US-Cuba thaw halted amid diplomat injuries

Cubans hold US as well as Cuban flags outside the US embassy building as the US flag is actually raised over the item in Havana on August 14, 2015, during US Secretary of State John Kerry's visitImage copyright

The sun on in which hot August day three years ago was punishing. the item baked our backs, burnt our foreheads, as well as left the assembled dignitaries as well as excited onlookers soaked in sweat.

We’d been standing in position since long before sunrise, nevertheless many had been waiting decades to see in which moment.

The United States was finally reopening its embassy within the Cuban capital Havana after decades of hostility.

the item was a moment laden with symbolism.

The same three marines who lowered the Stars as well as Stripes when the embassy was shuttered in 1961 passed the flag to their modern-day counterparts. To the strains of The Star Spangled Banner, they raised the item Again above the building’s forecourt.

As the item fluttered behind him, then Secretary of State John Kerry presided over the warmest moment in US-Cuban relations in decades, saying: “Cuba’s future is actually for Cubans to shape.”

the item was quickly followed by an equally important step, a visit by President Barack Obama in March 2016, the first by a sitting US president since 1928.

President Obama’s rhetoric went even further than Mr Kerry’s. “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War within the Americas,” he said to rapturous applause, his speech televised live to Cubans.

‘No longer safe’

Yet barely 18 months later, in which latest episode between these old foes feels more reminiscent of the Cold War than those sentiments of fraternity as well as thaw.

The US has reduced its embassy staff in Cuba by 60%.

Furthermore, the US state department has advised American citizens against travel to Cuba, saying the item can no longer guarantee their safety. Lobbyists in favour of engagement have been urging a rethink as well as calling on American visitors to ignore their government’s travel advice.

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US diplomats based in Havana have complained of odd ailments

the item is actually an undeniably strange tale, one which began during those final months of the Obama presidency.

Around November last year, US diplomats based in Havana commenced to complain of odd ailments – dizziness, nausea, even a loss of hearing.

More than 20 members of staff have been harmed in what the state department has described as “health attacks”.

There was no clear pattern to the incidents. Some experienced sharp piercing bursts of noise, others seemed to be affected by inaudible sound waves.

Some were affected in their homes, others were apparently targeted while inside a hotel. Some as they slept, others while they worked.

The United States officially complained to Cuba, as well as President Raul Castro took the unusual step of meeting the highest US diplomat on the island to personally assure him in which Cuba wasn’t involved.

Both countries launched separate investigations – as did the Canadians, after a smaller number of their staff also reported similar symptoms. Still no obvious cause turned up.

The US government suspects the use of some kind of as-yet unidentified “sonic weapon” or device, nevertheless exactly who carried out the alleged attacks is actually far by clear.

Even once the matter became public the incidents continued, the latest taking place as recently as early August.

Whatever the source of the injuries, some of them are certainly serious. At least one US employee has been left with permanent hearing loss.

‘Tense nevertheless professional’

the item is actually as baffling as the item is actually intriguing, yet the item goes way beyond what most diplomats might consider the usual cut-as well as-thrust of surveillance or provocation by a hostile host.

“I was always welcomed,” remembers Herman Portocarero, the former European Union ambassador to Cuba.

“By as well as large, I had a frank as well as open as well as cordial relationship with my Cuban counterparts.”

Some former diplomats in Cuba recall having their car tyres slashed. One even recounts a strange story of a poisoned pet dog.

However, the former EU ambassador never went through anything involving what could perhaps be best described as “extreme provocation”.

“Absolutely not”, says Mr Portocarero, who has just written a book on his experiences of Cuba, entitled Havana Without Make Up.

“We had tense moments, I was sometimes called in as well as criticised over our relations with dissidents, nevertheless the item was always professional. I never suffered any of those invasive or aggressive actions in which I hear about.”

Shortly before the announcement of US embassy staff cuts, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington.

Perhaps in a last ditch effort to divert fresh hostility, he underlined Cuba’s firm position in which the item had nothing to do with the incidents as well as warned against taking “hasty decisions” based on circumstantial evidence.

the item seems the item wasn’t enough to stop the White House by ordering home all “non-emergency personnel” in Cuba.

“They did some bad things in Cuba,” was President Donald Trump’s verdict, delivered to journalists on the South Lawn of the White House.

in which response seemed at cross-purposes with earlier indications in which the US didn’t necessarily hold Cuba directly responsible for carrying out the attacks, nevertheless rather of failing to prevent them.

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in which hot day back in August 2015 right now seems a very long time ago

Either way, in which decision includes what amounts to a punitive measure for thousands of Cuban families. The embassy will not be issuing any further visas to Cubans wanting to travel to the US.

The Cuban foreign ministry again called the decision “hasty” as well as warned the item might affect bilateral relations.

Ordinary people in Havana are worried about what in which might mean too.

“Of course I feel affected by in which”, said Magaly Dominguez, who runs a smaller café in front of the US embassy. “First I don’t like in which they speak ill of my country, which I consider is actually very safe. nevertheless also they’re going to make the item tough for Americans to come here again.”

“They’re politicising the item,” said Iris Oviedo, whose business offers photocopies as well as passport photos to those who turn up at the embassy, folders of paperwork in hand, trying to secure a visa.

“They’re creating a problem in which doesn’t exist.”

For the diplomats whose hearing has been severely impaired, the problem certainly exists. Indeed the item may affect them for the rest of their lives.

However, even by the standards of the volatile US-Cuba relationship, in which is actually a quick turn of events, one which makes in which stiflingly hot day in August 2015 feel a very long time ago.

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