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Cuba – The Hunter and the Hunted in the Lost Caribbean Paradise

Thursday, 07 November 2002 12:00 AM

As we pointed out in

In "Natumaleza Cubana," Carlos Wotzkow estimates from his own studies in the region that 50 percent of the Ciénaga de Zapata ecosystem has already been destroyed and lost in wanton environmental degradation and ecologic destruction.

Likewise, the "Plan Turquino," the much-touted government plan that employed young soldiers in agriculture and the tending of cattle has been an utter disaster. These "production zones" have brought desolation to a once productive land. Cattle have destroyed rice fields and other crops, and although the government boasts about the number of cattle in the country, the Cuban people wonder where the meat, milk and other dairy products have gone.

As in George Orwell's "1984," the people listen unquestioningly to the announced production figures, but no one believes them. In fact, only children younger than age 7 and the elderly are allowed to buy milk with their ration cards, and meat rations remain meager.

In 1995, one of Wotzkow's colleagues visiting a farm wondered why the cows and even the bulls were missing tails. Was this a congenital disease? No – the

Many examples can be cited of the ongoing environmental destruction throughout the island. Another devastated area is the La Laguna de Ariguanabo, a once beautiful lagoon that from time immemorial served as a natural habitat for migratory birds as well as predatory hawks, the

Wotzkow does not neglect to discuss what he terms "the militarization of the sciences" and the development of the Frente Biologico for potential biological war against the United States with the use of migratory birds.

We have discussed the issue of the Cuban potential for bioterrorism and its bioweapons program.

Incredibly, even the U.S. government provided Cuba with materials in the 1980s that could potentially be used in its biological warfare program. This is substantiated by the research of Professor Manuel Cereijo of Florida International University, who found that the CDC provided Cuban scientists with the St. Louis encephalitis virus, a dangerous arbovirus in the same family as the West Nile virus but which carries a much higher mortality (up to 20 percent). In a series of recent articles, NewsMax.com has reported, and the CDC has confirmed, that many dangerous viral and bacterial specimens were shipped to a variety of nations, including Iraq and Cuba.

Most perplexing and reflective of the dire circumstances existing in Cuba today, relating to both environmental and economic deterioration, is the unknown grisly story of Havana's National Zoological Park. The park has been run under the direction of the local chieftain ("Cacique") Abelardo Moreno Bonilla, who was known as "the tiger" because he would steal the meat allocated to the felines! The meat would be consumed by the chieftain's family and friends. Eventually, the tigers themselves were sacrificed, and the meat sold to tourists for $8.00 a steak!

Revelations reveal more ghastly nightly occurrences at the zoo, stories that could serve as the plot for B-rated horror movies. The partially devoured bodies of Havana students have been found in the park, consumed by the hungry felines. It turned out the students were hunting the tigers and leopards for food, but, unfortunately, sometimes the tables were turned in the battle for survival, and the students became the hunted instead of the hunters. On one night, a man's body was discovered. He had apparently been kicked to death by the African ostrich he had been pursuing for food!

The hunting of man or beast brings me one way or the other to another item that I wanted to discuss from Wotzkow's magnum opus, "Natumaleza Cubana." (Unfortunately, I cannot cover every important environmental issue discussed in this book.)

While ordinary Cubans have been disarmed because the Maximum Leader doesn't trust his civilian population with firearms, those who are more equal than others living in this Orwellian Caribbean farm can fish and hunt everything that swims, crawls or flies in the hapless island. I am not deriding the poor Cuban

They have to survive, even if they have to risk imprisonment or their lives for hunting on forbidden land. Some have been shot for hunting cattle in the

Hunting by members of the privileged

But, because hunting by the privileged parties is unregulated and exploited to the hilt without attention to the environment and natural habitats, many native Cuban species of birds are nearing extinction, including the

With the lack of foliage and destruction of habitats, the birds having nowhere to hide, and the

Birds and other fauna that aren't shot or trapped, or their young captured in their nests, are sold and exported by State-run agencies for hard cash, the ill-conceived policy justified by the Cuban bureaucrats (of course with the consent of the Maximum Leader).

The fauna of Cuba's once wondrous system of caves have not been spared. In Pinar del Rio, Matanzas and Oriente provinces, the extensive system of caverns and its interesting and diverse fauna, including bats and fish, has been destroyed by the military. The caves have been used extensively, without consideration for the fragile interrelated ecological systems, to store tanks, cannons, trucks and other heavy ordnance, so that only the usual hardy survivors remain: cockroaches (

In short and suffice to say, as Wotzkow reveals in "Natumaleza Cubana," the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 has brought nothing but environmental degradation, deforestation, pollution, the loss of flora and fauna, and habitat destruction, without any economic benefit to the nation and the hapless Cuban people. Through four decades of destruction, the environmental community and the international press have remained silent. The long silence remains deafening. And yet the devastation of a once beautiful and prosperous island has brought the Caribbean nation to the edge of an environmental and ecological apocalypse!

See related article: Iraq and Cuba – Fitting Pieces in the West Nile Virus Puzzle?

Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D., is Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (www.haciendapub.com) and author of "Vandals at the Gates of Medicine" (1995); "Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine" (1997); and for the lesson of gun control in Cuba, see his latest book, "Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise" (2002). All three books are available from www.haciendapub.com.

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As we pointed out in In Natumaleza Cubana, Carlos Wotzkow estimates from his own studies in the region that 50 percent of the Ciénaga de Zapata ecosystem has already been destroyed and lost in wanton environmental degradation and ecologic destruction. Likewise, the ...
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Thursday, 07 November 2002 12:00 AM
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