CubaBrief: Cuban artist gives away his work in streets of Havana.

CBS reports on a visit to Havana by American diplomats this week. CBC should not be surprised that Washington holds Havana responsible for the physical safety of diplomats stationed on the island, including Canadians and Americans. There are now 26 diplomats and19 American citizens with similar symptoms.  

Daniel Runde, speaking for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is right to express concern. Havana charges that the United States has manipulated the health incidents “for political purposes.” Havana should know. The regime’s disinformation about Cuba’s low infant mortality rates hides the fact that Cuban doctors encourage women facing problem pregnancies to abort; thus only the healthier babies are born.  At the Center for a Free Cuba we continue to receive credible reports of many dengue cases. CBS should look into the dengue outbreak and alert travelers not to drink Cuban water and to carry mosquito nets in their Cuba journey. A State Department health advisory is needed.

Caracas’ “El Nuevo Pais” reports that Cuba’s constitutional reform aims to protect the Castro family’s interests.  “The imminent reform of the Cuban Constitution, led by the ex-ruler Raúl Castro in Cuba’s unicameral Parliament is a maneuver to “legalize the military regime” and “protect the power of the Castros” according to Cuban exile groups. To read the full article in Spanish please turn to 

ALSO in this CUBABrief, Artistic freedom Cuban style: a persecuted Cuban artist paints on debris and gives away his work.

Cuban artist gives away his work in streets of Havana

Feeling misunderstood, artist turns to paint on debris

By Hatzel Vela – Cuba Correspondent, Andrea Torres – Digital Reporter/Producer

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HAVANA – Cuban artist Yulier Rodriguez said “Regalos,” his new art project  in the streets of Havana, was born out of his experience with government censorship. 

Rodriguez decided to use debris from decaying buildings, because he says they represent the decay of Cuban society. He has been searching for pieces with a flat surface. 

Rodriguez’s new project so far has more than 50 pieces, and he has given them all away. He said his hope is to create a dialogue. 

“Any person can find it on the street and can collect it,” Rodriguez said.

He said his inspiration comes from his life experiences in Cuba. Some pieces focus on violence, fear, sadness and misery. He said the honesty of his work is rare among the artists that the Cuban government has legitimized.

In a previous project, Rodriguez used glass bottles to roll up copies of his signed sketches and disposed of them out on the flooded streets after Hurricane Irma. He wanted to use his art to comfort those who would find them. 

Cuban authorities recently detained Rodriguez for 36 hours and ordered him to erase all of his graffiti in a week. That never happened. He said the harassment has not stopped, and it wouldn’t surprise him if he is detained again.  

There are other graffiti artists who use their art to express how they have felt about their treatment in Cuba. 

Artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado served 10 months in prison over an installation that involved two pigs with the names of Raul Castro and Fidel Castro, and he was later arrested after he shared a video of graffiti mocking Fidel Castro’s death.  

Artist Tania Bruguera was arrested and released three times over a public performance about freedom of expression. She has had exhibits at numerous museums and galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, since 1986.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara is a multimedia artist who was detained last year. He and his partner, the curator Yanelys Nunez, worked on a digital project called “The Museum of Dissidence in Cuba.”


By STEVE DORSEY CBS NEWS July 24, 2018, 2:45 PM

Top State officials visit Cuba, probe new health “attacks”

Three senior State Department officials made an unannounced trip to Havana, Cuba, amid new concerns “attacks” injuring 26 U.S. government personnel and their families may be continuing.

Acting Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs Francisco Palmieri, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Management William Todd, and Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff traveled to Havana “to visit embassy personnel in light of new health attacks against U.S. diplomats at Embassy Havana,” a State Department spokesperson told CBS News.

They left Cuba Tuesday afternoon.

“The trip is an opportunity for our senior officials to gain deeper insight into the unique challenges posed by these attacks and their impact on U.S. operations on the ground,” the official said.

The State Department announced in June that two more U.S. diplomats had been injured at a diplomatic residence in Cuba in May.

“These are the first medically-confirmed cases in Havana since August 2017,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement June 28.

But a source close to the U.S. government’s investigation into the case told CBS News they weren’t surprised by the new incidents. The U.S. has still not publicly blamed any group for the incidents, but still says it’s holding Cuba responsible for the safety of its diplomats.

Victims continue to receive treatment at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S.

The State Department says 19 private American citizens have reported similar symptoms following travel to Cuba.

At the same time, Congress is pressing U.S. government officials for answers in the investigation.

A spokesperson for chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, says the State Department Accountability Review Board has “recently completed” a report on the case, as the committee awaits a briefing on it.

“There should be additional hearings in Congress about this,” says Daniel Runde, senior vice president at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Runde worries about more attacks on U.S. diplomats.

“This needs to stop. This is outrageous,” Runde told CBS News. “I think it is a significant danger.”

Cuba has denied any responsibility and has said the U.S. has manipulated the “alleged health incidents” for political purposes.

The Trump administration’s decision to nearly shutter its embassy in Havana has nearly halted consular services on the island. The U.S. also expelled 15 Cuban embassy officials.

Meanwhile, the State Department is also probing another incident in China—where a U.S. government employee in Guangzhou “reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.” The person was later diagnosed with symptoms similar to Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.

Other U.S. diplomats and their family members have also been evacuated from China for medical evaluations in the U.S., including Guangzhou diplomatic security officer Mark Lenzi.

“Therapy is going slow, but doctors and I are seeing improvement,” he told CBS News Monday.

While the case in China appears similar, the State Department has stopped short of saying it’s connected to the incidents in Cuba.

It’s been nearly a year since the State Department first publicly revealed American diplomats began experiencing ‘a variety of physical symptoms’ in Havana, Cuba, since late 2016. CBS News Radio broke the story August 9.

Some victims reported hearing strange sounds in their homes and hotel rooms—and were later diagnosed with signs of concussions, along with hearing loss and other symptoms.

A team of medical specialists from the University of Pennsylvania who studied the victims concluded their injuries “raise concern about a new mechanism for possible acquired brain injury from an exposure of unknown origin.”

Some Canadian diplomats and their families also reported unusual symptoms in Havana. But the Canadian government has not called the incidents “attacks.” However, Global Affairs Canada declared its mission to Cuba an “unaccompanied post,” barring family members of diplomats from being stationed there.

An appeal by CBS News to the Canadian government to release public records about the incidents was unsuccessful.

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