San Francisco Chronicle
January 10, 1977 Front page
With at least the tacit backing of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency officials, operatives linked to anti-Castro terrorists introduced African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971.
Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.
A U.S. intelligence source told Newsday last week he was given the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at a U.S. Army base and CIA training ground in the Panama Canal Zone, with instructions to turn it over to the anti-Castro group.
The 1971 outbreak, the first and only time the disease has hit the Western Hemisphere, was labeled the “most alarming event” of 1971 by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. African swine fever is a highly contagious and usually lethal viral disease that infects only pigs and, unlike swine flu, cannot be transmitted to humans.
All production of pork, a Cuban staple, halted, apparently for several months.
A CIA spokesman, Dennis Berend, in response to a Newsday request for comment, said, “We don’t comment on information from unnamed and, at best, obscure sources.”
Why the virus turned up in Cuba has been a mystery to animal investigators ever since the outbreak. Informed speculation assumed that the virus entered Cuba either in garbage from a commercial airliner or in sausages brought in by merchant seamen.
However, on the basis of numerous interviews over four months with U.S. intelligence sources, Cuban exiles and scientists concerning the outbreak — which occurred two years after then-President Nixon had banned the use of offensive chemical and biological warfare — Newsday was able to piece together this account of events leading up to the outbreak.
The U.S. intelligence source said that early in 1971 he was given the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at Ft. Gulick, an Army base in the Panama Canal Zone. The CIA also operates a paramilitary training center for career personnel and mercenaries at Ft. Gulick. …