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Archive for Cuba

Newsline: Reduced US Embassy Staff In Havana Hinders Travel By Cubans

The chilled relations between Cuba and the White House has left the U.S. embassy running on a shoe-string operation. Cubans hoping to travel to the U.S. must now apply in a third country for visas. Cuba may have a new president whose name is not Castro, but chilly relations between the United States and the communist government on that island aren’t expected to thaw any time soon. President Trump has rolled back parts of what he called the Obama administration’s one-sided deal with Cuba. And then the U.S. Embassy is nearly empty, following unexplained health problems affecting American personnel there.



Newsline: Canada sending home families of diplomats in Cuba after cases of ‘new type’ of brain injury

Canada is designating Cuba an “unaccompanied post” — meaning diplomats’ families will not be allowed to live with them in the country during a posting — because of new information about mysterious symptoms suffered by Canadian and U.S. diplomats and their families.Canadian diplomatic staff in Havana were informed of the decision Monday morning. The federal government has made arrangements to bring family members home in the coming weeks. Ten Canadians in Cuba have experienced symptoms — including headaches, dizziness, nausea and difficulty concentrating — according to government officials who briefed reporters in Ottawa Monday. A new report by a Canadian medical specialist raises the possibility that some of the Canadians have experienced a “new type of possible acquired brain injury.” A senior government official said that this injury is new to science. “The cause remains unknown but could be human-made,” said a media release from Global Affairs. Officials said that some of those who seemed to recover have since seen the symptoms reassert themselves. The RCMP is investigating the illness reports.


Newsline: Zambia asks Cuba to recall ambassador for backing new opposition party

Zambia has asked Cuba to recall its ambassador for openly supporting the newly launched opposition Socialist Party, the president’s spokesman said on Sunday. Amos Chanda said ambassador Nelson Pages Vilas spoke at the party’s launch on Saturday. Political tensions were rekindled in Zambia last month when the country’s main opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), filed a motion seeking to impeach President Edgar Lungu over accusations of breaching the constitution. The UPND challenged Lungu’s 2016 election victory in court, alleging fraud, arguing that that obliged him to hand over power to parliament’s speaker until the court considered its petition. Lungu has denied electoral fraud. He directed that the Cuban ambassador be recalled “for behavior unbecoming of a diplomat,” Chanda told a media briefing, adding that diplomatic ties with Cuba would be retained.


Newsline: Cuba condemns US cuts to embassy staff over ‘health attacks’

A senior Cuban official is condemning Washington’s decision to make the withdrawal of 60 percent of the U.S. Embassy staff permanent in response to mysterious ailments affecting American diplomats. Carlos Fernandez de Cossio says the decision is motivated by politics and has nothing to do with the safety of diplomats. The new director of U.S. issues at the ministry told reporters Monday that the cuts will hurt consular services and make travel more difficult for ordinary citizens. He says it may also erode long-standing cooperation on migration. The State Department made the cuts permanent last week. It initially scaled back staff in October in response to hearing loss and other ailments affecting at least 24 U.S. citizens. U.S. investigators have not determined a cause and Cuba denies any wrongdoing.


Newsline: Malfunctioning Surveillance Gear, Not Sonic Weapons, Could Explain Cuba Embassy ‘Attack’

Bizarre reports of US diplomatic staff in Cuba suffering from symptoms resembling brain trauma, allegedly after hearing unsettling sounds resembling scraping metal or insects buzzing, have continued to baffle medical researchers. But a team from the University of Michigan may have come up with a credible explanation for the incident, per the Miami Herald. Kevin Fu and other members of the university’s Security and Privacy Research Group say that they believe that the sounds could have been caused by improperly placed Cuban spy gear. According to their research, if two inaudible ultrasound surveillance devices were placed too closely together, the resulting interference could become audible—meaning the Cubans may have actually just screwed up rather than intentionally harmed the Americans, the Herald wrote: Fu and his team used recordings of the sound obtained by The Associated Press and applied reverse-engineering to replicate what was heard by diplomats. By combining various ultrasound signals, they discovered that the resulting distortion produced an audible sound similar to what was heard in the original recording. “When a second inaudible ultrasonic source interfered with the primary inaudible ultrasonic source, intermodulation distortion created audible byproducts that share spectral characteristics with audio from the AP news,” the university report said.


Newsline: US makes staff cuts permanent at embassy in Cuba

The U.S. is making permanent its decision last year to withdraw 60% of its diplomats from Cuba. The severely reduced staffing at the U.S. Embassy is because of unexplained “health attacks” on some employees, the U.S. State Department said Friday. The State Department said the embassy “will operate as an unaccompanied post, defined as a post at which no family members are permitted to reside.” The move, which goes into effect Monday, stems from late 2016 when a series of U.S. diplomats in Havana began suffering unexplained losses of hearing and the beginnings of neurological symptoms. The statement said the department still does not have “definitive answers” on the source or cause of the attacks and that an investigation continues.


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.