—"Cuban government doesn't give Iran germ warfare secrets: ambassador," Associated Press, The Guelph Mercury, 22 May 2002.

28 January 1998
Fidel Castro, in a speech directed to the United States, threatens, "This lamb cannot ever be devoured, neither with airplanes, nor with smart bombs, because this lamb has more intelligence than you and in its blood there is and always will be poison for you."

[Note: While this quote is referenced in many different writings, the original source remains unknown. The original date of the quote is somewhat unclear as well, as several authors refer to Castro's speech on 28 January 1997.]
—Servando Gonzalez, "A sad day for Fidel Castro?" Pravda On-line, 18 September 2001, <http://english.pravda.ru>.

February 1998
Manuel Cereijo, professor at Florida International University, composes a list of potential Cuban BW capabilities and intentions. He states that Cuba has invested more than $1 billion in equipment with limited commercial application, including three 10,000 RPM centrifuges. Cereijo implies that Cuba would most likely target the United States with any agents it possesses.
—"Cuba's Bacteriological Warfare Efforts," Manuel Cereijo, Global Security.org, February 1998, <http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/cuba/oagmc002.htm>.

31 March 1998
General Charles Wilhelm, testifying before the US House International Relations Committee, comments on Cuban biotechnology capabilities, stating, "I think the indications that we have received is they [Cuba] do have the capability to produce those kind of substances. But they have not weaponized them....Any nation with a pharmaceutical industry—and Cuba certainly has that—can engage in the production of biological agents...."
—"Counter narcotics policy towards Columbia, Hearing of the House International Relations Committee," Federal News Service, 31 March 1998.

11 April 1998
Granma publishes Fidel Castro's interview to Dominican journalists, in which he states, "We have thousands of scientists and specialists, large research centers, but the thought to develop biological weapons never crossed our mind. Never."
—Igor Varlamov, "Cuba does not seek mass destruction weapons, Castro says," Itar-Tass News Agency, 11 April 1998.

19 April 1998
Cuba and Iraq sign an economic and technical cooperation protocol to increase the sale of Cuban medicine to Iraq, and cooperation in the health sector.
—Cubavision Network, 19 April 1998; in "Commerce, technical cooperation protocol signed with Iraq," FBIS FTS19980420001491, 19 April 1998.

25 April 1998
Gen. John Sheehan, US marines (ret.), interviews Fidel Castro on the possibility of Cuban BW production. Castro responds, "What do you think, we are stupid? We don't want to give the US a pretext for an attack." Sheehan states that eight buildings are involved in biotechnology research, and was invited by Castro to tour any buildings he was interested in seeing. However, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) responds that Castro is using these facilities in order to develop BW capabilities, and dismisses Sheehan's claims due to his past friendly relations with Cuban military officers.
—George Gedda, "Taken by Castro's charm, Marine general raises hackles of US anti-Castroites," Associated Press, 25 April 1998.

6 May 1998
The United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) releases the report "The Cuban Threat to US National Security." The report concludes that the Cuban biotechnology industry could support a limited offensive BW program, but that at the present time, Cuba does not pose a significant military threat to the United States.
—"The Cuban Threat to US National Security," Defense Intelligence Agency, 6 May 1998.

6 May 1998
William Cohen forwards a letter to the Armed Services Committee as an introduction to the DIA report on Cuba. He states that the intelligence community specifically researched Cuban ability to produce biological and chemical weapons while gathering information for the report. Cohen continues that he "remain[s] concerned about Cuba's potential to develop and produce biological agents, given its biotechnology infrastructure...."
—William Cohen, "Transmittal Letter," Secretary of Defense William Cohen to Strom Thurmond, preface to DIA report, 6 May 1998.

22 June 1998
A visiting delegation from the Ukraine signs an agreement with Cuba calling for bilateral exchange in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Ukraine will continue to provide for registration fee exemptions for Cuban medicine and medical equipment exports.
—"Ukraine signs trade agreement with Cuba," Intelnews news agency, Kiev, 23 June 1998, BBC Worldwide Broadcasting, 25 June 1998.

20 July 1998
Martin Arostegui, reporter for Insight on the News, writes that Cuban defectors have reported on BW plants throughout Cuba. Arostegui states that military biotechnicians at the Luis Diaz Soto Naval Hospital have experimented with anthrax, brucellosis, equine encephalitis, dengue fever, hepatitis, and tetanus, among others. He claims that there are five chemical and biological weapons plants in Cuba, and cites "a classified annex to the Pentagon's final report to Congress" stating, "...at least one research site is run and funded by the Cuban military to work on the development of offensive and defensive biological weapons."
—Martin Arostegui, "Fidel Castro's deadly secret: Castro's biological- and chemical-weapons arsenal," Insight on the News, 14(26): 7, 20 July 1998.

14 August 1998
Alvarez Cambra returns to Cuba from Iraq, where he met with Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz, the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of public health, and the minister of economy. He states, "We talked about cooperation issues, above all in the health sector. Their minister of public health recently came here and we will begin a broad cooperation between Cuba and Iraq...."
—Julio Gomez and Alvarez Cambra, Radio Havana, 14 August 1998; in "Cuban orthopedist on Iraqi visit, cooperation," FBIS FTS19980814001215, 14 August 1998.

November 1998
James Larrick, president of the Palo Alto Institute for Molecular Medicine, states, "The clean rooms, fermenters, and purification lines in Cuba's drug factories are top-notch... 'some of the best in the world'."
—Jocelyn Kaiser, "Cuba's billion-dollar biotech gamble," Science, vol. 282, 27 November 1998, <http://www.sciencemag.org>.

March 1999
The Biopreparations Center (BIOCEN), located in Bejucal, opens a new plant specifically designed for vaccine production under a $2 million renovation project.
—Joaquin Oramas, "New biotechnology plant begins operations," Granma Internacional, FBIS PA1903135899, 16-22 March 1999.

March 1999
BIOCEN becomes the first biotechnology company in Cuba to receive ISO-9002 international quality certification. This authorizes BIOCEN production of vaccines, media culture, and other products, and helps these products gain access to industrialized markets.
—Patricia Grogg, "Cuban biopharmaceuticals look for ticket to Europe," Inter Press Service, 21 April 1999

11 March 1999
An Iraqi parliamentary delegation finishes an official trip to Cuba, during which they visited Cuba's Frank Pais Scientific Research Center and the Molecular Immunology Research Center.
—Radio Havana (internet version), 11 March 1999; in "Iraqi parliamentary delegation ends visit," FBIS FTS19990314000660, 11 March 1999.

21 April 1999
Concepcion Campa, director of the Finlay Institute, announces that vaccines designed to fight hemophilic influenza, typhoid fever, and pneumonia are in the early research stages, while medicines to prevent cholera, infant and adult tetanus, and a vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are all in advanced stages of research. The CIGB is leading 10 of 27 new development projects under the National Immunization program, and has already been successful with the epidermal growth factor.
—Patricia Grogg, "Cuban biopharmaceuticals look for ticket to Europe," Inter Press Service, 21 April 1999.

23 June 1999
Ken Alibek tells the Miami Herald that following Yuri Kalinin's 1990 visit to Cuba, he believed that Cuba was involved in biological weapons research. Alibek states, "It was his opinion. Kalinin saw no weapons production, but with his experience in offensive biological warfare work, it was his opinion that they were doing offensive work also. They are using the same cover stories we had developed, about factories to produce single-cell bacteria as animal feed. Maybe we were over-suspicious, but we did not believe their stories. In my personal opinion, I have no question Cuba is involved."

A State Department spokesman replies to the accusation of Cuban BW production in Ken Alibek's Biohazard, stating, "We have no evidence that Cuba is stockpiling or has mass-produced any BW agents." Another official states, "We don't see any special facilities [within Cuba] with eight-foot fences and stuff like that. With all the intelligence we get from defectors and other means, there's never been evidence."
—Juan O. Tamayo, "U.S. skeptical of report on Cuban biological weapons," Miami Herald, 23 June 1999.

24 June 1999
Alejandro Gonzalez, spokesman for the Cuban Foreign Ministry, announces, "No one in Cuba has ever thought of manufacturing or storing chemical or biological weapons because this is a radical deviation from the Cuban defensive concept."
—Prensa Latina News Agency, 24 June 1999, "Cuba dismisses biological weapons report as 'ridiculous and fanciful,'" BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 26 June 1999.

31 July 1999
SmithKline Beecham will begin commercialization of the Cuban meningitis B vaccine. Cuban sales of meningitis B vaccine total $150 million in the period from 1989-1995.
—"Vaccine gives shot in arm to Cuban biotechnology sector," Financial Times, 31 July 1999.

September 1999
A new production facility at BIOCEN will begin producing the hepatitis B vaccine.
—"Cuban hep B vaccine production," Pharma Marketletter, 15 September 1999.

19 October 1999
Carlos Wotzkow, a Cuban defector now living in Switzerland, claims that Cuba has experimented with biological warfare involving migratory birds since 1980. Luis Roberto Hernandez of Puerto Rico, said to be on the research team for projects involving migratory birds, concurs with claims that the Zoological Institute participated in such virus research.
—Pablo Alfonso, "Cuba testing birds for germ warfare, exile says," El Nuevo Herald, 19 October 1999.



 

Updated March 2007


1965-1993

1994-1999

2000-2001

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Treaties and Organizations
Cuba Special Weapons, FAS
Cuba's Pursuit of Biological Weapons: Fact or Fiction?
Cuba Bioweapons: Threat or Political Punching Bag?
U.S. Says Cuba Has Limited Germ Weapons Effort
CIA World Fact Book
GlobalSecurity: Cuba
CUBA & NON-PROLIFERATION REGIMES



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