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Archive for Cuba

Newsline: Colombian intelligence reportedly spied on Russian and Cuban diplomats

Colombian intelligence carried out OUT surveillance operations against Russian and Cuban diplomats stationed in Colombia between 2016 and 2019, according to media reports that surfaced earlier this week. The reports claim that Colombia’s National Intelligence Directorate (DNI) was behind the operations, which involved physical, as well as electronic, surveillance. (https://intelnews.org/tag/russian-embassy-in-colombia/) One of the operations was reportedly codenamed CATEDRA, and targeted three senior staff members of the Russian embassy in the Colombian capital Bogota. In addition to the diplomats themselves, DNI agents allegedly spied on the diplomats’ spouses and their children. In some cases, DNI agents disguised themselves as “street vendors” in order to spy on the homes of the diplomats. The DNI also spied on at least 10 Cuban diplomats and other members of the embassy of Cuba in Bogota, according to the same reports. The operation, codenamed MATIAS, investigated alleged “Cuban interference” in Colombia, and took place while the Cuban government was hosting peace talks between the Colombian government of then-president Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the country’s largest militant groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). According to the reports, the DNI recruited a Cuban embassy worker, instructing her to “install [surveillance] devices and extract information from the building where control targets [were] located”. This eventually enabled the DNI to gain “access to security cameras and rooms throughout the building” of the Cuban embassy, the reports claim. Operations MATIAS and CATEDRA were reportedly concluded in 2019.

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.

Newsline: US embassy in Cuba to resume ‘full visa processing’ in 2023

The US embassy in Cuba said it would resume “full immigrant visa processing” next year for the first time since 2017, when the mission was closed over alleged sonic attacks on diplomatic staff. The announcement came as Cuba is experiencing an unprecedented exodus of undocumented migrants amid the communist country’s worst economic crisis in 30 years due to ramped-up US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. “This change will… eliminate the need for Cubans applying for immigrant visas in family preference categories to travel outside of Cuba to Georgetown, Guyana for their interviews,” the embassy said in a statement. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-embassy-cuba-resume-full-220731586.html) The United States evacuated its diplomatic staff and their families in 2017 after at least two dozen people suffered brain injuries that resembled concussion, but with no exterior signs of trauma. The embassy closure made obtaining a visa an expensive nightmare for Cubans, who now had to travel to a third country, at their own cost, to put in an application. Many have sought to make it to US shores even without a visa, many trying their luck without travel documents on long, dangerous journeys by sea or by road via Central America. According to US border police, a record 198,000 Cubans illegally entered the United States in the last 11 months. The US embassy resumed limited visa services in Havana in May, but announced “full resumption” from early 2023, enabled by an increase in embassy personnel.

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.