Granma, the official state newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, floated “hypothesis” in a column published last week that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China is the result of American “biological terrorism” intended to hurt the Chinese economy.
The Spain-based Diario de Cuba newspaper highlighted the column, which cited an alleged Spanish journalist whose sole evidence for the theory was a remark from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that an ongoing health emergency in China might force companies to do more business with America. The newspaper also noted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s repeated warnings that the Chinese Communist Party is a threat to global freedom and democracy as somehow indicating that Washington is engaging in terrorist activity.
Orfilio Peláez, the Granma “journalist” responsible for promoting the theory, wrote that the Spanish conspiracy theory in question posits that “the coronavirus could be a germ created in laboratories in the United States as a biological weapon of economic war unleashed by Washington against China.” The piece goes on to offer no evidence that the Pentagon had been working on any such weapon in recent memory or research on the novel coronavirus suggesting it did not occur in nature. Instead, it offered “various recent declarations by high-ranking White House officials and an increasingly intense international anti-China media campaign” as proof.
“I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America. Some to U.S., probably some to Mexico as well,’’ Commerce Secretary Ross said on television of the coronavirus outbreak in January, a remark that Granma posited could indicate biological terrorism.
Drifting away from the material in the alleged Spanish blog post that the flagship Cuban government newspaper based its initial story on, Peláez then redirected attention to Cuba by claiming that late dictator Fidel Castro was the first “victim” of American biological warfare.
“Perhaps one of the intended first victims of this dark mode of aggression was Commander in Chief Fidel Castro at the beginning of the Revolution, when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) designed a plan to contaminate a scuba suit that would supposedly be used by the Cuban leader,” Granma alleged. There is no evidence that the CIA ever executed this alleged plan.
Granma also revived the many colorful theories of the CIA allegedly trying to poison Fidel Castro with cigars, without attempting to link these stories to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak of 2020 in any way.
After an extensive discussion of alleged CIA bioterrorism activities, the Granma articled concluded: “there is no evidence at this time that the coronavirus is part of a biological terrorist act by the United States.”
Chinese scientists identified the virus responsible for the current outbreak as a yet-unidentified form of coronavirus dubbed 2019-nCoV to distinguish it from other coronaviruses: the common cold, the virus responsible for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and others, most which cause respiratory illness. The novel coronavirus prompts fever, difficulty breathing, and other flu-like symptoms in carriers. It can lead to pneumonia or death.
The virus originated in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China. Experts believe it entered the first human carrier through exposure to or consumption of game at a wild meat market in the city. Wuhan Communist Party authorities shut the market down on January 1, nearly a month before they decided to warn the public of a highly contagious, deadly disease.
The Cuban conspiracy theory surrounding the virus is far from the last, and not the only one blaming America. Russian television has floated the idea that America is trying to sink both the Russian and Chinese economies by deploying an alleged biological weapon. Channel One, a national broadcast network, aired a conspiracy theory contending that the presence of the word “corona” in the name of the virus – “crown” in many languages, including Russian – is a nod to President Donald Trump’s time as a beauty pageant owner. It did not address the fact that the common cold is also a coronavirus and that the name existed long before Trump took office, but did give time to an “expert” contending that the virus could not have been created in nature, according to the BBC translation of the broadcast.
Another Russian outlet, the state online publication Zvezda, reportedly published an article in January linking the virus to trade talks between Washington and Beijing.