U.S. and the hearing loss of its diplomats in Havana

Is it true that Cuba-United States relations remain?

That's what repeated statements from “anonymous sources” of the Department of State ascertain and, of course, it’s the firm political will the Cuban government has stated many times, not only to keep them, but to improve them as well beyond the natural discrepancies, stressing the matters of common interest based on mutual respect, sovereignty and self-determination of both parties. But, if one follows the facts of the last months and weeks, and partly the words, by the minute it would seem that the course Washington has given to this issue, if it does not seek to break the relations reestablished on December 17, 2014, at least it seeks to reduce them to a mere formalism, almost nothing.

Let’s approach the latest events of this hypoacoustic saga? On September 29, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a substantial withdrawal of the staff of its embassy in Havana and said that all relatives would be repatriated. He justified the move by claiming that “attacks” have been perpetrated against officials of the US government in Cuba, which have affected their health. The Cuban government, besides being informed very late by the American side over those alleged “attacks” and health problems of its diplomatic staff in Cuba, has hardly received details of importance as to make a judgment on them.

Days later, on October 3, the US government, in another unjustified action, decided that 15 Cuban embassy officials had to leave the American territory, on the basis of “the reduction of its diplomatic staff in Havana and that Havana hadn’t made the necessary steps to prevent “attacks” against them”. The Cuban Foreign Ministry protested and termed this decision groundless and unacceptable, as well as the pretext that Cuba did not take appropriate measures to prevent those alleged incidents.

Regarding the steps made by Havana, we will talk later, but it’s nonsense to justify the expulsion of the Cuban personnel by the fact that Washington decided to withdraw part of its staff. Previously, on May 23, two Cuban diplomats were ordered to leave Washington "in a sudden, inappropriate and unthinking manner", as was described by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which argued the absence of evidence on what Washington called incidents at that time and starting last Friday it calls attacks. The ongoing investigation agreed between the two countries had hardly progressed due to US reluctance to comply with its part and Cuba could not, therefore, be guilty of anything.

At the meeting held –at Cuba’s request– between Tillerson and Cuban FM Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, the latter warned him not to make quick decisions with unfounded evidences, urged him not to politicize the issue and reiterated the request of effective cooperation of the US authorities to clear up the events and conclude the investigation.

Now, it is necessary to point out that Cuba was not informed by the American side until February 2017

about the alleged incidents against the officials of its diplomatic mission in Havana and their relatives occurred since November 2016, which caused them hearing loss, dizziness and other symptoms. Nevertheless, the Cuban government stepped in immediately and at the suggestion of President Raúl Castro it began an investigation whose seriousness and professionalism have been acknowledged by the three groups of experts from US agencies that the Cuban government has allowed to visit the island. Cuba also created an expert committee composed of doctors, scientists and police chiefs.

As colleague Rosa Miriam Elizalde has asked, have the victims of the strange sonic attack in Cuba been examined by physicians from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center?, Will there exist any report on the case from the National Institute of Health? This is not a useless question, because they might have been examined by doctors chosen at University of Miami by senator and failed presidential candidate Marcos Rubio. As it’s well known, Rubio has found a mine to refloat himself political and financially in the war against Cuba and Venezuela. Everything can happen in that country today.

Twitter:@aguerraguerra

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi TranslationStaff



An aggression against US diplomats in Havana? A groundless story

The unbelievable story of US diplomats that would have suffered hearing loss and other health problems during their tour of duty in Cuba, was published by the media in August last year. The first of such alleged incidents dates back to November 2016 and the last one to only a few weeks ago.

However, to date there is no credible explanation for the variety of symptoms described, and experts deny that the laws of physics could even apply in some of the hypothesis stated.

The story, which seems a science fiction story, has been taken very seriously in Havana.

On instructions from the senior Government, the Cuban authorities opened their own investigation as soon as they were first notified of the alleged incidents by the US Embassy in Havana and by the US State Department on February 17, this year.

“According to the preliminary results and the information we’ve shared with the US authorities, there is no evidence so far that would confirm the causes or origin of the alleged health problems experienced by the US diplomats and their family members”, stated a familiar source with the Cuban investigation.

The US investigations do not shed any light into the story either. Members of the US specialized agencies were invited to Cuba to conduct an on-site investigation, but the results have not been conclusive. “The truth is that we don’t know what or who have caused this”, acknowledged a spokesperson with the US Department of State, Heather Nauert. “This is why the investigation is still ongoing”.

The complexity of the investigation and the perplexity of the experts have not prevented some from trying to point at Cuba as the nation responsible, as they also try to reverse the progress achieved in the US-Cuba bilateral relations that has been taking place as from December 17, 2014.

Marco Rubio, a senator of Cuban-origin and a hardliner against any rapprochement with Havana, sent a letter recently to the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, requesting the expulsion of all Cuban diplomats from Washington D.C. and the eventual closing of the US Embassy in Havana as retaliation for the alleged “sonic attacks” that would have caused the health problems to the US officials in Cuba.

However, the letter signed also by the Republican senators Tom Cotton, Richard Burr, John Cornyn and James Lankford, mentions no proof of the “Cuban guilt” and leaves out the willingness that the Cuban authorities expressed from day one, to cooperate and conduct the investigation.

Rubio was one of the minds behind the review of the Cuba policy adopted by the Trump Administration in June this year to intensify the application of the blockade. The legislator, who holds a seat in the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has used every means available to him to restrain the ties between both countries.

Unbelievable facts

The hypothesis of a “Sonic attack” and the use of sophisticated “Sonic devices” against US diplomats have been constant since the story hit the headlines despite the lack of evidence and the criteria of experts indicating that no device is able to cause the symptoms described in the conditions stated.

The US Department of State has remained tight-lipped on the particular damages to the health of its personnel in Havana, but the media has reported a wide variety of symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms include severe headaches, dizziness and hearing loss, while others have experienced cognitive disruption, memory loss and mild brain damage.

The diagnosis provoke confusion among experts, the FBI, the State Department and the US agencies involved in the investigation, according to reports of the Associated Press (AP).

“Brain damage and concussions, that’s not possible”, said Joseph Pompei to AP, a former MIT researcher and psychoacoustics expert. “Somebody would have to submerge their head into a pool lined with very powerful ultrasound transducers”.

Dr. Toby Heys, Leader of the Future Technologies research center at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, told New Scientist last month that directing ultrasound into the ear cavity could theoretically cause permanent hearing damage but it would require the use of huge devices in great volumes, which would be difficult to hide.

Sonic weapons used to disperse crowds and for the protection of some vessels in the face of pirate ships, work with the same type of equipment. The devices cover a considerable area and every person within its reach is affected.

However, most of the alleged incidents in Havana, according to US public sources, took place in enclosed spaces, sometimes even inside one single room, and with precision laser, affecting one person in particular, without affecting the rest.

Some of the alleged attacks would have taken place in the residence of diplomats and even in public buildings such as the Hotel Capri recently refurbished, a 19-story tower of concrete and 250 rooms, where there are no reports of other hotel guests affected.

According to AP reports, the FBI itself travelled to Havana and investigated some of the rooms where the attacks would have taken place, but found no trace of sonic devices.

The Cuban specialized services have not detected “possible perpetrators or individuals with motivation, intention or means to carry out this sort of actions”, according to sources linked to the investigations. “The presence of suspicious individuals or means have not been established at the places or surrounding areas where the incidents were reported”.

In Cuba, there is no precedent of this sort of actions. “The Cuban authorities don’t have nor are they familiar with the equipment or the technology that could be used for purposes similar to those described as sonic attacks”, added the same source.

Cuba has always been willing to cooperate

After they were notified for the first time by the US Embassy in Havana, the Cuban authorities set up an inter-institutional expert commission to analyze the facts. They expanded and intensified the measures that guarantee the protection, security and safety of the Embassy premises, its staff and the diplomatic residences. They also opened new direct communication channels between the US Embassy and the Cuban Department for the Security and Safety of Diplomats, as stated in the official statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated August 9, 2017, when the news were made public.

The Cuban side insisted that the US specialized agencies should travel to the country and conduct the investigations on-site, which occurred in June 2017. Other visits by these agencies took place in August and September.

“The three meetings held between representatives of the Cuban authorities and the US specialized agencies took place against a constructive and professional backdrop”, said a source with knowledge of the exchanges. The US side, he stated, expressed the intention to cooperate “more substantially with the investigation of the incidents”. Likewise, the members of the US specialized agencies who have visited Cuba, have acknowledged that the Cuban local authorities have acted promptly and with professionalism.

“We value positively the continuity of these visits. The Cuban authorities have great interest in expediting and completing the investigation, for which purpose, cooperation from the US authorities is essential”, said the source.

In the face of countless of variables to the case, influenced by the long history of conflicts between the two countries, cooperation is essential. Some of the fundamental aspects for the success of this cooperation and to achieve the results in any case scenario should include actions such as: timely notification of the incidents; submitting evidence; sharing information that would help establish the facts and identify possible perpetrators, should there be any; having access to those affected and to the medical doctors who diagnosed, and exchange with those experts who are familiar with the incidents and the alleged technology used.

Not even in the worst moments

Another fact that does not add up to the story of the sonic attack is timing. In November 2016, the governments of Cuba and the United States advanced quickly towards the completion of an important number of agreements for the benefit of both peoples.

After a long history of aggressions and attempts to subdue the Cuban people out of hunger and necessity, to transform the Cuban political system, the Obama Administration acknowledged on December 17, 2014, that the blockade had failed and accomplished the isolation of the United States.

The political backdrop between the two countries changed completely. Diplomatic ties were reestablished and 22 agreements on different areas were signed, including but not limited to environmental protection, the reopening of non-scheduled flights and the cooperation in the area of security and safety. Who would even think of sabotaging the relationship with Washington?

In addition, if the Cuban government never resorted to the use of aggressive methods against US diplomats out of its revolutionary principles, even when tension was at its height, what would be the logic to start doing so now, after the sovereign decision to reestablish ties with Washington?

On May, the State Department expelled two Cuban officials from the United States as a consequence of the alleged attacks that damaged the health of members of its staff in Havana, a measure considered by Cuba as “groundless and unsubstantiated”.

Now we know that, at the same time the Cuban officials were being expelled, the Cuban authorities were conducting the investigation and expressing their complete willingness to collaborate with their US counterparts.

The official statement by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads that Cuba “strictly and seriously” observes and has always observed its obligations deriving from the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which refer to the protection of the integrity of diplomatic agents and local staff of the mission. “Our country’s impeccable track record in this area is recognized internationally and Cuba is universally considered as a safe destination for both visitors and foreign diplomats, including the Americans”, he said.

In line with the statement, a Cuban high-ranking diplomat reaffirmed that “that Cuba has never perpetrated nor will it ever perpetrate actions of this nature, and has never permitted nor will it ever permit any third-party use of its territory for this purpose”.

Facing the lack of evidence and the complexity of this case, the Cuban authorities keep the investigation open and are willing to collaborate with their US counterparts to establish the facts.

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Puppets and Puppeteers

This Sunday ended the first day of Puppeteer Havana: Characters on Paving Stones. Much can do the puppets in these times...

Even in the era of smartphones and video games children are still marveled by puppets, by a simple doll that has to be a drive for creation. In the first day of Puppeteer Havana that ended this Sunday at the historical center of the Cuban capital, there were shows for all publics, but children were at the center of all the action.

For a full week, puppeteers, actors, professors, researchers, designers… participated in a huge intense program that had in several spaces of Old Havana the perfect scenario.

Erduyn Masa, general director of the event (also of La Proa Theater, the group that organized the event together with National Council of Scenic Arts, Hermanos Saíz Association and other institutions), believes that puppets are necessary in Havana as well in faraway communities of the Cuban rural areas.

"This is a very cosmopolitan area, of permanent commercial and cultural exchange. We must defend that the culture we share has ethical and aesthetic values that it can be tell apart from the purely merchandizing practices. Puppets and puppeteers have much to do in this regard."

Erduyn is completely right about it: art must open horizons, never close them. And watching the children enjoy with something so "handmade" as a puppet is prove that not everything is lost against the “merciless” impact of new technologies.

(It wouldn’t be bad, anyway that some artists from the puppet show assumed many of those new technologies in their shows, but that could be an issue to discuss some other time).

This sort of shows help to the socialization of the work of a group that is not always rewarded by the big audience… and which, up to a degree must keep working in its professional and artistic upgrading.

It must be said that: there are many groups “doing” puppets show (only in Havana there are over 30), but they are not so many that have a steady and overwhelming production.

The quality of the proposal, obviously, guarantees an audience. Children, no matter where they live, they are still an unbiased and expectant public... but nobody should underestimate them.

Every time a child attends a show, a puppet workshop or puppet production (as it happened this time), it’s a win... he is probably a theater spectator for life.

For that reason, for children, the best theater ever! Puppets with head and heart!

Meeting of Ballet Schools from Various Countries Starts in Havana

Students and teachers of ballet schools from various countries will share experiences from today in Cuba on the artistic education and the suitable development of techniques.

The International Meeting of Schools for Ballet Teaching is an event unique in the world and on this 23th time it will be held in Havana until April 19th.

The meeting will be opened at the National Theater with the Cuban School Fernando Alonso performing a piece of the classic El Corsario.

Director of the meeting Ramona de Saa will give lectures on methodology of teaching of the Cuban ballet school, along with physical trainer Jose Candia and historian of the National ballet of Cuba (BNC) Miguel Cabrera.

This 23rd event will be dedicated to historical leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro, who died last November, and who, according to De Saa, played a key role in the development of ballet in Cuba and gave the Cuban National School Fernando Alonso its current headquarters.

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Habana Libre Hotel Celebrates 59 Years

Havana, Mar 20 (Prensa Latina) One of Cuba's most emblematic hotels, Habana Libre, former Habana Hilton, celebrated its 59th anniversary this weekend with the premise of maintaining high quality services, the facility's management said today.

Tryp Habana Libre, part of Gran Caribe Hotel Group, is located in one of Havana's central places, La Rampa, the capital's most frequented artery, not only by Cubans but also foreigners.

Executives of the facility highlighted its cultural importance and rich history that includes hundreds of events since the opening in 1958.

Politics, culture and sport personalities, chose the hotel, among them the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, who stayed for three months, after his arrival at the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, on January 8, 1959, they remembered.

The hotel's halls have been for many years the venue of the international renowned Capablanca in Memoriam Chess Tournament, as well as congresses of writers, health, movement for peace, among other events.

The director of the hotel, Luis Basterra, showed today satisfaction with the work done to renovate and improve the facility thanks to appropriate investments.

He added that the level of occupation is favorable, and the main markets for them is Europe, especially Spain.

The 25-story building is close to the University of Havana, other hotels, various ministries and labor centers, the Malecón (waterfront) and many restaurants and nightclubs, while offering a nonpareil view of the city.

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Caribbean States Begin Ministerial Forum in Havana

The first Conference of Cooperation of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) began today in this capital with a high participation in the core debates for the development of the region.

Representatives from more than 100 member countries, observers, among others, analyze issues related to transportation and connectivity between the nations of the area and the confrontation with climate change.

Prior to the ministerial meeting, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra said that these contacts will be a time to take advantage of the opportunities for collaboration, promote the competitiveness of the economies of the member nations of the bloc, and discuss common challenges in order to consolidate the Shared development.

Likewise, he said that they would enable them to search for ways to deal with external factors that undermine the sovereignty of the countries of the area, promote actions to deal with measures of mass deportation of immigrants, and the serious implications for their economies.

With the purpose of reviewing the progress of the integral relations between this island and the nations associated with the Caribbean Community, Havana will also be host, next March 11, of the V CARICOM-Cuba Ministerial Meeting.

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Drum Festival Begins in Havana

Havana, Mar 7 (Prensa Latina) With a tribute to Papo Angarica, a renowned percussionist and a rumba legend in Cuba, the 16th ''Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam'' International Drum Festival, scheduled until March 12th, begins here today.

Mella Theater will be stage for that who was the former director of Son Yoruba band and adviser of many folk groups in Cuba and Latin America, followed by a show dedicated to dance and drum.

Groups Nsila Cheche, Sintesis, and singers Luna Manzanares and Heidy Chapman, will accompany the performances of companies Salsa Mambo and Chachacha, Santiago Alfonso, Malpaso, JJ and Raices Profundas.

The international percussion competition for which almost 100 aspirants have been registered will also begin today at Sala Avenida theater.

In addition to these two stages, Mella Theater's Gardens, the Music Hall at the Havana neighborhood of Miramar, the Havana-based Salon Rosado de La Tropical, the scene of main dance music groups in Cuba, and El Elegante lounge at Riviera Hotel, will gather more than 1,500 dancers and musicians from half a dozen countries.

Cuban percussionist and president of the organizing committee, Giraldo Piloto, highlighted the performances by Americans Mark Guiliana and Will Calhoun, as well as Norwegians Per and Hans Mathisen, who will promote their most recent album in Havana.

The festival will also receive Memo Acevedo (Colombia), Jaquelene (Canada), Nanny Assis (United States) and Marcus Santos (Brazil), while serving as a point of reencounter for the members of Uruguayan band Candombe Fussion 2. Organized by the National Center for Popular Music, the program of the Drum Festival will include concerts, keynote speeches and percussion, rumba (as of 15 years) and casino dance competitions; the latter opened for the first time to all ages.

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Cultural Center Pabellon Cuba, A Space for Books in Havana

Havana, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) The cultural center Pabellon Cuba, in one of the most central streets in this capital, will be the second venue to the International Book Fair (IBF), a place especially devoted to young people, according to reports today.

According to Provincial Book Center Director Dulce Maria Dominguez, more than 700 literary new works will be for sale for the first time at Pabellon Cuba, starting from February 19, and there will be auctions of used and rare books.

There will be new printings of books by great Cuban writers, such as 'Paradiso,' by Jose Lezama Lima and 'Versions,' by Eliseo Diego, she said.

As usual in the IBF, there will be presentations of sought-after books at the central area of Pabellon Cuba and in the afternoons, there nwill be concerts and other artistic programs, she explained.

The cultural center La Pergola will be a space for Cuban music by singer-songwriters and jazz, besides gatherings with poets and other musicians.

This time, the IBF will be dedicated to Armando Hart Davalos, revolutionary writer that established guidelines in the development of the country, said Dominguez. Thus, several books by that author will be sold during the event.

There will be several activities for Canada, the honorary guest country, including the exhibition of a cycle of films produced in that country, such as 'Blindness,' 'Copenhagen' and 'Popeye's Voyage.'

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