CUBA BRIEF: Canadian diplomats also targeted in Cuba. Members of Congress react to Havana’s hostility towards American diplomats.

CubaBrief: The University of Miami Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies released this afternoon an urgent appeal on behalf of a Cuban university student expelled from his school after he visited Florida and spoke at the University of Miami. According to Professor Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute, “The deteriorating situation at Cuban universities should be a matter of concern, especially to American academics engaged in exchange programs with schools on the island.”  Dr. Suchlicki asked that “polite expressions of concern about Felix Llerena be sent to General Raul Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba.”

Yesterday, we reported on the expulsion of two Cuban diplomats by the United States because American diplomats in Cuba were allegedly targeted by sonic emissions that resulted in hearing loss and headaches while stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Today, The Globe and Mail said that according to the Canadian government Canadian diplomats stationed in Cuba had also been targeted. A “[f]ormer Canadian ambassador to Cuba James Bartleman said he is not surprised by this week’s reports, given his experience as envoy from 1981 to 1983. Halfway through his posting, a series of strange events occurred: His family dog was poisoned, a trade officer had a dead rat nailed to their door and the embassy started receiving threatening phone calls,” reported The Globe and Mail.  

The Miami Herald ran a follow up article quoting Members of Congress who reminded the Administration about Havana’s hostility to Washington and its disregard for basic diplomatic practices. Others were surprised and speculated on the timing of the incident, as if those “active measures” as they were called in the Soviet Union were a new development. A former Canadian ambassador to Cuba quoted in The Global Mail article we are reprinting “is not surprised.”

Finally fifty some Cuban human rights and opposition leaders signed a statement of solidarity with the Venezuelan people: “Castroism is rehearsing and applying all its repressive technology in Venezuela.”  The statement, issued in Havana, was published by Diario de Cuba.

August 11, 2017

For Immediate Distribution

Media Contact:  
305-284-CUBA

Urgent appeal on behalf of Cuban student who spoke at the University of Miami: Felix Llerena, 20, expelled from Cuban university and threatened with imprisonment.

Felix Llerena, 20, a Cuban university student who spoke at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami last March has been warned by the Cuban police that he might be sent to prison. Felix Llerena is a human rights and religious freedom activist and is involved in the “Latin American Youth Network for Democracy”, coordinator of the “Patmos Institute”, the religious freedom advocacy organization, and a participant in the “Cuba Decide” campaign.

When he returned to the island he was detained for several hours at the airport and several books, and flash drives were confiscated. He was summoned to the police station where he and his mother were threatened and recently he was told by the police that if he were to continue expressing criticisms of the regime they would send him to prison.

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki, the director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies said that “the case of Felix Llerena is one of several recent efforts targeting students and professors at Cuban universities.”

“The deteriorating situation at Cuban universities should be a matter of concern, especially to American academics engaged in exchange programs with schools on the island,” he said.

“The persecution, repression and punishment of students and teachers is also a violation of UNESCO agreements of which Havana is a signatory,” Dr. Suchlicki said. Polite expressions of concern about Felix Llerena should be sent to General Raul Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba.

 

The Globe and Mail, August 11, 2017

Canadian, U.S. diplomats in Cuba suffer unexplained hearing loss

By Michelle Zilio

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Canadian diplomats and their families in Cuba have experienced unexplained hearing loss and headaches that are believed to have been caused by a “sonic emission,” according to the federal government.

The disclosure comes after reports that a group of U.S. diplomats began suffering from unexplained hearing loss in the fall of 2016; officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case told the Associated Press that some of the affected diplomats were forced to return to the United States as a result of their symptoms. Global Affairs Canada said it is working with the United States and Cuba to determine the cause of the strange symptoms.

“The health and safety of our employees abroad is a top priority for Canada. We are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working – including with U.S. and Cuban authorities – to ascertain the cause,” said Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Natasha Nystrom.

The Canadian government did not say when diplomats and their families experienced the symptoms. Ms. Nystrom said that the government doesn’t have any reason to believe Canadian tourists and other visitors could be affected.

It’s not clear if the symptoms experienced by the Canadian and American diplomats were related, or if they were deliberately targeted.

Speaking on background, a Canadian government official said the hearing loss and headaches were believed to have been caused by some sort of “sonic emission,” but did not offer any more details. The official did not know if the affected diplomatic personnel and their families suffered any permanent health problems as a result, and could not say how many individuals were affected for privacy reasons.

A months-long U.S. investigation found that a group of American diplomats were attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been emitted either inside or outside their homes, according to the AP report. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from Washington on May 23.

After 54 years of severed diplomatic relations, the United States reopened its Havana embassy in 2015 as a part of former president Barack Obama’s effort to restore ties with Cuba. Canada helped facilitate talks between the two countries that led to the reestablishment of relations.

Canada established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1945. It was only one of two countries in the hemisphere – the other being Mexico – that did not break relations with the Caribbean nation in the years that followed the Cuban revolution in 1959, according to Global Affairs Canada’s website.

Former Canadian ambassador to Cuba James Bartleman said he is not surprised by this week’s reports, given his experience as envoy from 1981 to 1983. Halfway through his posting, a series of strange events occurred: His family dog was poisoned, a trade officer had a dead rat nailed to their door and the embassy started receiving threatening phone calls. Fed up, he called out the Cuban government.
“I called up the Foreign Ministry and told them to call off their goons,” he said. “I went down there and I really gave them hell.”

“I called up the Foreign Ministry and told them to call off their goons,” he said. “I went down there and I really gave them hell.”

Upon returning to the residence from the Foreign Ministry, everything appeared to be back to normal – there was even a veterinarian waiting at the front door ready to treat Mr. Bartleman’s dog. He says he still doesn’t know why he and his staff were targeted, and that he never forgave the Cuban government.

Another former Canadian diplomat who was once posted in Cuba said they never experienced anything kind of overt harassment or surveillance during their time in the country. The source, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the continuing investigation, said any suggestion that diplomats were purposely targeted is not in sync with the Cuban government he knows.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/cuba-says-it-is-investigating-incidents-concerning-us-diplomats-in-havana/article35934221/

 

 

 The Miami Herald, August 10, 2017

Anti-Castro politicians talk tough on Cuba after suspected attack on U.S. diplomats

By Alex Daugherty

WASHINGTON

As the Trump administration prepares to write new regulations regarding travel to Cuba, Havana and Washington are involved in a diplomatic tug of war that seems straight out of the 1960s.

American diplomats in Cuba left the country after experiencing severe hearing loss attributed to a sonic device, according to U.S. officials. In response, the U.S. government expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington.

The Raúl Castro government vehemently denied any involvement, and there’s chatter the Russians could have been behind it.

“In terms of the timing … if this was an intentional thing by the Cuban government, the timing couldn’t be worse or stranger,” said Collin Laverty, president of a company that arranges group trips to Cuba and is in favor of improved relations with Havana. “Relations were good when Obama was in office. This just seems completely out of context.”

Anti-Castro elements of the U.S. government, including Republicans from Miami, are capitalizing on the latest news as a sign that Havana cannot be trusted, even though it isn’t clear yet that the Cuban government tried to harm U.S. diplomats.

“The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement. “This has not stopped with President Obama’s appeasement.”

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise the Castro regime can’t guarantee the safety of our diplomats,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, said. “The escalation described in these reports is unacceptable and clearly indicates that the previous administration’s policy of unilateral concessions failed to advance U.S. interests.”

“The Castro regime has a long and documented history of acting in a manner adverse to U.S. national interests,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said. “The expulsion of two Castro regime officials sends a clear message that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Rubio played a big role in the Trump administration’s decision earlier this summer to limit some types of travel to Cuba, and the president was eager to please conservative Cubans in Miami who helped him win the 2016 election.

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the incident, and the State Department declined to go into detail about what happened to the diplomats.

“We first heard about these incidents back in late 2016,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “When we talk about medical issues, about Americans, we don’t get into it. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

A White House official said the State Department and White House are “monitoring” the situation in Cuba.

On Wednesday, an unnamed U.S. official told The Associated Press that investigators were looking into the possibility that Russia or another third party could have carried out the attack without the Cuban government’s knowledge.

But Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs under President George W. Bush, said it’s highly unlikely that the Cuban government would not be aware of a sonic device installed at the house of a diplomat.

“I talked to a Cuban defector who was in Cuban intelligence who said that it’s not possible because the Cubans watch all the diplomatic missions, including their allies,” Reich said. “There’s no way the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else could have done this. Frankly, it tells me a lot more of the thinking of the anonymous U.S. diplomat and how wrong they have been on Cuba.”

Laverty, who wants more engagement with Cuba, agreed that it would be hard for a third party to install a device inside a diplomat’s house without the Cuban government knowing, particularly if the device required technical expertise to install.

“I think it would be difficult in the sense that U.S. diplomats’ places of residence are closely monitored and closely protected,” Laverty said.

But Laverty argued that doesn’t necessarily mean the Cuban government is trying to hurt American diplomats.

He said it’s possible that an easy-to-install device could have been left behind at a diplomat’s house by a third party without the Cuban government knowing, or a surveillance device installed by the government may have stopped working properly, causing hearing problems for the diplomats.

On Thursday, the Canadian government said one of its diplomats in Cuba was treated in the hospital after suffering headaches and hearing loss. Canada helped broker talks between the Cuba and the U.S. that led to closer diplomatic relations.

While Laverty and Reich disagree on how to deal with Havana, they both agree that this week’s news will affect the Trump administration’s outlook on Cuba.

“Given the potential for tension and distrust, any kind of minor event between the U.S. and Cuba has the potential to affect the bilateral relationship,” Laverty said. “I’m just hopeful this is some fluke accident.”

Reich said the sonic attack is the 21st century version of harassment of U.S. diplomats in Cuba stretching back decades, including intentionally causing automobile accidents, to send a message.

“What I think it will do is it will reinforce the decision that has already been made that the Obama policy is a mistake and the regulations must be changed.”

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article166590372.html

 

Diario de Cuba, August 10, 2017

Cuban dissidents: ‘Castroism is rehearsing and applying all its repressive technology in Venezuela’

DDC | La Habana | 10 de Agosto de 2017

A large group of the Cuban opposition conveyed its solidarity with Venezuelans who are facing what is effectively a coup d’état attempt by the government of Nicolás Maduro and its latest stratagems to establish authoritarianism in that country.

“The Venezuelan situation just seems to get worse and worse. The coup, camouflaged as a constituent assembly, reveals that el chavismo is going all out. Not leaving a single vestige of democracy is their pending task, even if they have to remove every obstacle standing in their way,” lamented a statement issued by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, the Patriotic Union of Cuba, and the Ladies in White, among other organizations.

In the text the signatories condemn that “Castroism is rehearsing and applying inVenezuela all its repressive technology “and that “the strategy to establish totalitarianism is designed in Havana, and the necessary agents are dispatched to achieve their objectives.”

“The international community has reacted, but perhaps it does not realize that the coup calls for more energetic and immediate responses. Once totalitarianism is established, they atomize all of society and the struggle becomes very arduous. These regimes have shown that they only give in after having devastated their countries,” they warn.

They also identify Raúl Castro, Nicolás Maduro, Diosdado Cabello and Alejandro Castro as “equally” responsible for the “disastrous situation in the sister nation.”

In the group of Cuban dissidents’ view “it is important to mention, as various sources have already pointed out, the responsibility of other Castroist higher-ups, such as Ramiro Valdés, Major General Leonardo Andollo, and Colonel Víctor Gaute, the latter two identified as chiefs of the military and civilian missions, respectively. “

Those who endorsed the document stress that “both regimes must know that all their abuses and violations will have consequences.”

“We express all our solidarity with our Venezuelan brothers, and call on them to close ranks with we Cubans who are facing the same enemies. We are waging a difficult and lopsided battle, but we shall prevail, without any doubt,” they conclude.

The signatories of the statement are, in alphabetical order:

·  Adrián Pérez, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Ailer González, Estado de Sats, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Ángel Moya, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Angel Santiesteban, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Armando Abascal, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Asunción Carrillo, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Benito Fojaco, United Anti-Totalitarian Forum 

·  Berta Soler, Ladies in White, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Carlos Amel Oliva, Patriotic Union of Cuba

·  Carlos Oliva, Patriotic Union of Cuba

·  Carlos Olivera, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Celestino Hernández, United Anti-Totalitarian Forum 

·  Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Egberto Escobedo, Association of Current and Former Political Prisoners, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Ernesto Borges, Party for Christian Democratic Unity

·  Félix Llerena, Instituto Patmos, CubaDecide

·  Félix Navarro, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy.

·  Adrián Pérez, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Francisco Rangel, Organizer of the Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Gorki Águila, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Fariñas, United Anti-Totalitarian Forum 

·  Hugo Damián Prieto, FACOZT, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Iván Hernández, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy, Cuban Independent Trade Union Association

·  Jorge Luis García “Antúnez”, OZT Civic Resistance Front, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  José Daniel Ferrer, Patriotic Union of Cuba

·  José Raúl Rodríguez, United Anti-Totalitarian Forum 

·  Juan Alberto de la Nuez, United Anti-Totalitarian Forum 

·  Katherine Mojena, Patriotic Union of Cuba

·  Leticia Ramos, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  María Cristina Labrada, Ladies in White, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Martha Beatriz Roque, Network of Social Communicators

·  Orlando Rodríguez, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Ovidio Martin, Patriotic Union of Cuba

·  Raúl Borge, Party for Christian Democratic Unity, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

·  Roberto Arsenio López, College of Independent Cuban Pedagogues

·  Rolando Ferrer, United Anti-Totalitarian Forum 

·  Rosa María Paya, CubaDecide

·  Sayli Navarro Álvarez, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Yisabel María Marrero, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

·  Yriade Hernández, Patriotic Union of Cuba

·  Zenén Daniel Cruz, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham Party for Democracy

 

http://www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1502396265_33186.html