Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Central America

Newsline: Three more Haitian diplomats at Nassau embassy recalled for “wrongdoing”

At least six diplomats at the Haitian Embassy in Nassau have been recalled or transferred as the Haitian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reportedly prepares to eventually replace all personnel at the embassy following a Haitian commission of inquiry into concerns of corruption. According to The Haiti Sentinel, which translated in English an original article by Le Nouvelliste on the recall, Haitian Foreign Affairs Minister Bocchit Edmond told the Le Nouvelliste that the commission’s report revealed “unacceptable situations” at the embassy. (https://ewnews.com/three-more-haitian-diplomats-at-nassau-embassy-recalled-for-wrongdoing) The commission completed its investigation earlier this month, according to international reports. Edmond reportedly told the Le Nouvelliste that several diplomats were involved in wrongdoing either directly or indirectly involved in wrongdoing, namely regarding a residence visa scheme in The Bahamas.

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Newsline: Canadian government reinstating some visa services at embassy in Cuba

The Canadian Embassy in Havana is reinstating some visa and biometric services after months of pushback from Canadians and Cubans. Starting Aug. 1, Cuban residents will again be able to get the fingerprints and photos needed for applications done at the embassy, as well as drop off passports and pick up visas at the building. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/visas-embassy-cuba-havana-1.5226806) Early this summer, the government announced it was suspending services like visa and permanent residency processing in Havana due to unexplained illnesses among Canadian and U.S. diplomats dating back to the spring of 2017.

Newsline: Mystery illnesses and a side-lined U.S. embassy spell trouble for Cuba

President Obama on December 17, 2014 announced a U.S. opening to Cuba. Months later there was a U.S. embassy in Havana. Beginning in late 2016, however, some diplomats there –CIA agents among them – experienced strange noises, hearing loss, headaches, impaired memory, confused thinking, dizziness, impaired vision and more. Expressing safety concerns, the State Department in September, 2017 recalled most of its employees from its Embassy in Cuba. No longer was the Embassy able to perform regular functions. Yet in China and Canada, where U.S. diplomats exhibited similar symptoms, U.S. embassies went on with their work. Something else was different: the afflicted U.S. diplomats in Cuba, but not in the two other countries, were judged by the FBI to be “possible victim[s] of a crime.” (https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/mystery-illnesses-and-a-side-lined-u-s-embassy-spell-trouble-for-cuba/) Speculation as to what caused the symptoms has ranged from psychiatric illnesses like conversion reaction and mass hysteria to viral infections, chemical agents, microwaves, and confused reactions to sounds produced by a raucous brand of Cuban cricket. U.S. officials introduced the idea of a “covert sonic device.” They and the media refer to “sonic attacks.” President Trump and Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio led in blaming Cuba for leaving the diplomats unprotected, or causing their illnesses, or both. Ostensibly the U.S. government attended to the stricken diplomats out of solicitude for their welfare. But increasingly officials looked like they were exploiting the illnesses to exert pressure on Cuba’s government.

Newsline: Haiti Inquiry Into Nassau Embassy ‘Corruption’

The Haitian Government has launched a commission of inquiry into concerns of corruption at its embassy in Nassau. The commission arrives today and will meet with Bahamian officials, diplomatic staff, local recruits and community leaders to conduct investigations until August 3. (http://www.tribune242.com/news/2019/jul/29/haiti-inquiry-embassy-corruption/) It was announced in a press statement released by Haiti’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the weekend. The ministry’s statement referred to a news report of an important investigation carried out by Bahamian authorities on corruption involving Haitian diplomats in Nassau, printed on July 25. It further advised Haitian diplomats that their mission was to project a positive image of the country, and to behave in a manner above reproach. The move has come as a surprise to embassy staff, according to Herns Mesamours, head consular officer from the Haitian Embassy. Mr Mesamours told The Tribune the statement was responding to media coverage of an arraignment of three Bahamians and two Haitians accused of a fraudulent marriage scheme.

Newsline: Cuba says ‘no proof’ of attack on US embassy workers

Mrs Johana Tablada, deputy director for North America at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told media there was no evidence of a deliberate attack on US Embassy personnel in Havana. Mrs Tablada also called for Washington to stop manipulating the incident to justify sanctions against the Caribbean nation, some two years after an investigation into the incident opened. (https://www.straitstimes.com/world/americas/no-proof-of-attack-on-us-embassy-workers-cuba) The health problems of more than two dozen workers surfaced in 2016 after the administration of former US president Barack Obama reopened the embassy in an effort to improve relations with Havana.

Newsline: Scans show changes to brains of ‘injured’ Havana U.S. embassy workers

Advanced brain scans of U.S. Embassy employees who reported falling ill while serving in Havana revealed significant differences, according to a new study published on Tuesday that does little to resolve the mystery of injuries the Trump administration had characterized as a “sonic attack.” University of Pennsylvania researchers said symptoms described by the embassy workers may be reflected in their brain scans when compared with those of healthy volunteers. The difference between the brains of the workers and people in a control group “is pretty jaw-dropping at the moment,” lead researcher Dr. Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at Penn, told Reuters in a phone interview. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-usa-diplomats-health/scans-show-changes-to-brains-of-injured-havana-us-embassy-workers-idUSKCN1UI20D) “Most of these patients had a particular type of symptoms and there is a clinical abnormality that is being reflected in an imaging anomaly,” she said.

Newsline: Mexican ambassador to Washington says migration deal not ready to be inked

Mexico has told the United States time and again it is not ready to ink a deal forcing asylum seekers heading to the U.S. to first pursue safe haven in a Mexico, the Mexican ambassador to Washington said on Thursday, ahead of a Monday deadline. Martha Barcena rejected the so-called “safe third country” agreement days before the clock runs out on a deal struck with U.S. President Donald Trump in June. Under that commitment, Mexico averted punitive tariffs by promising to stem the flow of illegal migrants from Central America by July 22. If it failed, Latin America’s second largest economy would have to accept safe-third-country status.“We have said once and again that we are not ready to sign” any such agreement, Barcena said at an event in Washington, D.C. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-mexico/mexico-tells-us-its-not-ready-for-safe-third-country-deal-ambassador-idUSKCN1UD23E) Her comments come days before Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard is slated to meet his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo in Mexico City this weekend to discuss migration and trade.