Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for Cuba

Newsline: Mexico’s top diplomat visits Cuba to seek help on Venezuela crisis

Mexico’s foreign minister is in Havana hoping to persuade Cuba, one of Venezuela’s top allies, to help resolve the tense political situation in the beleaguered South American nation, according to a senior Mexican official briefed about the trip. The minister, Luis Videgaray, has not gone empty-handed, according to the official and a document seen by Reuters, and has agreed with Havana’s request to expand a credit line with Mexico’s state-owned Bancomext bank from 30 million to 56 million euros as a gesture of goodwill. Cuba uses the credit line to pay for key imports. “The foreign minister is going to say, ‘We want to solve the situation in Venezuela. How do we do that?'” the official said. “He’s going to see what the Cubans’ view is, and how we can soften or manage the transition in Venezuela and its impact on Cuba.” Mexico may struggle to convince Cuba to join its effort. Venezuela is Cuba’s closest strategic and ideological ally, and has showered the island with billions of dollars of cheap oil and aid since the turn of the century. Mexico, on the other hand, has flip-flopped in its relationship with Cuba, with former President Vicente Fox famously snubbing Fidel Castro at a summit, a move that pleased the United States but damaged Mexico’s regional influence. Cuba has been loathe to support regional, U.S.-backed efforts to pressure the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro into restoring democratic order after months of deadly protests. Still, Mexico, which has ditched years of isolationist foreign policies to lead Latin American diplomatic efforts to pressure Caracas, believes there won’t be a peaceful transition in Venezuela without Cuba’s help, the official said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-mexico-venezuela-exclusive-idUSKCN1AY270

Newsline: Cuba diplomats ousted after bizarre incident with US embassy workers in Havana

The U.S. has expelled two Cuban diplomats in retaliation for a bizarre incident purportedly involving a covert sonic device that allegedly left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert spoke only cryptically about the matter, referring to an “incident” without elaboration. Cuba has strongly denied any allegations of wrongdoing. The purported affair began in late 2016 when a series of U.S. diplomats in Havana began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case, the Associated Press reported. Several of the diplomats had recently arrived at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Obama’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and relaxation of travel restrictions. Nauert said that as a result of the incident, two Cuban diplomats were ordered to leave their embassy in Washington. “We requested their departure as a reciprocal measure since some U.S. personnel’s assignments in Havana had to be curtailed due to these incidents,” she said. “Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats.” She did not say how many U.S. diplomats were affected or confirm they suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms.” She said none were life-threatening. In a lengthy statement late Wednesday, the Cuban foreign ministry said: “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.” It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/08/10/bizarre-u-s-embassy-incident-prompts-ouster-cuban-diplomats-u-s/555073001/

Newsline: Top US Embassy Official in Havana Exits

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba said Tuesday that its top official, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, had left Havana after completing his three-year mission and that his deputy would become interim charge d’affaires. Scott Hamilton, a career diplomat who has served as deputy chief of mission in Havana for two years, will become chief until further notice, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Havana said. Some Cuba onlookers had questioned whether DeLaurentis, who led the embassy during the historic U.S.-Cuban detente and restoration of diplomatic ties in July 2015, would stay on under U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump last month announced a partial rollback of that opening toward Cuba, ordering tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on U.S. business dealings with the Caribbean island’s military. DeLaurentis had been U.S. chief of mission in Cuba since August 2014, his third posting in Havana.

https://www.voanews.com/a/top-american-embassy-official-havana-exits/3938583.html

Newsline: U.S. punishes American firm after its Canadian subsidiary leases cars to Cuban embassy in Ottawa

U.S. President Donald Trump rolled back some of the key measures of his predecessor’s rapprochement with Cuba, making it harder for American tourists to travel to the island, and harder for American corporations to do business there. That move was immediately met with a rebuke from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But as a recent case in Ottawa illustrates, American sanctions against Cuba don’t only affect Americans or American businesses. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control announced it had reached a settlement with the American Honda Finance Corporation — the institution that finances the sale and leases of Hondas and Acuras in North America. The civil liability settlement requires the company to hand over $87,255 US for violating the sanctions. The American Honda Finance Corporation is based in California, and the fine will likely be paid in the U.S., but the transaction that brought it on occurred in Canada. The cause of the dispute is a series of 13 lease agreements between Honda Canada Finance, Inc. — a majority-owned subsidiary of the American Honda Finance Corporation — and the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa. According to a notice published by the U.S. Treasury, the 13 leases were signed between Feb. 2011 and March 2014. Under U.S. law, the fact that a U.S. company was a majority shareholder of Honda Canada Finance makes the transaction subject to U.S. sanctions — even though both the lessor and the lessee were in Canada. In a statement, the Cuban government argued that the fine “not only hampers the work of Cuban diplomats in a third country, but also harms Canadian citizens and companies that maintain relations with Cuban entities.” Brittany Venhola-Fletcher of Global Affairs Canada told CBC News the sanction constitutes interference with a Canadian business transaction. “Canada has consistently opposed the extraterritorial application of United States sanctions, which interfere with the right of Canadian companies to conduct their business in a manner consistent with international trade practice and the laws of Canada.” The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa referred CBC to the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, which did not return calls about the sanction. It’s not clear whether the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa still leases vehicles from Honda.

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/u-punishes-american-firm-canadian-090000381.html

Newsline: Seychelles opens embassy in Cuba

President Danny Faure opened the Seychelles’ embassy in Havana, Cuba as part of his official visit to the Caribbean nation, a statement from State House said. During the inaugural address, the Seychelles’ Foreign Secretary, Claude Morel said: “Our Havana-based embassy will also serve as a bridge between Seychelles and the numerous island nations of the Caribbean region.” Seychelles and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1978.

http://www.seychellesnewsagency.com/articles/7180/Seychelles+President+opens+embassy+in+Cuba

Newsline: UAE to open embassy in Havana

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates will open an embassy in Havana. At a cabinet meeting in Dubai, the UAE government decided to open embassies in Cuba, Angola and Mozambique, as well as a general consulate in Toronto. Saudi Arabia and neighboring Qatar have had embassies in Havana since the 1990s; Kuweit opened one in 2010. Oman and Bahrein don’t have embassy-level representation in Cuba.

http://www.cubastandard.com/2014/06/10/uae-to-open-embassy-in-havana/

Newsline: Costa Rica is demanding US embassy explain ‘Cuban Twitter’

The Costa Rican government says it’s still waiting for the Obama administration to explain why it launched the secret “Cuban Twitter” network from inside the Central American nation’s borders despite warnings in 2009 that the plan could jeopardize the two countries’ diplomatic relations. In an interview with The Associated Press, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said efforts to affect other countries should not be carried out from inside Costa Rica. He said his government had not received an answer to its question, which he said was delivered a day after the AP reported on April 3 that the U.S. Agency for International Development funded the secret program to stir political unrest in Communist-ruled Cuba. “I think it’s inappropriate to use an embassy in Costa Rica for this type of operation that harms a third country,” Castillo said. “We’re not filing a complaint. The point is that embassies accredited in Costa Rica don’t have to submit their plans or programs for the Costa Rican government’s approval.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Costa Rica sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Embassy in San Jose requesting an explanation after the AP story appeared. USAID has denied that the program was secret or that it had a political agenda. Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry told the U.S. Embassy in June 2009 that the plan to develop the social media network could lead to “political difficulties” for Costa Rica, and it refused to grant diplomatic status to two U.S. government contractors involved in the program, La Nacion, Costa Rica’s largest newspaper.

http://www.mariettatimes.com/page/content.detail/id/493896/Costa-Rica-is-demanding-US-explain–Cuban-Twitter-.html?isap=1&nav=5021