CubaBrief: Repression worsens in Cuba. Castro regime rejects Havana Syndrome study. Former US Ambassador to the UN calls for keeping Cuba policy

The Castro regime’s repressive and outlaw behavior continues, and so does the chorus seeking to normalize it, but others are saying not so fast.

Amnesty International on December 15th reported that “members of the San Isidro Movement – the group of Cuban artists, academics, and other alternative thinkers who garnered global attention by staging a rare protest outside the Ministry of Culture on 27 November – as well as independent journalists covering their story, are under frightening levels of surveillance and face arrest by police and state security officials if they leave their houses, which amounts to house arrest.”  

Protesters in Havana, Cuba on the evening of November 27, 2020

Protesters in Havana, Cuba on the evening of November 27, 2020

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International stated “the disturbing level of restrictions to which activists and independent journalists are now being subjected is like something out of an Orwell novel set in Havana’s palm-lined streets. The police presence outside their homes, and constant threat of arrest, is so relentless that activists are essentially being imprisoned in their own homes.”

Supporters of the San Isidro Movement outside the Cuban embassy in Washington DC earlier in December.

Supporters of the San Isidro Movement outside the Cuban embassy in Washington DC earlier in December.

Reuters reported on December 15th that the Castro regime “rejected a U.S. government report concluding that directed radio frequency was the most plausible explanation for mysterious ailments suffered by U.S. diplomats in Havana and elsewhere, calling it more ‘very unlikely’ hypothesis than ‘demonstrated fact.'” Over the past four years Havana has downplayed the injuries suffered by American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba, and this failure to protect.

Ten days earlier on December 5th Ana Swanson and Edward Wong of The New York Times reported that “the most probable cause of a series of mysterious afflictions that sickened American spies and diplomats abroad in the past several years was radiofrequency energy, a type of radiation that includes microwaves, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has concluded in a report.” Swanson and Wong also mention in their article that Canadians had also been targeted in the Havana attacks.

Not mentioned was that Tania Bruguera, a Cuban artist and dissident now targeted for her association with the San Isidro Movement, was the target of a sonic attack on October 18, 2020 that was identical to what American diplomats had experienced between 2016 and 2018.

Scores of diplomats at the US Embassy in Havana suffered injuries from 2016 through 2018.

Scores of diplomats at the US Embassy in Havana suffered injuries from 2016 through 2018.

Despite this the Washington Office on Latin America and the Center for Democracy in the Americas seek to turn back the clock on Cuba sanctions to January 20, 2017, return to doing business with entities of the Cuban military such as FINCIMEX and American International Services and eliminate the State Department’s list of restricted entities that U.S. citizens are not allowed to do business with.

The Castro regime has a long track record of being given the benefit of the doubt, and history has demonstrated time and time again that it does not lead to a positive outcome. Not everyone seeks to repeat past errors.

Ambassador Nikki Haley in her December 16th OpEd in The Washington Post defended the Trump Administration’s foreign policy in Latin America. She pointed out that the President “clearly and powerfully sided with the people of Venezuela and Cuba over their oppressors. He used unprecedented sanctions and forged a regional alliance against the criminal Maduro regime in Venezuela. And he recognized that providing economic relief to the Cuban regime increased its power at the expense of the long-suffering Cuban people.”… “Biden’s support for the victims of Cuban communism and Venezuelan socialism would irritate some of his party’s leftist fringe, but their views did not make for successful policy under the Obama administration. It would be no different now. In Latin America, as elsewhere, Biden would do well to stand up to U.S. enemies and stand for U.S. values.”

The Washington Post, December 16, 2022

Opinions

Nikki Haley: Biden shouldn’t reject all Trump’s foreign policies. Here are three he should keep.

Opinion by Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley was governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017 and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 to 2019.

At the United Nations, I often found that many countries agreed with U.S. policies in private but would not say so in public. One wonders if President-elect Joe Biden has a similar view of President Trump’s foreign policy successes.

Biden is sure to feel strong partisan pressure to reject most, if not all, of Trump’s foreign policy. That would be a mistake. Sweeping away the achievements and strategies of the past four years would endanger American safety and interests.

I have no illusions that Biden would simply pick up where Trump leaves off. He won’t. I’m confident I will disagree with many Biden policies. For instance, his intention to rejoin the Paris climate accord is foolish, elevating platitudes over real economic and environmental progress and putting the United States at the mercy of other nations, such as China, that seek to strengthen themselves at American expense. But in the spirit of helping our country, I urge Biden to prioritize continuity and continued progress in three critical areas.

First: Biden should keep key aspects of Trump’s China policy.

Washington’s posture toward Beijing shifted in much-needed ways in the past four years. Trump overturned decades-old bipartisan consensus that economic cooperation with China would push the Chinese Communist Party in a more peaceful direction. A new bipartisan consensus is rising against that flawed thinking.

Communist China is the most serious global threat the United States faces. It is a strategic competitor with hostile intentions of overtaking us economically and militarily. This truth explains why Trump pursued a military buildup, punished Chinese companies for stealing U.S. trade secrets, sanctioned Chinese leaders and firms for their horrific human rights abuses, and strengthened coordination with U.S. allies and partners to hold China accountable. Biden would endanger U.S. interests if he reversed course.

China feeds on American openness like a parasite, using it to strengthen itself. The right course is to further limit Chinese access to our companies, telecommunications and universities, as the United States did with the Soviet Union, while building additional military, economic and diplomatic strength.

Biden will also face a critical test in Taiwan. Just as China has crushed freedom in Hong Kong, Beijing seeks to destroy the freedom of 24 million Taiwanese people. It is sure to test those waters in the next four years. If Biden fails to push back, there will be no stopping Chinese communist aggression in Asia and beyond.

Second: Biden should not drop Trump’s pressure on Latin American dictatorships.

In keeping with the finest traditions of American values, Trump clearly and powerfully sided with the people of Venezuela and Cuba over their oppressors. He used unprecedented sanctions and forged a regional alliance against the criminal Maduro regime in Venezuela. And he recognized that providing economic relief to the Cuban regime increased its power at the expense of the long-suffering Cuban people. A Biden reversal in either country would amount to an embrace of socialism and give a pass to the most monstrous regimes in our hemisphere.

Biden’s support for the victims of Cuban communism and Venezuelan socialism would irritate some of his party’s leftist fringe, but their views did not make for successful policy under the Obama administration. It would be no different now. In Latin America, as elsewhere, Biden would do well to stand up to U.S. enemies and stand for U.S. values.

Third: Biden should encourage the remarkable progress of Arab-Israeli peace.

The blooming friendships between Israel and numerous Arab countries have been among the most beautiful developments of the past four years. The Obama administration said such a peace would never happen. But it did — because of U.S. leadership. Trump refused to accept the tired thinking that the Palestinian cause was the key to broader regional peace. And he put strong pressure on Iran’s murderous regime, which hates the Arab world nearly as much as it hates Israel and our country. Trump’s actions aligned American, Israeli and Arab policy, with peace the result.

What advice would you give Joe Biden or Kamala Harris as they enter office? Tell The Post.

How can Biden foster a deeper peace? Not by caving to Iran or turning on Israel, both of which would fray the nascent Arab-Israeli bonds that still need strengthening. The better path is to continue to isolate Iran and encourage harmony between Israel and the Arab states, which now clearly see their common interests. A peaceful Middle East depends on it and is essential to U.S. security.

Staying the course on China, Latin America and the Middle East is the right path. Biden can expand on our success and promote America’s interests in each. It would be disastrous if he missed the opportunity because of a partisan desire to reverse the course of his predecessor.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/nikki-haley-trump-biden-foreign-policy/2020/12/16/eee75b88-3fe1-11eb-9453-fc36ba051781_story.html

Amnesty International, December 15, 2020

Cuba: San Isidro movement and allies under frightening levels of surveillance

Members of the San Isidro Movement – the group of Cuban artists, academics, and other alternative thinkers who garnered global attention by staging a rare protest outside the Ministry of Culture on 27 November – as well as independent journalists covering their story, are under frightening levels of surveillance and face arrest by police and state security officials if they leave their houses, which amounts to house arrest, said Amnesty International today.

“The disturbing level of restrictions to which activists and independent journalists are now being subjected is like something out of an Orwell novel set in Havana’s palm-lined streets. The police presence outside their homes, and constant threat of arrest, is so relentless that activists are essentially being imprisoned in their own homes,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

“The surveillance and harassment we are seeing is unacceptable under international law as it violates the rights to privacy and in many cases it constitutes a deprivation of liberty, or at least unlawful restriction on freedom of movement. We will continue to monitor this alarming situation.”

Over the space of two weeks, Amnesty International researchers gathered testimony from activists describing police surveillance details outside their homes, risk of arrest should they try to leave, and restrictions placed on where they can go. The organization’s researchers and its Crisis Evidence Lab analysed and verified the location of photos and videos documenting this surveillance outside the homes of approximately 11 activists, some who are living with other activists.

In most instances, the photos show one or more marked police cars parked on the street corners outside the activists’ homes. In other instances, plain clothed individuals, who activists believe are also state security officials, appear in the photos, often on motorbikes.

In the photos received from activists between 1 and 13 December, Amnesty International researchers observed 24 different marked police cars. Several activists had at least five different police vehicles parked outside their home over that same period.

Anamely Ramos González and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who Amnesty International named prisoners of conscience following the raid on the San Isidro headquarters in Old Havana on 26 November, are just two of the activists who have almost permanent surveillance outside their homes.

Following the raid, Anamely Ramos González, like most of the other activists at the headquarters, was taken home. But after she tried to leave again in the early hours of the 27 November, she was arbitrarily detained and alternating state security vehicles drove her around Havana and its outskirts for more than 12 hours. She told Amnesty International there were always four officials present, mostly men. She was eventually released to a home where she is now staying with another activist.  

On 11 December, Anamely told Amnesty International that she has only been able to leave home once in more than 10 days. “Really, it’s very uncomfortable… They search people who come, they ask for their identification… They have searched their pockets… You feel isolated.”

On the occasion she did leave to go to the Mexican embassy, it was only with the permission of the state security officials permanently located outside her house, three of whom took her there. A doctoral student in anthropology at Mexico’s Ibero University, Anamely believes authorities allowed the visit to the Embassy because “it suits” the authorities for her to leave the country.

According to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a vocal voice in the San Isidro Movement, following the raid on the 26 November he was taken to hospital where state security officials monitored him day and night in his room. Since 2 December, the day after he was returned home, he says he has had permanent surveillance on the street corners outside his house. He says a new security camera has also been placed directly facing his front door. “The camera moves with me,” he told Amnesty International. “If I go outside, they will arrest me… Eighty percent of my friends are under surveillance.

As of 11 December, according to information provided to Amnesty International by the San Isidro Movement, and according to information verified by Amnesty International, at least six activists, including Anamely Ramos González, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Maykel Castillo Pérez, Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López, Niovel Alexander Tamayo, and Osmel Adrián Rubió Santos have been under almost permanent surveillance for nearly two weeks.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/12/cuba-san-isidro-movement-allies-under-frightening-levels-surveillance/

Reuters, December 15, 2020

Cuba rejects U.S. report on diplomat health incidents

By Reuters Staff

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba on Tuesday rejected a U.S. government report concluding that directed radio frequency was the most plausible explanation for mysterious ailments suffered by U.S. diplomats in Havana and elsewhere, calling it more “very unlikely” hypothesis than “demonstrated fact.”

Between 2016 and 2018, dozens of U.S. embassy staff, largely in Cuba, reported symptoms that included hearing loss, vertigo, headaches and fatigue, a pattern consistent with mild traumatic brain injury that came to be known as the “Havana syndrome.”

Canada has said more than a dozen of its embassy staff and relatives stationed in Havana experienced similar symptoms.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump said the diplomats were attacked by some sort of secret weapon. Cuba has repeatedly said there is no evidence for that and denied any involvement.

The Cuban Academy of Sciences said on Tuesday the report by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, commissioned by the U.S. State Department and published on Dec. 6, gives no scientific evidence of the existence of radio frequency waves.

“Cuba’s Academy of Sciences disagrees with the final conclusion regarding the causes of the ailments,” the academy said in a statement read to journalists by its President Luis Velazquez.

Velazquez, who did not take any questions at the news briefing in Havana, said the “investigation about these health ailments has suffered from a lack of fluid communication between U.S. and Cuban scientists.”

U.S. officials say off the record they cannot cooperate with Cuba on such a sensitive investigation where its Communist government has a strong interest in the outcome.

Cuba said the Trump administration has used the health incidents to further its political agenda of dismantling U.S.-Cuban relations, after Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had worked to improve diplomatic ties with Havana.

The administration reduced the U.S. embassy in Havana to skeletal staffing and hiked its warning on travel to Cuba following the mysterious incidents.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Bill Berkrot

https://in.reuters.com/article/cuba-usa-diplomats/cuba-rejects-u-s-report-on-diplomat-health-incidents-idUSL8N2IV64J

Daily Caller, December 16, 2020

Cuba Denies Existence Of Secret Radio Wave Weapon After US Alleges It Was Used To Target Feds’ Brains

Rowan Saydlowski, Contributor

December 16, 2020

ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images

ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images

The Cuban government denied a United States government report Tuesday that said directed radio wave frequencies were the most likely cause of strange illnesses experienced by U.S. diplomats in the island nation.

Dozens of U.S. embassy staff in Cuba have reported experiencing so-called “Havana syndrome,” including unexplained hearing loss, vertigo, fatigue and headaches, according to a report by Reuters.

Canada cut its own embassy staff in Cuba after at least 14 of its citizens experienced similar symptoms, according to a report earlier this month by the BBC. (RELATED: Microwave Weapons May Have Been Used Against U.S. Embassy Officials In Havana)

The U.S. government report published Dec. 6 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine alleges that the directed radio frequencies are the most likely cause of these symptoms, but does not place blame on anyone for the frequencies. The Trump administration, however, has blamed the symptoms on attacks from a secret weapon, according to Reuters.

The president of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences, Luis Velasquez, said Tuesday that his organization “disagrees with the final conclusion regarding the causes of the ailments,” and asserted that a lack of communication between the U.S. and Cuba has hindered the investigation into the mysterious ailments, according to Reuters.

A similar report that led to allegations of “sonic attacks” was published in 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, according to earlier reporting by the BBC. Cuban scientists rejected the findings of that report as well. (RELATED: Mysterious Sound Illness That Hit Diplomats In Cuba And China Is Back)

Cuba’s ambassador to the United States, José Ramón Cabañas, has also frequently rebuked studies about “Havana syndrome” on Twitter.

The U.S. pulled several diplomats out of Guangzhou, China, in 2018 after they experienced similar “abnormal sensations of sound and pressure” and one diplomat was diagnosed with mild brain trauma, according to the BBC.

https://dailycaller.com/2020/12/16/cuba-denies-existence-secret-radio-wave-weapon-us-alleges-target-feds-brains/