You can always trust Miami-Dade County’s Cuban-American politicos to push stupid conspiracy theories tarring Cuba. Needless to say, no surprise that County Commissioner Javier Suoto claimed at a live-streamed committee meeting last Tuesday that Cuba is to blame for the coronavirus spread in Florida and that it might be weaponizing the novel coronavirus and exporting it to Miami. “They have… weaponized certain diseases,” Suoto claimed. “This might very well be some sort of moment that they are trying to capitalize and use to [inflict] one more wound on us, on the USA.” [NB: Experts have debunked the long-held view of right-wing conspiracy theorists that Cuba has ever resorted to biological warfare.]

This follows a call on March 10 by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez urging President Trump to suspend all travel between the U.S. and Cuba, claiming Cuba was rife with Covid-19 cases. (Ironically, his remarks came just hours before Giménez went home to self-isolate after he had joined other dignitaries for a Miami reception with Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, that included Bolsonaro’s press secretary Fabio Wajngarten–later diagnosed with Covid-19.)

Of course, these rabidly anti-Castro officials, taking a leaf from Trump’s playbook, twist facts into fiction [see the last paragraph for the reason why]. Hence they claim that travel between Florida and Cuba played a role in the surge of local cases in Miami, with infected travelers bringing it from Cuba, and that the Cuban government purposefully denied the existence of COVID-19 cases on the island. Nonsense!

I arrived Cuba on March 3, a week before the Cuban government publicly identified its first three Covid-19 cases–all Italian tourists, who were swiftly isolated in Havana’s Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine. Yet Florida had already recorded its first case on March 1–almost two weeks prior to Cuba! During the next two weeks, while in Cuba, I felt sufficiently well informed of the escalating problem in both the USA and Cuba (where, fortunately, although the Cuban government got off to a late start, the handling of the situation has since been exemplary) to decide to get my photo tour group home earlier than planned, before the eventual ban on flights (imposed by Cuba, itself, on March 31 ) and U.S. flight situation became critical.

During last week’s remote Miami-Dade County meeting, commissioners approved a resolution pushing the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit travel to and from Cuba entirely. However, it did NOT call for travel restrictions from other countries actually recognized as COVID-19 hot spots! (As of yesterday, April 12, Cuba had confirmed a mere 726 cases and 21 deaths; compared to the USA’s 567,000 cases and 22,877 deaths.)

Er, by the way… this is from Commissioner Javier Suoto’s official resume: “Commissioner Souto is a veteran of the Bay of Pigs Invasion (a founding member, #2504) where he was active in the Infiltration Teams. He served for several years, after the Bay of Pigs, with the CIA (Miami office).” Of course, Suoto would know quite a bit about biological warfare: the CIA had an active biological warfare program against Cuba back then! And the official bio for Commissioner Esteban Bovo—the primary sponsor of the flight-ban resolution—notes that his father was also a member of Bay of Pigs’s Brigade 2504. (NOTE: Brigade “2504” [sic] should read “2506.”)

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Christopher P Baker

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Christopher P. Baker, one of the world's most multi-talented and successful travel writers and photographers has been named by National Geographic as one of the world's foremost authorities on Cuba travel and culture. Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 as 'Travel Journalist of the Year,' he has authored more than 30 books, leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Edelwiss Bike Travel, and Jim Cline Photo Tours, among other companies, and is a Getty Images and National Geographic contributing photographer.