U.S. considering closing its embassy in Cuba

Carol Morello, Washington Post
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that the United States is considering closing the U.S. Embassy in Havana in response to mysterious hearing problems that have left at least 21 employees with serious health issues.

“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” when asked about calls by some senators to shutter the diplomatic mission. “It’s a very serious issue, with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered, and we’ve brought some of those people home. It’s under review.”

Trump threatens Venezuela and puts Cuba on notice

Trump threatens Venezuela and puts Cuba on notice

September 19, 2017

President Donald Trump threatened “further action” against Venezuela on Tuesday and promised not to lift sanctions against Cuba until the government in Havana makes fundamental reforms.

“We cannot stand by and watch,” Trump told world leaders gathered at the United Nations.

Our Men and Women in Havana

Our Men and Women in Havana

September 18, 2017

Appearing on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, October 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed that the Trump administration was reviewing whether to close the U.S. embassy in Havana because of the mysterious injuries suffered by U.S. diplomats from late 2016 to early 2017. Just two days earlier, five Republican senators, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) among them, urged Tillerson to close the embassy and expel all Cuban diplomats from the United States in retaliation for the purported attacks.

Closing the U.S. embassy makes no sense. It would punish Cuba for actions whose perpetrator remains unidentified, and it would seriously damage U.S. interests. The demands of these Republicans come as no surprise. They opposed the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba in the first place and are using the injuries to U.S. personnel as a handy excuse to refight a policy battle they lost, not only in 2016 when President Barack Obama restored relations, but again in 2017 when President Donald Trump decided not to break them.

How Cuba and Puerto Rico responded to their hurricanes

Will Grant, BBC

If Hurricane Irma hitting Cuba and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico had one thing in common it was that – despite ample warning – they seemed to take many by surprise.

It was an odd similarity given the long lag-time between the storms forming and making landfall on the two islands. While certainly accustomed to living through hurricanes, people in both capitals, Havana and San Juan, were perhaps guilty of a degree of complacency on this occasion.

US diplomats, families in Cuba targeted nearly 50 times by sonic attacks, says US official

US diplomats, families in Cuba targeted nearly 50 times by sonic attacks, says US official

September 24, 2017

Havana, Cuba (CNN)Some of the 21 US diplomats believed to have been impacted by mysterious acoustic attacks in Cuba were targeted multiple times, CNN has learned from a senior US official.

There were nearly 50 attacks in total, the official said.

Cuba warns U.S. against hasty decisions in mysterious illness in diplomats

Cuba warns U.S. against hasty decisions in mysterious illness in diplomats

September 27, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Cuba’s top diplomat warned the United States on Tuesday against taking hasty decisions over alleged incidents that have harmed U.S. embassy staff in Havana and urged its authorities to cooperate on the investigation into the mysterious affair.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez had called for Tuesday’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington to discuss the case, which has been threatening the already fragile detente between the two former Cold War foes.

Clueless on Cuba’s economy

Clueless on Cuba’s economy

September 28, 2017

GABRIEL and Leo have little in common. Gabriel makes 576 Cuban pesos ($23) a month as a maintenance man in a hospital. Leo runs a private company with revenues of $20,000 a month and 11 full-time employees. But both have cause for complaint. For Gabriel it is the meagre subsistence that his salary affords. In a dimly lit minimá (mini-mall) in Havana he shows what a ration book entitles one person to buy per month: it includes a small bag of coffee, a half-bottle of cooking oil and five pounds of rice. The provisions cost next to nothing (rice is one cent per pound) but are not enough. Cubans have to buy extra in the “free market”, where rice costs 20 times as much.

U.S. plans major withdrawal of staff from embassy in Cuba

U.S. plans major withdrawal of staff from embassy in Cuba

September 28, 2017

Two sources tell CBS News the U.S. is preparing to announce a major withdrawal of staff and family from the U.S. embassy in Cuba in response to attacks targeting diplomats. Only essential personnel will be left.

An internal memo was sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggesting a drawing down of personnel in Havana. The meeting this week between Tillerson and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla did nothing to help assure the U.S. that Cuban officials are doing enough to protect the safety and welfare of U.S. diplomats in their country. Though Cuba is allowing U.S. investigators into the country, it has not convinced the U.S. that it’s taken any real action to prevent the health attacks.

Trump dijo que ganó el 84 por ciento del voto cubanoamericano ¿Otra exageración?

El presidente Donald Trump firma un memorando sobre Cuba junto al vicepresidente Mike Pence, en el teatro Manuel Artime de la Pequeña Habana en Miami. Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com
El presidente Donald Trump firma un memorando sobre Cuba junto al vicepresidente Mike Pence, en el teatro Manuel Artime de la Pequeña Habana en Miami. Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com

Read more here: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/mundo/america-latina/cuba-es/article165311612.html#storylink=cpy

03 de agosto de 2017 6:25 PM

Eight Things You Need to Know about President Trump’s New Cuba Policy

William M. LeoGrande, Huff Post

On June 16, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami, declaring that he was “canceling” President Barack Obama’s opening to Havana. Here are eight things you need to know about what Trump did—and didn’t –do.

On June 16, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami, declaring that he was “canceling” President Barack Obama’s opening to Havana. Here are eight things you need to know about what Trump did—and didn’t –do.

(1) National Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba (NSPM)

During President Trump’s appearance in Miami, he signed a new National Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba which formalized elements of his new policy and replaced President Obama’s Presidential Directive on Cuba signed in October 2016. Obama’s directive laid out the rationale for a policy of engagement with Cuba and directed executive branch agencies to work toward its implementation. Rescinding it has no immediate practical effect, but signals that President Trump is no longer interested in a policy of normalization—something that was also clear from the confrontational tone of his Miami speech.

(2) Travel Opportunities

One of the main policy changes President Trump announced was tightening restricts on travel to Cuba and stepping up enforcement to be sure that travelers are going for a legally approved purpose. There are 12 categories of legal travel to Cuba, but the most popular one for non-Cuban Americans is “people-to-people” educational travel, offered by cruise ships and travel providers like National Geographic and Classic Journeys. President Obama legalized individual people-to-people trips, which meant travelers could go on their own and pursue a personalized itinerary. President Trump canceled that. Now, to go on a people-to-people trip, you’ll have to go in an organized group led by a licensed traveler provider, and follow a set itinerary. But you can still bring back rum and cigars.

(3) Transactions Benefiting the Cuban Military

The other major policy change President Trump announced was a ban on any direct transactions with entities that would benefit the Cuban military disproportionately. The terms “direct” and “disproportionate” haven’t been defined yet. That will happen when the Treasury Department issues the implementing regulations. This could get complicated, because a lot of enterprises in the tourism sector, including hotels, restaurants, tourist taxis, rental cars, and retail stores are controlled by the Cuban armed forces ministry. The State Department will produce a list of prohibited enterprises, which should clarify who you can do business with in Cuba and who you can’t. The good news: ports, airports, and telecommunications are exempt from the new regulations, so cruise ships, airlines, and Google are all safe. Existing contracts are exempt, too.

(4) Remittances

At first glance, Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) seems to say that remittances will be unaffected, but another section of the NSPM expands the definition of “prohibited government officials” of Cuba from a few dozen people to hundreds of thousands. That’s important because under existing regulations, Americans cannot send remittances to any Cuban who is a prohibited person. We’ll just have to wait and see how the Treasury Department sorts that out when it writes the regulations.

(5) Diplomatic Relations

Despite a very tough speech in Miami that denounced the Cuban government, President Trump did not break diplomatic relations with Havana. The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015. President Obama nominated career foreign service officer Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who was already serving in Havana as chief of the U.S. embassy, as ambassador, but he was never confirmed by the Senate. President Trump has not named an ambassador, but in his Miami speech, he indicated that he intended to keep the embassy open. So if you’re traveling to Cuba or doing business there, the embassy will still provide consular services as needed.

(6) Terrorism List

President Trump has not put Cuba back on the State Department’s list of countries that support international terrorism. Cuba was on that list until 2015, when the U.S. intelligence community concluded that it met the conditions for being removed and President Obama removed it. Since then, U.S. and Cuban law enforcement officials have been cooperating on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and cyber crime. President Trump’s NSPM mentions law enforcement as an area where engagement with Cuba serves U.S. national interest.

(7) Immigration Policy

President Trump is not restoring the wet foot/dry foot immigration policy that gave Cubans arriving in the United States a fast track to permanent residence and citizenship that no other immigrants enjoyed. President Obama ended wet foot/dry foot just before leaving office and President-elect Trump did not object at the time. Cuban immigrants are now treated no differently than immigrants from other countries. In his Miami speech, President Trump specifically said that he would not be changing that policy.

(8) Bilateral Accords

Between December 17, 2014, When President Obama announced the normalization of relations with Cuba, and the time he left office two years later, Cuba and the United States signed almost two dozen bilateral agreements on issues of mutual interest ranging from environmental protection to commercial air service. global health, and law enforcement. President Trump has not abrogated any of those agreements, and his NSPM lists many of the fields in which agreements have been signed as fields in which the United States will continue to engage with Cuba because it is in the national interest.