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Archive for Cuba

Newsline: Cuba’s senior diplomat blasts U.S. for ignoring evidence on ‘Havana Syndrome’

Cuba blasted the United States for taking too long to accept evidence that the ailment “Havana Syndrome” was not likely caused by a foreign enemy, saying Washington ignored the science as a pretext for cutting off relations with the Communist-run island. A globe-spanning U.S. intelligence investigation declassified on Wednesday concluded it was “very unlikely” a foreign adversary was responsible for the mysterious sickness, first identified in the Cuban capital of Havana but which has afflicted U.S. diplomats and spies worldwide. read more “This conclusion … confirms what we already knew,” Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio told Reuters in an interview in Havana late on Thursday. “The unfortunate thing is, the U.S. government leveraged (Havana Syndrome) to derail bilateral relations … and discredit Cuba.” (https://neuters.de/world/americas/cuba-blasts-us-years-disregarding-evidence-havana-syndrome-2023-03-03/) Cuba has for years labeled as “science fiction” the idea that ´Havana Syndrome´ resulted from an attack by a foreign agent, and its top scientists in 2021 found no evidence of such allegations. The U.S. State Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment on de Cossio’s statements. U.S. officials have previously said the science was inconclusive and ongoing and that the government had opted to err on the side of caution in determining its policies toward Cuba.

Newsline: US embassy in Cuba resumes visa and consular services

The United States Embassy in Cuba is restarting visa and consular services Wednesday. The Embassy confirmed it will begin processing immigrant visas, with a priority placed on permits to reunite Cubans with family in the U.S., and others like the diversity visa lottery. They are anticipated to give out at least 20,000 visas a year, though it’s just a drop in the bucket of the migratory tide, which is fueled by intensifying economic and political crises on the island. (https://www.wifr.com/2023/01/04/us-reopening-visa-consular-services-embassy-cuba/) The resumption comes amid the greatest migratory flight from Cuba in decades, which has placed pressure on the Biden administration to open more legal pathways to Cubans and start a dialogue with the Cuban government, despite a historically tense relationship.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Havana to start processing immigrant visas next January

The U.S. embassy in Havana announced that the full processing of immigrant visas will resume in Cuba on January 4, 2023. Deputy Minister Carlos Fernandez spoke with the Assistant Secretary of the Department of State for Consular Affairs, Rena Bitter, and the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Ur Mendoza Jaddou, on immigration and consular issues. According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, both sides noted the importance of the resumption of consular services in Havana, including the processing of non-immigrant visas. (https://www.radiohc.cu/en/noticias/nacionales/304463-us-embassy-in-havana-to-start-processing-immigrant-visas) Last April, migration talks were held between Cuba and the United States to review compliance with bilateral agreements and the mutual commitment to guarantee a regular, safe, and orderly migration.

Newsline: Top Cuba Diplomat Urges U.S. to End Sanctions Now

One day after the world delivered a near-unanimous rebuke of long-standing U.S. sanctions against his country for the 30th time in a row, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla defended his country’s track record at a time of economic turmoil in Cuba, which faces basic supply shortages that he also blamed on an embargo that was only tightened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He said Cuba was open to discussing any bilateral issue with the U.S. except for the Communist-led island’s internal affairs, which he asserted was a matter of national sovereignty and independence. Far from being a state sponsor of terrorism, Cuba, he argued, was a friendly neighbor prepared to work with the U.S. in good faith on a range of common issue. Despite the bad blood between the two governments, he said it was within Biden’s power to remove at least some of the harshest measures against Cuba with the stroke of a pen. (https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-top-cuba-diplomat-urges-biden-end-sanctions-nowworld-agrees-1757164) In a direct appeal, Cuba’s top diplomat urged the Biden administration, U.S. policymakers and the public to rethink a policy that he argued was responsible not only for the suffering of everyday Cubans but also a deterioration in Washington’s relationship with the international community. This was especially the case in Latin America, he noted, where a new wave of leftist leaders was expected to shore up ties with Havana, leaving Washington as isolated as ever in its own hemisphere.

Newsline: Top Cuban diplomat pledges to negotiate with the United States

Cuba’s top diplomat said his country’s officials have no choice but to engage the United States in negotiations to normalize relations, despite a decade of diplomatic whiplash and mixed messages from Washington. In an interview with The Hill, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla responded to a question posed by former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes on whether Cuban officials would “ever, ever negotiate anything with America ever again after this?” “We will have to,” said Rodríguez Parrilla, who was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. “We will have to, first, because there is a historical trend that will, at some point, force us to reestablish dialogue and lift the blockade.” (https://news.yahoo.com/top-cuban-diplomat-negotiate-united-100000389.html) After a historic and controversial push to normalize relations between Washington and Havana under former President Obama, the Trump administration did an about-face, most famously adding Cuba to a list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Biden administration, though less hawkish than the Trump administration, has not taken major steps to normalize relations, including keeping Cuba on the terrorism watchlist.

Cuba slams US over shooting attack on embassy in Washington

Cuba’s foreign minister lashed out at the Trump administration for “complacent silence” following a shooting at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC, and for trying to thwart Cuban efforts to battle the coronavirus. “In the midst of the pandemic, the Secretary of State Mr. [Mike] Pompeo is constantly advocating against Cuban medical cooperation and slandered Cuban medical doctors instead of saying one word about the terrorist attack that happened a few blocks not only from the White House but from the State Department,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla told CNN in an interview. (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/12/americas/cuba-us-embassy-attack-parilla-intl/index.html) Rodriguez Parrilla said the US government has shown little cooperation following the incident in April when a man opened fire on the Embassy, riddling the front of the building with gunfire. He said the State Department has been slow to share information and that senior administration officials failed to condemn the attack. “The attacker confessed that he aimed to kill. It’s a very serious issue,” Rodriguez Parrilla told CNN. “Can you imagine that which would be the US reaction in a similar case of a similar attack against an American embassy anywhere in the world?” But the US State Department said that despite political differences, Cuban diplomats are safe in the US. “The Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service works closely with law enforcement agencies to protect and maintain the security and safety of foreign missions in the United States,” said a statement issued by the US Embassy in Havana on Tuesday.

Newsline: Cuba calls attack on Washington embassy terrorism

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel called a gun assault last week on its embassy in Washington a “terrorist attack”, while U.S. court papers said the suspected gunman was a psychotic Cuban emigre who heard voices. (https://news.yahoo.com/cuba-calls-attack-washington-embassy-171852526.html) There were no injuries in the attack last Thursday, but gunshots riddled the facade and some penetrated the building. Police arrested Alexander Alazo, 42, at around 2 a.m. after he fired an AK-47-style semi-automatic rifle 32 times at the embassy, according a memorandum filed on Sunday in support of pretrial detention. Alazo told investigators he would have shot the ambassador if he had come out because he was “the enemy”. Voices in his head had told him to protect his family from what he believed were Cuban organized crime groups affiliated with the Cuban government that he claimed were following them and wanted to harm them. He admitted he had been prescribed antipsychotic medication in March but did not fully comply with the prescription, a fact U.S. state prosecutors argued “strongly weighs against his release” before trial. “I must denounce the terrorist attack … and demand from the United States government a thorough and swift investigation, harsh sanctions and security measures and guarantees for our diplomatic missions,” Diaz-Canel told a virtual summit of the non-aligned movement early on Monday. Last week, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said a dozen diplomats and workers had been in the embassy at the time of the attack, which was recorded on surveillance video. Rodriguez said hostility toward Cuba by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump fomented violence. The U.S. State Department did not immediately reply to request for comment.

Newsline: Cuban ambassador defends response to pandemic

Cuba’s representative in the United States told a Tampa audience this week that the island nation is fighting two pandemics, the coronavirus and an economic isolation imposed by the Trump administration that is hampering efforts to deal with the crisis. Still, Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas pointed to steps Cuba is taking to stop the spread of coronavirus and dismissed images on social media that claim to show squalid conditions in hospitals and angry crowds protesting poorly stocked food stores. (https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/04/29/cuban-ambassador-speaking-at-tampa-gathering-defends-response-to-pandemic/) “Part of the victory is the people are informed and aware of what is going on,” Cabañas said, speaking from Washington, D.C., to an online gathering of the speakers’ series Café con Tampa. The series is coordinated by Bill Carlson, Tampa City Council member and an advocate for engagement with Cuba.

Newsline: Suspect arrested after shooting at Cuban Embassy in Washington

Someone opened fire using an assault rifle outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington early Thursday and was arrested, authorities said. The gunfire broke out around 2 a.m. outside the embassy in northwest Washington. Metropolitan Police Department officers were called to the scene after neighbors reported hearing gunshots, authorities said. (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/suspect-arrested-after-shooting-cuban-embassy-assault-rifle-n1196271) Officers found the suspect with an assault rifle and took the person into custody without incident, police said. Investigators say they believe the person had been shooting toward the embassy, though details about any potential motivation remained unclear. The suspect’s identity and the charges against the suspect were not immediately known. No injuries were reported.

Newsline: New details on US diplomat’s mysterious brain injury linked to ‘sonic attacks’

Doctors shared details about what happened to the brain of one diplomat who may be a victim of the so-called sonic attacks that have impacted dozens of people in Cuba and China. Researchers revealed the results of an independent brain analysis of Mark Lenzi, a US diplomat who was stationed in Guangzhou, China, in 2017 when he started experiencing unexplained symptoms including headache, difficulty reading, irritability, as well as memory and sleep problems. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/19/health/sonic-attack-brain-study/) Among the MRI findings: 20 brain regions with “abnormally low” volumes, including regions involved in memory, emotional regulation and motor skills that may correlate with Lenzi’s symptoms, doctors said. Of the 107 regions they looked at, they also found three that had bigger volumes. They said the parts of the brain with low volume may reflect brain injury, and those with high volumes could be evidence that other parts of his brain have compensated. These tests, however, do not reveal the cause. That remains a mystery. The “sonic attacks,” as they have come to be called, are first known to have befallen US government personnel in Havana, Cuba, starting in late 2016. The US State Department announced last year it was looking into similar events in China, expanding a health alert there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the medical details in both locations as “very similar and entirely consistent” with each other. A study published in July also found brain variations among 40 US government personnel affected by the events in Cuba, when compared to 48 healthy adults. The variations included some measures of volume and relationships among different brain regions. However, the authors of the earlier study noted that the clinical importance of the findings was uncertain, and they didn’t have earlier MRIs of the patients to compare with what their brains looked like before the incidents. Moreover, these patterns didn’t fit a clear picture of a specific disorder, according to the authors.