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Archive for Central America

Newsline: Scientists Seek Clues To Illness In US Staff in Cuba

They described hearing loud, unusual noises in either their homes or hotel rooms. Afterwards, they experienced concussion-like symptoms such as memory and thinking problems, headaches, dizziness and balance issues. But the exact nature of what harmed more than 20 U.S. government personnel stationed in Havana, Cuba, last year remains mysterious, reports a team led by Dr. Douglas Smith of the University of Pennsylvania. All that can be said for sure is that “we have identified a new syndrome that may have important public health implications,” Smith said.



Newsline: US diplomat killed while climbing Mexico mountain

An American citizen who works for the U.S. diplomatic mission in Mexico was killed while climbing Pico de Orizaba mountain, the State Department confirmed to ABC News. The staffer was climbing with another U.S. citizen and embassy employee was evacuated to a hospital, according to a Mexican official in Puebla state. “We are extremely grateful to the government of Mexico for its prompt assistance in the operation,” a State Department official said in a statement to ABC News. “Unfortunately, one of the climbers passed away. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and friends.” The embassy employee was rescued Monday afternoon and is currently hospitalized in Mexico City, according to the Mexican official. The staffer’s body has been recovered, taken down the mountain by foot Tuesday morning.


Newsline: New head of US embassy in Cuba faces critical road ahead

A new chargé d’affaires begins his role at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba Saturday as relations between the U.S. and Cuba are at a low point since diplomatic relations were renewed in 2015 after more than 50 years of hostilities. Just this week, the U.S. received a barrage of criticism for creating an internet task force with the aim of expanding internet access on the island. According to a State Department official speaking on background to NBC News, Philip Goldberg is scheduled to assume duties as the interim chargé d’affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Havana starting February 10. The news was first reported by Reuters on Feb. 7.


Newsline: Cuba grants visa to senior US diplomat to lead Havana embassy

Cuba has given a visa to a senior American diplomat to lead the U.S. embassy in Havana, a U.S. official said, in a sign both nations want to keep open lines of communication despite a sharp deterioration in relations since President Donald Trump took office. The diplomat, Philip Goldberg, will take up the post as charge d‘affaires within days, the U.S. official said. He will head a mission that Washington stripped of many staff four months ago amid a dispute over mystery illnesses among its diplomats on the Communist-run island. He is likely to spend about six months in the position though the length of his stint is not certain, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Goldberg would be the highest ranking U.S. foreign service officer to serve as charge d‘affaires in Havana, said the U.S. official. The fact that Washington selected a diplomat of his rank – one of the senior-most serving career U.S. diplomats – and that Havana accepted him when it could have stalled or rejected him suggests a desire on both sides to maintain links.


Newsline: Canadian Embassy Officials in Mexico Accused of ‘Supporting’ Corrupt Miners

Mexican and Canadian activist and civil organizations are demanding the Canadian government investigate its embassy in Mexico for supporting the mining company Blackfire Exploration despite corruption allegations. Organizations such as the Mariano Abarca Environmental Foundation, Otros Mundos Chiapas, Chiapas Autonomous University Law School Human Rights Center and the Affected by Mining Mexican Network, along with Mining Watch Canada made the petition to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) of Canada, an independent oversight office, hoping the embassy and its personnel will be investigated. Now, the PSIC has 90 days to decide if they will investigate the case. This is the first time the PSIC, which can ask for sanctions or make other recommendations, has been invited to investigate an embassy. The complaint states that the embassy continued to support Blackfire even after Mariano Abarca, an environmental activist opposing the company activities in Chiapas, southeastern Mexico, was killed in 2009. He was shot in front of his restaurant in Chicomuselo by armed people on a motorcycle. A week before his murder, Abarca had notified authorities that he was receiving death, which he believed were linked with Blackfire. One employee and two former employees of Blackfire were detained as suspects following the murder. Only one of them was sentenced at the time, but all three of them are now free. The organizations are now asking the PSIC to investigate the embassy and have also demanded that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights investigate what happened in 2009. The Mexican government halted Blackfire operations after Abarca’s murder, but they were able to continue after a few days. The embassy supported their activities through 2009 and afterward as other controversies showed up.


Newsline: Anti-Trump protest in Haiti temporarily shuts US Embassy

The U.S. Embassy in the Haitian capital was closed Monday as demonstrators gathered outside to protest President Donald Trump. More than a 1,000 people marched toward the embassy. They were prevented from reaching the gates by barricades set up by Haitian police. Officers in helmets and carrying shields eventually fired several rounds of tear gas after some protesters threw rocks at them outside the heavily fortified compound. Many Haitians were angered over reported disparaging remarks about Haiti by Trump and his administration’s decision to end a program that gave temporary legal residency to about 60,000 Haitians in the United States. The embassy said it would be closed for the afternoon and directed employees in a statement to keep away during the protest. It reopened on Tuesday.


Newsline: Desperate Cubans seek US visas in Colombia after Havana embassy cutbacks

The once-quiet villa that houses the Colombian embassy in the plush Miramar suburb of Havana is a hub of activity as Cubans line up outside from dawn until dusk, sheltering from the sun and rain under umbrellas and trees. Colombian consul Luis Fernando Cordoba said his team was working much longer hours than usual and getting back-up to cope with higher demand for visas. The United States said it would process Cuban family reunification requests at its Bogota embassy. Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is an approximate three hour flight from Havana, and Colombia requires Cuban visitors to obtain visas. The United States has a deal with Cuba to issue 20,000 U.S. visas a year to Cubans seeking to emigrate, agreed after a 1994 rafter exodus to prevent them from taking to the sea illegally in makeshift craft. Washington issued more than 800 immigrant visas to Cubans per month from March to August last year, State Department data shows, but just 168 in September, 16 in October and 196 in November in the wake of the scaling back of its Havana embassy. The Trump administration said it had no choice but to reduce staffing, given it believed two dozen of its diplomats and family members in Havana had been sickened in a mysterious spate of attacks. A U.S. official told Reuters last week the government will not send staff back yet.