CubaBrief: Sixty Minutes on “Havana Syndrome” targeting Americans. The youngest victims of “Havana Syndrome.” How American Airlines caved to the Castro regime

The Sixty Minutes report “Targeting Americans” was broadcast on February 20, 2022 and can be viewed on the Youtube link above. It is a troubling report of the phenomenon first identified in late 2016. One of the early victims targeted in Havana, Cuba spoke for the first time to the press in this program and described what happened.

“UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It was rough. It was rough in the beginning. It was a dark place to be. We were kinda shoved aside and they wanted it to go away.

This man is among those who fought for recognition. He’s one of the first cases, from 2016. Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba say they and their families were struck at home, frequently, in the night. He remembers the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And that night all the dogs started kicking off, in the neighborhood barking, which was very unusual for them all to go in chorus. And then this just loud sound just absolutely filled my room. It felt like my head was slowly starting to get crushed. 

We agreed not to use his name. He is not allowed to say what federal agency he worked for. 

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And then the severe ear pain started. So, I liken it to if you put a Q-tip too far and you bounce it off your eardrum. Well, imagine taking a sharp pencil and just kinda poking that. It was very jarring and painful. And eventually, I started blacking out. 

With the first public reports coming from Cuba the affliction became known as “Havana Syndrome.” More than two dozen embassy officials reported injury, but an early FBI report speculated it was all mass hysteria. His brain injuries left him disabled, essentially retired, at the age of 36. A weighted vest helps him balance. His service dog helps with walking and his loss of vision. 

Scott Pelley: Legally blind in one eye?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Correct. Yeah.”

This phenomenon was first identified and made public in Cuba, but spread to countries around the world, eventually impacting high ranking officials at the White House. The question that arises, if this was an attack by a foreign power, then why would they have started in Cuba?

The answer is that the dictatorship in Cuba has operated as an outlaw regime.

On October 30, 2020 The Washington Post published a letter to the editor by the CFC executive director highlighting the Cuban dictatorship’s outlaw behavior against diplomats stationed in Cuba over decades. Havana has a history of harassing American diplomats such as: killing their pets, trying to run down diplomats or crash into their vehicle and switching out mouthwash with urine.

In another case, after one diplomat’s family privately discussed their daughter’s susceptibility to mosquito bites, “they returned home to find all of their windows open and the house full of mosquitoes.”

On November 13, 2020 the Cuban ambassador to the United States, responded to CFC’s letter with his own claim that The Washington Post “should have alerted readers that there is no scientific evidence that can support the kind of sonic ‘attacks’ alleged.”

Less than a month after the Cuban ambassador’s letter the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on December 5, 2020 titled “An Assessment of Illness in U.S. Government Employees and Their Families at Overseas Embassies (2020)” found “that among the mechanisms the committee considered, directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases, especially in individuals with the distinct early symptoms.”

The Sixty Minutes report also reported on how children were targeted. It was not just American diplomats, and their dependents but Canadian diplomats and their children were also harmed.

The children of Canadian diplomats are among those who have experienced unusual symptoms.

“Our children are the forgotten victims of the ‘Havana Syndrome,'” said a female diplomat, one of several Canadian officials who spoke with 60 Minutes and asked to not be identified out of fear of being targeted again. 

In 2017, the diplomat and her family were stationed in Havana, Cuba, where she says they suffered multiple episodes in their home. During one of the incidents, she said, her daughter woke up three times overnight with heavy nosebleeds. Since then, her daughter has experienced various symptoms, such as migraines, tinnitus, and spotting in her vision. Her young son has complained of dizziness and issues with his hearing. 

She is one of several Canadian diplomats who has sued the Canadian government for millions of dollars in damages in connection with the health issues they say they suffered while serving in Cuba. The suit alleges that Ottawa did not sufficiently inform, protect, or treat the diplomats and their families.

The Castro regime’s outlaw behavior has been normalized, and it is part of a broader trend of eroding human rights standards, and zero accountability that encourages worse behaviors by authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships.

Normalizing relations with these types of regimes did not improve their behaviour, but have coincided with the deterioration of democratic norms. This was once again seen on February 16, 2022 when American Airline officials did the bidding of the Cuban government violating the right to return of a Cuban national.

Art curator Anamely Ramos Gonzalez with Sirley Avila Leon

Ken Kurson in his February 19, 2022 article in Fine Art Global, titled Cuban Curator Anamely Ramos Gonzalez Stranded in Miami: American Airlines Caves to Authoritarian Communist Regime reported on how the 37-year old artist, and others are blocked from returning home to Cuba.

According to the Herald, “The Cuban government has frequently denied entry to opponents and activists, but usually after they’ve already arrived on the island.” But as Ramos herself said at a press conference hastily arranged at Miami International Airport after she was denied access, “Cuba’s border cannot be at the Miami airport. It cannot be at American Airlines’ gate. If the Cuban government doesn’t want to let me in for some reason, they have to solve it with me in Cuba.”

It was American Airlines that did not allow the Cuban artist to board the plane on orders of the Cuban dictatorship, and in violation of Article 13, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to return to your country. It used to be that travelers would be turned around upon landing in Cuba by the dictatorship, now they have the assistance of airline companies. This is change, but in the wrong direction of what was promised.

Sirley Ávila León, in the picture above with Anamely Ramos, was the victim of a Cuban government engineered machete attack in May 2015 in the midst of the Obama Administration’s detente with Cuba. Sirley was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba from June 2005, for the rural area of Limones until 2012 when the regime gerrymandered her district out of existence. The Castro regime removed her from her position because she had fought to reopen a school in her district, but been ignored by official channels and had reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had an 18 year distinguished career in the Cuban military was forced out when he refused to declare his mother insane and have her committed to a psychiatric facility. On May 24, 2015 she was the victim of a brutal machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand, right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her crippled. Following the attack she did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country.

Ten months later, President Obama held a state visit to Cuba in March 2016, and less than eight months later, reports first emerged of “health attacks” that later became known as the “Havana Syndrome”.

On January 2, 2017 Cuban troops marched in a parade over which Raul Castro presided, chanting that they would repeatedly shoot President Obama in the head so many times that they would make a “hat of lead to the head.”

That these attacks began in Cuba should give investigators pause, considering its past record on human rights, mistreatment of diplomats, and casual death threats by the Cuban military of America’s first African American President.

CubaBrief will continue following this story.

60 Minutes Overtime [ CBS News ], February 20, 2022

The youngest victims of “Havana Syndrome”

By Brit McCandless Farmer, Michael Rey & Oriana Zill de Granados

February 20, 2022 / 7:07 PM / CBS News

A constellation of unexplained neurological symptoms commonly known as “Havana Syndrome” has plagued U.S. diplomats stationed abroad since 2016. But U.S. officials are not the only ones who have reported trouble with speech, balance, and eyesight; some of their children have as well.

60 Minutes has found more than 20 children whose parents say they have been affected by unexplained neurological ailments after incidents that occurred while their parents were serving abroad. In one case confirmed by 60 Minutes, a mother and her infant were affected while the baby was breastfeeding. Both have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. 

Another parent whose children were affected is U.S. Commerce Department official Robyn Garfield, who was stationed in China with his wife and two children. Garfield told 60 Minutes that his family was attacked over many months at their home in China in 2018.

After they were medically evacuated from China, they enrolled in a State Department treatment program at the University of Pennsylvania. Garfield said that, while staying in a Philadelphia hotel, his family was targeted again. 

During those incidents, Garfield told 60 Minutes, he believes his family was not only targeted by a weapon, but someone hit specifically at his children in their beds.

“I saw an extremely eerie scene where both were thrashing in their beds asleep,” Garfield said. “But both kicking and moving pretty aggressively.”

He recalled leaning down to pick up his daughter from her bed, where he heard a distinct noise next to her head that sounded like rushing water. The same thing occurred when he bent down to retrieve his son.

“This is the most difficult aspect of this whole issue for me are the children who’ve been impacted, both mine as well as many others,” Garfield told 60 Minutes.

The children of Canadian diplomats are among those who have experienced unusual symptoms.

“Our children are the forgotten victims of the ‘Havana Syndrome,'” said a female diplomat, one of several Canadian officials who spoke with 60 Minutes and asked to not be identified out of fear of being targeted again. 

In 2017, the diplomat and her family were stationed in Havana, Cuba, where she says they suffered multiple episodes in their home. During one of the incidents, she said, her daughter woke up three times overnight with heavy nosebleeds. Since then, her daughter has experienced various symptoms, such as migraines, tinnitus, and spotting in her vision. Her young son has complained of dizziness and issues with his hearing. 

She is one of several Canadian diplomats who has sued the Canadian government for millions of dollars in damages in connection with the health issues they say they suffered while serving in Cuba. The suit alleges that Ottawa did not sufficiently inform, protect, or treat the diplomats and their families.

“We believed our government would have our back if anything happened to us or to our kids,” the female diplomat said.

One of her colleagues, who is a co-plaintiff in the suit, also spoke with 60 Minutes. He recounted an incident while living in Cuba that was similar to many of the stories of officials who have experienced “Havana Syndrome”: He and his family were awoken by a strange, loud sound in the middle of the night. He said his sons have experienced nosebleeds, dizziness, headaches, and episodes of losing consciousness. 

Two months after the incident, the male diplomat said, a new Canadian official was posted in Havana. Shortly after arriving, the woman, a single mother, asked him what had happened to his family. 

“She was floored because Ottawa did not mention anything about kids being involved, or she never would’ve shown up,” the male Canadian diplomat said. “She was only there for a couple of months before she and her son were affected.”

The officials 60 Minutes spoke with said many of the “Havana Syndrome” symptoms they and their children experienced have persisted. Mark Lenzi, a State Department security officer who worked in the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, spoke about the long-term symptoms he has experienced when 60 Minutes first spoke with him in 2019.

“The symptoms were progressively getting worse with me,” Lenzi said in 2019. “My headaches were getting worse. The most concerning symptom for me was memory loss, especially short-term memory loss.”

When recounting the incidents in Guangzhou that preceded his symptoms, Lenzi recalled hearing a loud sound akin to a marble rolling around a metal funnel. He said he always heard the sound in the same spot at night — over his son’s crib.

Today, Lenzi’s young son is scheduled to be treated at Walter Reed Hospital.

To watch Scott Pelley’s latest 60 Minutes reports about “Havana Syndrome,” click here. 

The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and Will Croxton. It was edited by Will Croxton.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/havana-syndrome-children-60-minutes-2022-02-20/


Fine Art Global, February 19, 2022

Cuban Curator Anamely Ramos Gonzalez Stranded in Miami

American Airlines Caves to Authoritarian Communist Regime

By Ken Kurson

Cuban art professor and curator Anamely Ramos Gonzalez, in Miami’s Little Havana after being turned away by American Airlines from a flight to her homeland, Feb 18, 2022. (Photo: Chaya Kurson)

MIAMI—Unconscionable actions taken by American Airlines on Wednesday, Feb. 16, have sent shockwaves first through the Cuban art world, and then through the entire Cuban ex-pat community in this Cuban-led city. And now, as one brave woman who was denied re-entrance to her own home country leads the charge, those reverberations are starting to be felt by all freedom loving people.

Respected art curator Anamely Ramos Gonzalez, 37, is a prominent member of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of artists, journalists and other intelligentsia that gathered in 2018 to oppose Cuba’s crackdown on freedom of expression. On Wednesday, Ramos was denied access to an American Airlines flight in Miami, apparently at the request of the Cuban government. The Miami Herald reported that the island nation’s bureaucrats had blocked her entry into the country. According to the Herald, “The Cuban government has frequently denied entry to opponents and activists, but usually after they’ve already arrived on the island.”

But as Ramos herself said at a press conference hastily arranged at Miami International Airport after she was denied access, “Cuba’s border cannot be at the Miami airport. It cannot be at American Airlines’ gate. If the Cuban government doesn’t want to let me in for some reason, they have to solve it with me in Cuba.”

Now, Ramos is leading protests in Miami’s Little Havana community. On Friday, she sat on a corner of Calle Ocho, directly across from Versailles restaurant in the beating heart of Miami’s Cuban community. As cars drove by, many honked their horns in solidarity, including a few with ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ bumper stickers.

In a face-to-face interview with the Fine Art Globe, Ramos explained why she is willing to challenge an autocratic government so publicly.

“Normal people have been more in touch with us, in solidarity. They are indignant about American Airlines’ decision not to take me to Cuba. This has happened many times in the past to a lot of people who live here, but this is a special case because I have a valid residence in Cuba.”

Ramos has been a professor at Universidad de las Artes de Cuba for 12 years, where she’s established a reputation as an edgy and innovative curator. She also spent two years teaching art in Angola.

According to Ramos, the plan on Friday was to spend the day protesting outside Versailles, which attracts Miami Cubanos as well as tons of tourists all day long and was packed at lunch hour on Friday. For the afternoon rush hour, the protestors planned to march to Ponce De Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables to protest directly in front of the American Airlines Building.

Passersby on Calle Ocho in Miami stopped to offer support under a message of freedom placed by Versailles restaurant. (Photo: Ken Kurson)

Asked whether she was concerned that attracting attention to Cuba’s reprehensible policy would jeopardize her, Ramos told the Globe the reverse is true.

“No, on the contrary. It’s the opposite. What I want is that this situation gets coverage because this publicity is the only protection I have. The Cuban authorities will be less likely to target me if people are watching. I will take the opportunity of this visibility to speak for the political prisoners and all the people who are suffering in Cuba right now.”

Ramos sat in front of a mural emblazoned with “Derecho a Regresar” or “Right to Return.” The original was painted by the Cuban artist and activist Camila Lobón and the version seen here is a tribute created by a friend of Anamely’s named Eduardo.

According to the Herald story, Ramos has an American “visitor’s visa” that permits only one entry. So if she did make it to Cuba—her legal residence—and was turned away, she would not be legally allowed to return to the United States.

This moment that we’re witnessing right now, with large-scale demonstrations on the streets of Havana for the first time since the communists took control in 1959 and systematically squashed dissenting voices, feels different.

“It’s already happening,” Ramos told the Fine Art Globe. “On July 11, 2021, tens of thousands of people were demonstrating in the streets in Cuba and asking for the end of the dictatorship. This has been the biggest and most relevant event in Cuba in 40 or 60 years. Actually, in all of Cuban history.”

https://fineartglobe.com/curators/cuban-curator-anamely-ramos-gonzalez-stranded-in-miami/

CBS News, February 19, 2022

Unexplained injuries similar to previous “Havana Syndrome” cases afflicted U.S. officials on White House grounds

60 Minutes overtime

High-ranking Homeland Security officials in the Trump administration say they were overcome with feelings of vertigo, confusion and memory loss while on White House grounds and in their Washington, D.C.-area homes. The incidents and symptoms they describe are similar to the “Havana Syndrome” that has been reported by American diplomats in foreign countries since 2016.

The officials spoke to 60 Minutes for a new report airing Sunday. Other stories of officials being stricken were corroborated by former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who fears there is a threat to the highest levels of the U.S. government.

“If we were at war and an adversary could disable the president and his top advisers, or commanders in the field, it could render us extraordinarily vulnerable,” Bolton told correspondent Scott Pelley. “We don’t know that that’s the threat we’re facing. But I would much rather focus on finding out the answer now, rather than finding out later when it may be too late.”

60 Minutes first reported on “Havana Syndrome” in 2019. In that report, Scott Pelley spoke with Americans who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Cuba and suffered serious brain injuries, some causing impaired vision and memory loss, in 2016 and 2017. American officials stationed in China reported suffering from unexplained brain trauma soon after.

Mark Lenzi, a State Department security officer who worked in the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, told 60 Minutes in 2019 about the long-term symptoms he experienced.

“The symptoms were progressively getting worse with me,” Lenzi said. “My headaches were getting worse. The most concerning symptom for me was memory loss, especially short-term memory loss.”

The injuries are still under investigation by the FBI, State Department and intelligence community. One of the leaders of the investigation, new CIA director William Burns, spoke with 60 Minutes about why it has been difficult finding answers.

“It’s a very complicated issue, you know, dealing with a whole range of incidents which have… different kinds of explanations for them as well,” Burns said. “It’s a very charged issue emotionally as well. I understand that very clearly. And that’s what… makes me even more determined not only to ensure people get the care that they deserve but also that we get to the bottom of this.”

The new 60 Minutes report will air Sunday night.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/havana-syndrome-60-minutes-2022-02-17/


From the archives

The Washington Post, October 30, 2020

Letters to the Editor

Opinion

Cuba has a long history of using sonic weapons

The Oct. 26 editorial “Another invisible enemy” was correct when it called for the perpetrators of sonic attacks on Americans in Cuba to be identified, Americans protected and a proper response delivered, but too many are quick to believe the claims from Cuban officials that nothing happened and that they had no knowledge of what caused the injuries.

The Castro regime has a history, stretching back decades, of harassing American diplomats such as: killing their pets, trying to run them down or crash into their vehicle and switching out mouthwash with urine

Furthermore, on Oct. 18, dissident Cuban artist Tania Bruguera described and recorded a sonic attack that caused her a headache and ear ache that she found difficult to tolerate. Two former Cuban political prisoners, Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez and Luis Zuniga, described at a forum held on Capitol Hill in November 2017 how prison officials used high-pitched sound to cause them physiological harm in 1979. This history and the recent attack against Ms. Bruguera using the same kind of sonic weapon with similar symptoms that had been visited on U.S. diplomats should invite greater scrutiny of Havana.

John SuarezFalls Church

The writer is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/letters-to-the-editor/cuba-has-a-long-history-of-using-sonic-weapons/2020/10/29/ab3155d6-1946-11eb-8bda-814ca56e138b_story.html