Posted on Thu, May. 09, 2002 Editorialsstory:PUB_DESC
Talk of the Cuban regime's biological-warfare potential has caused a stir in Washington, D.C. But what John Bolton, a State Depatement undersecretary for arms control, revealed this week comes as little surprise to Cuba watchers in South Florida. Although Mr. Bolton's remarks were based on recently declassified secret information, the ideas aren't new.

Mr. Bolton disclosed the U.S. belief that, ''Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort.'' He also added that ``Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could support bio-weapons programs in those states.''

Yet Cuban defectors and analysts, many of whom have spoken openly here, long have described the sophisticated capabilities of the regime's biomedical activities and speculated on its potential military applications.

The regime's friendships with rogue states such as Iraq, which has used biological weapons on its own people, also are well known. So it's not a stretch to imagine Cuban technology cooking up vicious germs in a secret Iraqi lab. That's something that U.S. counter-terror and security authorities should worry about.

True, Cuba's potential threat has too often been underrated in Washington, and Cuban intelligence operatives such as convicted spy Ana Belen Montes may have had much to do with that. Given the island's proximity and the presence of a megalomaniac dictator, the United States should be ready to defend against a potential bio-weapons threats from Cuba.

However, it's unlikely that the immediate security threat is anywhere close to that of the Cuban missile crisis. If the Bush administration knows of a specific danger, then it should reveal that information as well. How could South Florida, a logical target, be prepared otherwise?