Pinochet’s Botox

Posted in Bioterrorism at 12:10 pm by George Smith

On Friday, Charlotte Sexauer, a reporter from the Santiago Times contacted GlobalSecurity.Org over news of an old stash of botulinum toxin, discovered as part of a Pinochet government clandestine program.

An initial story, in the Santiago Times, explains the circumstances:

Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship possessed biological weapons capable of killing “thousands,” it was revealed by a former government official Thursday.

Former Public Health Institute (ISP) director Ingrid Heitmann told the German Press Agency (DPA) that “two boxes of syringes full of Botulinum toxin” — dating back to the 1980s — were found underneath the ISP in 2008. Initially, Heitman claimed the amount could wipe out “half of Santiago,” though later revised this estimate to the thousands without giving a precise number.

Heitmann said the toxins were destroyed without then-President Michelle Bachelet’s office or the Justice Ministry being informed, and added she “panicked” when her colleagues made the discovery …

Legal evidence and reports had previously demonstrated that botulinum toxin was tested on in labs, and sarin gas and thallium were manufactured during Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Secret police (DINA) agent Eugenio Berríos was charged with carrying out the production and use of sarin gas under Pinochet’s orders.

The toxins found underground in 2008 were believed to have been sent from the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the 1980s. Heitmann added Chile did not have the capacity to produce botulinum toxin.

The reporter asked me, “If Botox is legal, why is Botulinum Toxin considered a chemical weapon? What makes it prohibited by the Geneva Protocol?”

Botulinum toxin is the single most deadliest poison known. It is prohibited because of this and because of its history as a weapon manufactured in historical bioweapons programs. The Japanese used Clostridium botulinum in WWII and the US military developed it as a weapon at the same time because of fears Germany was pursuing it. It was also a tested part of the Soviet bioweapons program.

Botulinum toxin weaponization is within the capability of national programs and there is no antidote for poisoning by it except sustaining measures. People must be maintained on ventilators until the body repairs the part of the synaptic junction eaten away by the toxin. This can be a relatively long period and it is easy to see that a large number of botulinum poisoning cases, as might result in use of a weapon, would stand a good chance of overwhelming medical facilities.

Botox, on the other hand, as used in the cosmetics industry, is the same poison but is not shipped in dosages that can prove problematic or lethal to human beings. It would be a lot of work, impractical really, to actually collect enough botox vials from the cosmetic industry, recombine them, and then concentrate the contents without loss into a usable weapon.

One American company produced botulinum toxin for research purposes and was lax in its procedures and oversight during the years of the war on terror. It sold reagent grade botulinum toxin in concentrated pure form to quacks masquerading as researchers in the time period ca. 2003-2004 without oversight.

The cosmetic industry quacks who bought botulinum toxin from the American private sector laboratory were interested in diverting it for resale in their cosmetic surgery businesses. The operation was discovered when one of them administered the concentrate to himself and patients/acquaintances without realizing it was so dangerous. They all suffered acute botulism and had to be maintained on ventilators for months. This drew the attention of the FBI which rolled up the ring and raided the American lab.

The lab, named List in the San Francisco Bay area, was forced into bankruptcy by the incident.

It has apparently emerged from that bankruptcy and continues to sell and research botulinum toxin along with other biochemical agents of interest.

“Since 1978 List has advanced research through quality products,” reads a description on its “about” page.

I published a detailed write-up on the rogue botulinum toxin operation and the involvement of List Laboratories here at GlobalSecurity.Org in 2010.

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