CUBA BRIEF: 24 U.S. govt workers confirmed victims of Cuba attacks. Congressman calls on State Dept to investigate attacks

The drama on the sonic attacks on American diplomats continues. Congressman Wilson (R. SC) calls for the State Department to investigate. The Associated Press has just reported that there are two more cases.

Standard-Examiner, October 20, 2017

US says 2 more American victims confirmed in Cuba attacks

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two more U.S. government workers have been confirmed to be victims of invisible attacks in Cuba, the United States said Friday, raising the total to 24.

The tally has inched upward since the U.S. first disclosed in August that embassy workers and their families in Havana had been harmed by unexplained, mysterious incidents affecting their health. The Trump administration later said it had determined the incidents were “specific attacks” that are ongoing, but investigators have not yet identified a weapon or a culprit.

The disclosure that 24 people have been harmed suggests that nearly half the American government workers serving in Cuba have been attacked. The U.S. had roughly 50 personnel posted to the Embassy in Havana until earlier this month when, in response to the attacks, the State Department pulled out roughly 60 percent of the staff. Yet some of the victims were spouses of U.S. workers, and several were temporary workers who rotated in to Cuba for short-term stints.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the two additional victims “do not reflect new attacks.”

“The assessments are based on medical evaluations of personnel who were affected by incidents earlier this year,” Nauert said.

Nauert said the most recent attack is still believed to have been near the end of August. A U.S. official told The Associated Press previously that attack occurred Aug. 21. The official wasn’t authorized to disclose the exact date and requested anonymity.

“Our personnel are receiving comprehensive medical evaluations and care,” Nauert said. “We can’t rule out additional new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community.”

The United States “can’t rule out additional new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community,” Nauert added.

The attacks started last year and affected American diplomats, intelligence officials and their spouses in Havana. They began in staffers’ homes in Havana, but the AP disclosed in September that they later occurred in hotels as well. The attacks in hotels began after the U.S. complained to President Raul Castro’s government, and Cuban security officials dramatically increased patrols around the U.S. workers’ homes, officials said.

Cuba has vehemently denied any knowledge or involvement in the attacks, emphasizing its eagerness to cooperate with the investigation being led by the FBI. The United States hasn’t blamed Cuba or any other actor of perpetrating the attacks, but has faulted Castro’s government for failing to stop them, arguing it’s Cuba’s responsibility under international law to protect foreign diplomats on its soil.

“I do believe Cuba’s responsible. I do believe that,” President Donald Trump said last week. “And it’s a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible.”

A few Canadians were also affected by the attacks, which caused a variety of physical symptoms. The U.S. has said that vestibular, cognitive, vision and other problems have been reported by the victims, with some experiencing memory and balance issues, headaches and ringing in the ears. The union that represents American diplomats has said some have been diagnosed with permanent hearing loss and mild traumatic brain injury, known as concussions.

Some of the cases involved mysterious, blaring sounds that led to investigators to consider whether a sonic weapon was involved. The AP last week released a recording of what some American workers heard.

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at . Follow the AP’s coverage of the Cuba attacks at .


Time, October 19, 2017

‘It Really, Really Frightened Me’: Tourist Thinks He Was Hit by Sonic Attacks in Cuba Years Ago

By Josh Lederman / AP

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Chris Allen’s phone started buzzing as word broke that invisible attacks in Cuba had hit a U.S. government worker at Havana’s Hotel Capri. Allen’s friends and family had heard an eerily similar story from him before.

The tourist from South Carolina had cut short his trip to Cuba two years earlier after numbness spread through all four of his limbs within minutes of climbing into bed at the same hotel where American government workers were later targeted. Those weren’t the only parallels. Convinced the incidents must be related, Allen joined a growing list of private U.S. citizens asking the same alarming but unanswerable question: Were we victims, too?

It may be that Allen’s unexplained illness, which lingered for months and bewildered a half-dozen neurologists in the United States, bears no connection to whatever has harmed at least 22 American diplomats, intelligence agents and their spouses over the last year. But for Cuba and the U.S., it matters all the same.

It is cases like Allen’s that illustrate the essential paradox of Havana’s mystery: If you can’t say what the attacks are, how can you say what they’re not?

With no answers about the weapon, culprit or motive, the U.S. and Cuba have been unable to prevent the attacks from becoming a runaway crisis. As the United States warns its citizens to stay away from Cuba, there are signs that spring breakers, adventure-seekers and retirees already are reconsidering trips to the island. After years of cautious progress, U.S.-Cuban relations are now at risk of collapsing entirely.

That delicate rapprochement hadn’t even started to take hold in April 2014 when Allen felt numbness overtake his body on his first night in the Havana hotel.

“It was so noticeable and it happened so quickly that it was all I could focus on and it really, really frightened me,” said Allen, a 37-year-old who works in finance.

The Associated Press reviewed more than 30 pages of Allen’s medical records, lab results, travel agency records and contemporaneous emails, some sent from Havana. They tell the story of an American tourist who fell ill under baffling circumstances in the Cuban capital, left abruptly, then spent months and thousands of dollars undergoing medical tests as his symptoms continued to recur.


The State, October 20, 2017

SC’s Joe Wilson calls on State Dept. to probe Cuba attacks

By Meg Kinnard

Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson on Thursday called on the U.S. State Department to investigate a bizarre string of attacks on diplomats in Havana, urging Secretary Rex Tillerson to get to the bottom of unexplained, invisible attacks that have hurt Americans on Cuban soil.

“In light of these serious attacks on U.S. embassy staff, we urge the State Department to immediately investigate the incidents and figure out what is going on in Havana,” Wilson, a South Carolina Republican and House Foreign Affairs Committee member, wrote.

Nearly two-dozen American diplomats, intelligence agents and their spouses in Havana have been harmed in the attacks over the last year. The State Department has said 22 Americans are “medically confirmed” to be affected, although the number could grow.

The symptoms and circumstances reported have varied widely, making some hard to tie conclusively to the attacks. The incidents began last year and are considered “ongoing,” with an attack reported as recently as late August.

Wilson’s letter called on Tillerson to do what the State Department and the U.S. government have already been doing for the better part of a year. The FBI is leading an investigation to determine what and who is attacking U.S. personnel and how to stop it, the State Department has said. That investigation also includes the State Department’s Diplomatic Security division, among other agencies, The Associated Press has reported. The FBI has traveled to Havana with advanced equipment and has ripped open walls to try to find any device that could be responsible — the first time the FBI has been allowed to operate openly on Cuban soil in more than half a century.

President Donald Trump has blamed the island nation, even though Cuba’s government has repeatedly denied both involvement in and knowledge of the incidents. On Monday, Trump said, “I do believe Cuba’s responsible. I do believe that,” offering no new details about what type of weapon might have caused damage ranging from permanent hearing loss to mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion.

The State Department has said that despite the lengthy investigation and FBI visits to the island, the U.S. still can’t identify either a culprit or a device. It also wasn’t clear whether Trump meant Cuba was behind the attacks or merely shared the onus because it failed to keep Americans safe on its soil. In his letter, Wilson wrote the allegations raise concerns about not only the U.S. diplomatic staff but also “about the future health and well-being of American citizens visiting the island.”

At least one tourist has reported experiencing an unexplained illness that lingered for months following a 2014 stay in the same hotel where American government workers were later targeted. Chris Allen, from South Carolina, told AP that he experienced numbness that spread through his limbs within minutes of climbing into bed.

The State Department has received reports of several citizens who visited Cuba and say they’ve developed symptoms similar to what embassy victims experienced. The government has said it can’t verify their accounts, but hasn’t indicated it’s trying hard to do so. Asked if anyone is investigating such reports, the State Department said its advice to concerned tourists is to “consult a medical professional.”

The State Department has avoided casting blame on Cuban President Raul Castro’s government for the attacks that began last year and have eluded an FBI investigation. In a cable sent Monday to all overseas U.S. diplomatic posts, the State Department said it has “not assigned blame to the Government of Cuba.”

“We are still investigating these attacks and do not know who or what is behind them. We continue to exchange information with Cuban investigators,” said the diplomatic cable. Marked “sensitive,” the cable laid out the rationale for the steps the U.S. has taken in response to the attacks, including pulling more than half its diplomats from Cuba and kicking out 15 Cuban diplomats in the United States.

The U.S. and Cuba re-opened diplomatic relations in 2015 after a half-century of estrangement, but the attacks on Americans and steps taken by Washington in response have started to unravel those budding ties.


Diario de Cuba, October 20, 2017

Without Castroism, how many US tourists would be visiting Cuba?

Roberto Álvarez Quiñones | Los Ángeles | 20 de Octubre de 2017

The question in the title is one that the newspaper Juventud Rebelde should ask itself. A few days ago it published a bitter complaint leveled by the regime: because of the “blockade,” and restrictions on travel, Cuba fails to take in $1.5 billion a year in tourism revenue; between April 2016 and June 2017, it supposedly lost 1.702 billion.

The question that begs for an answer, then, and which should be posed to Raúl Castro, his military cronies, and Juventud Rebelde, is how many US tourists the island could be welcoming if he and his brother had not implemented Communism on it.

Fidel Castro planted in Cuba’s national consciousness, with considerable success, the fallacy that the US “blockade” is responsible for all the country’s hardships. By repeating this lie so often, many ended up believing it was actually true. This is a law of propaganda and psychology that the Nazis’ Goebbels exploited very ably.

Castro I, failing to follow through on his allegedly socialist, democratic and pluralist agenda, or to hold elections, or to restore the Constitution, resorted to the claim that “History will absolve me.” He only honored the promise made to Celia Sánchez in the Sierra Maestra, in June of 1958: “When this war is over, a much longer and bigger war will begin for me: the war that I am going to wage against them [the Americans]. I realize that this will be my true destiny. “

By quashing the private sector and imposing a Marxist-Leninist system, the commander crushed the only force that creates wealth in this world. And Cuba, one of the nations with the highest standards of living in Latin America before 1959, lost the capacity to support itself.

The Cuban economy, absolutely parasitic, became a kind of mendicant, kept afloat only by money given to it. It survived thanks to subsidies, oil and cash; and, now, with remittances from “enemy” territory.

Moreover, the commercial and financial embargo was provoked by Castroism: it was a response, in 1960, to the expropriation of American property. Food and medicine were first excluded, and in February 1962 the administration of John F. Kennedy made it comprehensive.

Castro I needed an “enemy” at all costs

Upon confiscating US property, Castro I cared little that in 1959 73% of Cuban exports had been received by the US, and that 70% of Cuba’s imports came from its nearby neighbor, only 140 km away. The dictator had his project all ready to convert to Cuba into a satellite of the USSR, to be able to remain in power ad infinitum.

Whether or not American intelligence knew this, or whether it was a mistake for Kennedy to impose the total commercial embargo or not, is another story. The truth is that the first blow was dealt by Fidel Castro, and Washington responded. Of course, this is not what they teach in Cuban schools.

More than a few Cubans thought – and continue to believe – that the embargo was a mistake, for it gave Castro the pretext to blame the US for his Communist, totalitarian disaster. But, upon closer scrutiny, it is easy to see that under Castro I’s hare-brained “revolutionary” project, there never was any room for a normal relationship with the United States. In fact, attacking it was the central Castro-Guevarist objective.

The strategy of the Cuban dictator – and his entire political philosophy – required constant confrontation. Mussolini, whom he admired, had already demonstrated this tactic. When there is no real enemy for the “cause,” one must be invented.

It is inevitable to wonder what would have happened in Cuba if the embargo had not been imposed in 1962. I think that, in any case, Castro I would have provoked it, or perhaps something worse, because he needed a powerful and relentless “enemy,” and for another three reasons:

  1. Normal relations with the US would have prevented, or made it extremely difficult for him, to export the revolution, to “Cubanize” Latin America (what his brother Raúl is trying to do in Venezuela).
  2. Even if Cuba had been able to trade with the US and receive loans, Castroism’s appalling lack of productivity would have generated very few goods to export to the United States and pay for the massive imports of everything (including food) that the country needed, because it produced so little, and items of such poor quality. That is, the model established by Castro I needed to be subsidized, and only the USSR was willing to do this. And they did so not to promote “proletarian internationalism,” or any other nonsense alleged by propaganda, but rather because Moscow wanted to have a platform in the Caribbean to expand its influence and interests in Latin America, and to spy on Washington, right under its nose.
  3. When the Moscow-Havana political-ideological alliance became entrenched, the Cold War was expanded to Latin America. The Cuban regime had to square off against Washington, politically and diplomatically. Because it had to pay Moscow for its subsidies, and because that was the dictator’s central aim.

It was not that Cuba fell into the hands of Moscow because of Washington’s ineptitude. Rather, Castro really had to subordinate himself to the USSR in order to savor the “honey of power”, as he called it, applied to others.

If the embargo had not been imposed, the centralized Stalinist-Guevarist economic system, implemented in 1961 before the embargo was imposed, would not have had the accommodation capacity to receive millions of Americans. The revenue obtained through socialized tourism would not have been able to sustain the Cuban economy, which received Soviet subsidies of up to 5 billion dollars annually.

Other questions: Would the US have paid 45 cents for a pound of sugar imported from Cuba when the price on the world market was just 4? Would it have given the regime the 115 billion USD that Moscow lavished on Cuba between 1961 and 1991? Would it have given the country billions of dollars in armaments of all kinds, including airplanes, tanks, ships, rockets, vehicles, etc.? And, in the 80s would the US have given the Castros an additional three million tons of oil per year, which it was able to re-export, making more money off it than from its sugar exports?

All this having been said, what kind of “blockade” are we really talking about today? Cuba now depends more than ever on the money that comes to it from the USA, after the drop in Venezuelan subsidies. Between remittances, packages, and travel, in 2016 more than 7 billion dollars flowed from the US to the island, a figure that surpassed Venezuelan subsidies, tripled tourism revenues, and nearly doubled the value of Cuban exports.

Today the US is one of Cuba’s main trading partners, and one of its largest food suppliers. Since 2000, the island has imported $4.636 billion worth of rice, frozen chicken, pork, dehydrated milk, corn, flour, soybeans, apples, wheat, preserves, etc. from its neighbor.

And there is one last uncomfortable question that Juventud Rebelde and the dictatorship should be made to answer: what would happen to Castroism and Cuba if the US really decreed a total embargo – as the international community did with the South African regime – and did not sell it anything, or permit remittances, packages, or travel to the island?

If due to Trump’s policy, or new sanctions in response to the attacks on US diplomats,the flow of tourists from the “empire” to the island has dipped, the question is the same: would the same thing happen if there were no Castroism in Cuba?



14ymedio, October 19, 2017

José Martí from New York, Without a Visa and With Mistakes

By Yoani Sanchez

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14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 October 2017 – We see him leaning over, a lost look in his eyes. He is 

mortally wounded and the bronze captures the second that separates him from immortality. The replica of the José Martí statue that has been in New York’s Central Park since 1950, now has a place in Havana. On Thursday afternoon, under an intensely blue sky, we can see his contours sparkling and the pedestal shine. Also noteworthy are the unpardonable mistakes on the commemorative plaque.

City is spelled ”cuidad”– similar to the word for “care” – instead of “ciudad.” Nacío – an ugly attempt at “he was born” – misplaces the accent and almost flirts with “I was born,” but in fact is not a word at all. These are two of the “pearls” carved into the shining black granite that, as of this week, thousands of Cubans and foreign visitors will read on the monument. The devils of misspelling and lack of grammatical rigor have played a trick on the man who loved words and cultivated them with a venerable passion.

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More than fifteen feet high and weighing three tons, the piece has been placed a few steps from the old presidential palace. Its lovely lines are a copy of the work conceived by the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington that stands in a small area at the southern end of the New York City park, along with monuments to Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín.

The mistake-plagued inscription on the Havana piece – no one has clarified whether it came with the statue or is a local production – is an insult to the poet of Versos Sencillos, Simple Verses. To write on a piece of paper a phrase that has not been carefully reviewed is one thing, but to sculpt it in stone is to make a monument to improvisation and to display a huge disdain for the language.

Some will say that they are only small details, but a graduate in Philosophy and Literature deserves – at the very least – that a good editor check his lines.

Nor does the equestrian statue come at an easy time. Forged in Philadelphia, it was carried to the Island in the midst of a growing escalation of tensions with the United States. The figure that should represent the confluence between two nations, as Martí did during his life, is now a reminder of a diplomatic meltdown that fell short and of a time that was irretrievably lost.

Thus, during its placement there was no lack of jokes from the nearest neighbors about whether the man we Cubans call the “Apostle” had asked for a visa to enter the country. The humor never fails, nor the sad jest that evokes the difficulties that Cubans currently face to travel to their northern neighbor, after the scandal of acoustic attacks about which there are more questions than certainties.

As an irony of life, one of the workers who finished some details around the monument proudly displayed a T-shirt with the banner of stars and stripes. As with the spelling mistakes, no one saw it, no official came to check on what was going on.

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