- As reported earlier the House of Representatives approved a bill entitled “Cuban Airport Security Act of 2017.” The bill instructs the Administrator of the Transportation and Security Administration to submit a report to the Congress assessing “the ability of known or suspected terrorists to use Cuba as a gateway of entry into the United States,” and “the vetting practices and procedures for airport employees,” as well as “any other information determined relevant to the security practices, procedures and equipment at such airports.” The bill also prohibits any United States air carrier from employing a Cuban national, “unless the air carrier has publically disclosed the full text of the covered agreement.” According to H.R.3328 “Cuban nationals [employed by the airline] ... shall not have been recruited, hired or trained by 'entities' of the Cuban government." As required by the Constitution the bill will not become law until approved by the Senate and signed by the President.
- In this issue we include a Reuters story published by The New York Times: “Cuban [government] investigators say U.S. sonic attack allegations 'science fiction'.” The regime’s denials must be taken with a grain of salt, because Havana has made an art of its use of lies, prevarications, and arbitrariness. Fidel Castro began by denying he was a communist; proceeded to deny there were Russian missiles in Cuba in 1962; said that the Cuban spies convicted by U.S. courts were not spying on the United States but on Cuban exiles. The spies targeted a Key West naval station and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. During the Obama Administration Havana lied when said that a North Korean freighter carried only tons of sugar. Panama searched the vessel and found war planes, missiles and other deadly cargo under the sugar. Raul Castro, by the side of Barack Obama in Havana, said there were no political prisoners in Cuba. Go figure.
- Cubanet reports that vendors, neighbors, critics of the government demonstrated last Tuesday at San Miguel del Padron protesting against police officers, upset with the abuse and mishandling of a young customer. The protest took place when the neighborhood chief of police beat up and arrested a young Cuban who was making purchases in a black market. The officer threatened him with a gun. The crowd, despite the arrival of State Security officers and several police cars, prevented the arrest of the demonstrators. The black market is well known in Havana. Cubans can purchase clothing and other items risking confiscation by the police. Vendors could be sentenced to a year for the crime of “illegal economic activity.”
- The Miami Herald reports that a Cuban American has been sentenced “under alleged espionage charges.” The article says that the “State Department’s travel site notes that the Cuban government has ‘detained U.S. citizens who are suspected of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security.’” Alina López Miyares worked as a teacher in Florida and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. When her mother visited the U.S. embassy asking for help, she was told that “the Cuban government does not allow embassy people to deal with those problems.” We reproduce the article below.
The New York Times, October 25, 2017
Cuban Investigators Say U.S. Sonic Attack Allegations 'Science Fiction'
By REUTERS OCT. 25, 2017
HAVANA — Cuban officials investigating U.S. complaints of attacks that sickened American diplomats in Havana said talk of acoustic strikes was "science fiction" and accused Washington of "slander" while it refused to cooperate fully with Cuba's enquiry.
U.S. President Donald Trump said last week he believed Havana was responsible for 24 diplomats being harmed. Washington expelled 15 Cuban diplomats and recalled more than half the U.S. diplomatic personnel from Havana earlier in October.
While Cuba denounced the expulsions as "unjustified" and accused the United States of insufficient cooperation, three Interior Ministry officials and a doctor heading the inquiry provided more details in an interview in Havana on Sunday.
Cuba had deployed about 2,000 security officials and experts, from criminologists to audiologists and mathematicians, to investigate the incidents after it became aware of them in February, the investigators said.
The probe has not ended but so far has failed to uncover any evidence to corroborate allegations of attacks that the United States says have caused hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue and cognitive issues for diplomatic personnel who were based on the Communist-run island.
"This is slander by the United States," said Coronel Ramiro Ramirez, responsible for the security of diplomats in Cuba.
Asked to respond to the Cuban officials' assertions, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States had reminded Cuba of its obligation to ensure the safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel and was continuing its investigation of the "attacks."
Washington officials have raised the possibility that sonic weapons were used to harm the diplomats, according to U.S. media reports. However, Cuban investigators denied such weapons could even have been used by third parties without affecting the health of others or attracting attention.
"It's impossible. We are talking about science fiction," said Lieutenant Colonel Jose Alazo, an expert in the criminal investigation unit of the Interior Ministry. "From a technical point of view, that argument is unsustainable."
HARD TO EXPLAIN
The investigators said the United States had supplied 14 recordings of the sound it says the victims heard during the attacks and recorded, for example, on cellphones.
These, however, did not contain anything that could damage human health, they concluded. The noises included the usual suburban sounds such as traffic, footsteps and voices.
They were also characterized by a deviation peak of 7 kiloHertz (kHz) in the frequency band of 3 kHz, similar to the song of a cricket.
An audible sound would need to be very loud - above 80 decibels or akin to a plane's engine – to have a health impact, they said. Yet only the victims heard the noise, not their families living in the same houses, or their neighbors.
"We interviewed more than 300 people in the neighborhood, we also evaluated more than 30 medically, and no one heard these things," Alazo said.
Even if the U.S. diplomats' reports of loud sounds were misleading and the source of the attacks was infra- or ultrasonic and therefore inaudible to human ears, it would be hard to explain how it could go undetected, the Cuban investigators said.
"You would need a source that could be seen from a satellite, it would be enormous," said Dr Manuel Villar, an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Finally, only two or three of the alleged victims had hearing problems, according to the U.S. information provided, whereas any kind of sonic attack would cause them in everyone, Villar said.
The United States has not formally accused Cuba of carrying out attacks, but Trump's comments further damaged relations between the old Cold War foes, which have rapidly deteriorated since he took office.
Canada has said several Canadians had reported similar symptoms to the U.S. diplomats but it has not taken any action against Cuba and has said Cuba had been very cooperative with the investigation. [L2N1LB25E]
"There is an anti-Cuban mafia in Miami and we are victims of their dirty work that involve certain people very close to the governing circles of the United States," Ramirez said.
Anti-Castro Cuban-Americans such as Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida have guided Trump's policy on Cuba, including a partial rollback of the historic detente forged by Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
Washington insists its drawdown at its embassy was motivated by concern for the health of its diplomats.
"The safety and wellbeing of American citizens is our top priority," said Nauert.
Investigators said U.S. actions did not add up with their accusations. More than 200 friends and relatives of U.S. diplomats based in Havana had asked for visas to visit them between February and July, despite the alleged attacks.
The fact that the information the United States provided was late was a major obstacle to resolving the mystery, said the investigators, who declined to comment on the state of cooperation with Canada.
So far, Washington had only officially reported 14 cases of alleged attacks to Cuba, compared with the 24 it had announced to the media, they said.
"It will be impossible to resolve this investigation without more cooperation," Ramirez said.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle in Washington and Marc Frank in Havana; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Grant McCool, Paul Tait and Bernadette Baum)
Miami Herald, October 24, 2017
Miami Cuban American faces long sentence in Havana under alleged espionage charges
By Nora Gámez Torres
The parents of Alina López Miyares left Cuba in 1969 to escape Fidel Castro's revolution. But that did not keep her from falling in love and marrying a former Cuban diplomat years later, and then traveling frequently to the island to be with him.
Now López Miyares seems likely to stay on the island for a while, serving a 13-year prison sentence allegedly on charges of spying after an Oct. 2 trial. Her husband, the ex Cuban diplomat Félix Martín Milanés Fajardo, was reportedly sentenced to 17 years in prison.
López Miyares, a 58-year-old former Miami teacher, was arrested in January in Havana after she traveled there to be with Milanés Fajardo, said her mother, Alina López, 89. She added that for months she did not know what had happened to her daughter, and learned about her arrest only after she went to Havana to ask.
The mother told el Nuevo Herald that she was allowed to see her daughter before and after the trial and was allowed to visit her in a Havana prison, but she declined to confirm reports by a son, Eugenio López, and Martinoticias that she was charged with spying.
It's not clear for which country Cuban authorities allege López and her husband were spying for.
El Nuevo Herald has not seen the court documents in her case, but Eugenio López has said that his sister was accused of spying and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
“My sister is the furthest thing from a spy. They made a fool out of her,” he told el Nuevo Herald. He told Telemundo 51, which first reported the case, that she was also accused of trying to help her husband escape the island.
“That man was evil-minded. He did his dirty business and involved her,” the mother said. She described the husband as a “degenerate” and supporter of the Castro government. But she added that neither she nor her husband had never met him. The couple wed in Cuba.
Her daughter “has lost weight (under arrest), been sick four or five times,” the mother said. “She suffers from high blood pressure, and has never experienced anything like this. She can't eat that food. I have to go and buy whatever there is.”
According to information posted online, López Miyares worked as an “itinerant teacher” at the Merrick Educational Center and Bruce Ball Educational Center, which are part of the Miami-Dade public school system, teaching special needs students at their homes or in hospitals.
The school system did not answer questions about her employment.
López Miyares’ brother said she met Milanés Fajardo in 2007 or 2008 in New York, where he worked as a Cuban diplomat. The details of the relationship are not clear, and it's not known if López Miyares has established legal residency on the island.
Milanés Fajardo, who was reportedly sentenced to 17 years in prison, is well known within the U.S. intelligence community.
A CIA report from 1989 identified him as a diplomat at the Cuban mission to the United Nations. In 1992, two former Cuban intelligence agents who defected to the United States identified him as an intelligence official with the cover title of third secretary at the mission. One of the defectors, Enrique García, confirmed to el Nuevo Herald that Milanes was an intelligence agent with diplomatic cover in New York.
García added that current and former Cuban intelligence officials are rarely authorized to marry foreigners. Approvals usually indicate that the foreign partner has been recruited by Cuban intelligence. The former Miami teacher is not known to have access to sensitive information, but García said Cuban intelligence can recruit foreigners simply to bring and deliver information.
López Miyares’ mother said she visited the U.S. Embassy in Havana to seek help but was told that “the Cuban government do not allow (embassy) people to deal with those problems.”
The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs would not comment on that version, citing privacy restrictions. “We are aware of reports of the arrest of a U.S. citizen in Cuba. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” a spokesperson for the State Department's Western Hemisphere Affairs stated in an email.
U.S. consular officials in Cuba have repeatedly cautioned that they can provide little assistance to U.S. citizens who run afoul of the law on the island, especially if they are Cuban Americans. The Cuban government regards everyone born in Cuba as a Cuban citizen, even if they have later adopted another citizenship.
The Cuban government does not regularly notify the U.S. embassy about the arrests of Cuban Americans who are U.S. citizens, and can deny consular officials access to them, the embassy warns on its web page.
The State Department's travel site also notes that the Cuban government has “detained U.S. citizens who are suspected of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security.”
The most notorious of those cases involved Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Havana for five years and exchanged for several Cuban spies at the start of the Obama administration's efforts to improve relations with Havana in 2014.
Since then, bilateral relations have been deteriorating since President Donald Trump's took office and reports of mysterious “attacks” on 24 U.S. diplomats in Havana went public.
López Miyares’ trial on Oct. 2 took place one day after the U.S. government ordered 15 Cuban diplomats to leave the United States.
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres