Claims that US diplomats suffered mysterious brain injuries after being targeted with a secret weapon in Cuba have been challenged by neurologists and other brain specialists. A medical report commissioned by the US government, published in March, found that staff at the US embassy in Havana suffered concussion-like brain damage after hearing strange noises in homes and hotels, but doctors from the US, the UK and Germany have contested the conclusions. In four separate letters to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the original medical study, groups of doctors specialising in neurology, neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology described what they believed were major flaws in the study. (Cuban 'acoustic attack' report on US diplomats flawed, say neurologists)
This post suggests that like every transition to new political equilibrium states (and especially during the period of such transition), the usually foreseen consequences of the courses of action that bring these changes eventually begin to emerge. It considers one of them--tied to the determination to substantially reduce U.S. diplomatic presence in Cuba at a very interesting point in Cuban history.More specially it considers the ways in which the current trajectory of Cuban constitutional reform can be understood within the context of the trajectories of the Affair of the Sonic Weapons Attack. The essay is part of the Coalition for Peace & Ethics's Technical Assistance Project--Reforma de la Constitución del Estado cubano 2018/Reform of the Cuban State Constitution 2018.
U.S. Embassy cuts hobble influence in Cuba -report - Reuters News
22-Aug-2018 01:46:55 PM
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Aug 22 (Reuters) - The United States' ability to monitor Cuba, defend human rights, conduct consular activities and comply with bilateral agreements is being undermined by a drastic reduction in staff at the embassy in Havana, according to a congressional report.
The administration of President Donald Trump, which has partly rolled back Washington's detente with Cuba, has sharply reduced U.S. staff in Havana and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats. (Full Story)
The document from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) states that the decision to reduce staffing from more than 50 diplomats to a maximum of 18 - due to a mysterious illness that has affected 26 officials and family members - overwhelmed those remaining at their posts.
"Because of the reduction in U.S. staff, U.S. officials maintain that those officers at post often wear two or three hats in terms of responsibilities," read the report, issued at the request of New York Representative Eliot Engel, the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
While diplomatic and humanitarian visas are being granted, Americans in Cuba can only expect emergency services, the report said.
Outreach to civil society and human rights activists has also been reduced at a time when Cuba is transitioning to a new generation of political leaders, internet access is spreading and a revamped constitution is headed for a referendum vote.
The U.S. State Department this month announced this month that the few remaining staff would be assigned for just a year instead of two, "making it difficult for the continuity of operations and familiarity with working in Cuba," the report stated.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana was not immediately available for comment on the report.
Not a single refugee visa has been issued so far this year as the processing office is closed, the report noted. Often granted to government opponents claiming persecution, a total of 177 such visas were issued in 2017.
A 1994 agreement to accept 20,000 Cuban migrants annually will also not be met in 2018, according to the report, in part because applicants must travel to Guyana for interviews.
The Trump administration insists the current policy will remain in place until the mystery of the health problems among diplomatic staff, which it often refers to as "attacks," is solved.
Staff have suffered symptoms such as hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue and memory issues, according to the State Department.
Cuba, the United States and Canada - whose diplomats were also affected - have been investigating the incidents for 18 months. China has now joined the inquiry after a few U.S. diplomats there came down with similar symptoms this year. (Full Story)
Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who lectures at Boston University's Pardee School of Global Studies, said U.S. staffing was enough to monitor Cuba, but not carry out more labor-intensive activities.
"Diplomacy is continuous and all problems are eventually resolved. Sooner or later this will be," he said. "But perhaps it suits the Trump administration not to engage with Cuba and to warn U.S. visitors who go there that the normal consular protection services of an embassy may be hard to find," he said.
Drastic staff cuts at U.S. Embassy in Cuba now permanent
Sarah Marsh, Marc Frank
March 2, 2018
4 Min Read
HAVANA (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it was making permanent its decision last year to slash staffing at its Havana embassy by around two-thirds because a spate of alleged health incidents among its diplomats remained unsolved.
A vintage car drives in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
The decision casts a pall on U.S.-Cuban relations and limits the United States’ ability to play a role in the civil society of the Communist-run island as it prepares for its first non-Castro president in nearly 60 years.
It will also hurt Cuban-American families divided by the Florida Straits, who have struggled to get visas to visit one another since the United States first cut the embassy’s staff in September due to the “attacks” that it says have caused hearing loss, dizziness and fatigue in two dozen employees.
President Donald Trump’s administration also expelled 17 Cuban diplomats stationed in the United States.
By law, the State Department is required to decide whether to send diplomats back six months after an ordered departure, and the deadline for that decision was up this weekend.
“The embassy will continue to operate with the minimum personnel necessary to perform core diplomatic and consular functions, similar to the level of emergency staffing maintained during ordered departure,” the State Department said in a statement.
The embassy would now operate as an unaccompanied post, it said, meaning diplomats would not be permitted to move there with family members.
A security guard walks in the perimeters of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
The department also renewed its Cuba travel warning on Friday, saying U.S. travelers could be at risk from the mysterious “health attacks,” dealing a blow both to both U.S. travel companies and the island’s fledgling private sector, which had benefited from a boom in U.S. visits.
Cuba and a number of analysts have said Trump’s Republican administration was using the alleged health incidents to justify unwinding a detente begun in 2014 by Democratic former U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro.
Cuba, which is conducting its own investigation, says there is no evidence of any attacks. The United States has not accused Cuba of perpetrating them, but holds it responsible for ensuring the safety of it diplomats.
On Friday, the State Department said it still had no “definitive answers on the source or cause of the attacks” and a probe was ongoing.
“U.S.-Cuban relations have become trapped in a geopolitical quagmire over the embassy health mystery,” said Cuba analyst Peter Kornbluh.
“After a year of intense investigation on both sides that has failed to identify what has caused the health problems, it is hard to see how this impasse will be resolved.”
Trump has taken a tough stance on Cuba, tightening trade and ordering travel restrictions that harken back to the Cold War era just as Cuba embarks on a major political transition.
Raul Castro is due to step down as president in April. Meanwhile, major economic policy changes are expected this year, such as the unification of Cuba’s multiple exchange rates and a possible course adjustment in market reforms.
Slideshow (2 Images)
“We have lost the strategic opportunity to pull Cuba into our sphere of interest,” said Vicki Huddleston, a former head of the U.S. interests section in Havana.
“Cuba always needs to have benefactor ... now the next benefactor will likely be Russia or China.”
The U.S. embassy has typically maintained close ties with civil society and the opposition in Cuba. Yet under current staffing levels - the lowest since the U.S. Interest Section opened in 1977, according to Cuba experts - it does not even have a human rights officer.
The embassy halted regular visa operations last year and is only offering emergency services to U.S. citizens. Cubans seeking visas to the United States must apply at U.S. embassies abroad, which is costlier and more complicated.
Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Marc Frank in Havana; additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; editing by Chizu Nomiyama