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Archive for Cuba

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.”


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.


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.


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.


Newsline: Cuba Reopens Embassy in Liberia

The Liberian Government has assured the Government of Cuba that with the reopening of its Embassy in Monrovia, relations between the two countries will become stronger. “We look forward to working closely with the Embassy and the Government of Cuba to deepen the relationship and to cement longstanding friendship that we have enjoyed through the Non-Aligned Movement, Group of 77, and other international fora,” the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Sylvester Grigsby said. He recalled the excellent relations Cuba and Liberia enjoy, noting that Cuba has been very helpful to Liberia in times of need.


Newsline: North Korean Leader Visits Cuban Embassy to Mourn Castro’s Death

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim Jong Un signed the condolence book at the Cuban Embassy. When at the embassy, the North Korean leader was accompanied by the country’s senior officials. “Although the outstanding leader died, his name will always be kept alive in our memory,” Kim wrote, as quoted by the agency. Fidel Castro died on Friday, at the age of 90. North Korea declared the mourning on November 28-30. Cuba established diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1960, and maintains an embassy in Havana. Military and commercial ties between the two communist states have increased since Raul Castro came to power in 2008.


Newsline: Cuban Embassy in US Pays Tribute to Fidel Castro

Dozens of people brought flowers and candles to the embassy and later a moment of silence was held to pay homage to the Cuban revolutionary leader, who survived hundreds of assassination attempts and nearly a dozen US presidents. People have been bringing flowers to the embassy since the very morning on Saturday. Volunteer with LACAN (the Latin-American and Caribbean Action Network) and one of the organizers of the Saturday night vigil told Sputnik that despite the cold weather, there has been a “steady stream” of supportive and sad people coming to the embassy.