The Miami Herald, September 19, 2017
Unless Cuba comes clean about the embassy attacks on U.S. diplomats, it will put renewed ties at risk
By Miami Herald Editorial Board
The U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba AP
The strange case of U.S. diplomats in Cuba who suffered hearing loss and brain injury from mysterious sound waves emitted as they worked at the U.S. embassy in Havana seriously tests the emerging relations between the two countries.
Since the story broke last month, there are 21 confirmed victims — and there could more. Some have chronic hearing loss or concussions. Others have suffered from nausea, migraines, and tinnitus. They have also reported difficulties concentrating or remembering recent events.
The matter is so serious, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday warned that he is weighing the possibility of closing the embassy. On Friday, five Republican senators — including Florida’s Marco Rubio — asked Tillerson to shut down the embassy and also to expel all Cuban diplomats in the United States if the Cubans are clearly to blame for the atrocious “health attack” on American diplomats. That, indeed, should be the result. But strong evidence is needed.
Several victims said they felt vibrations or heard sounds only in some locations in rooms in the embassy. That has the Americans to think that they may have been victims of “sonic attacks.” Some victims did not hear anything, but suffered similar symptoms.
The Cuban government vehemently denies any involvement in the events. For their part, American investigators are considering several hypotheses, including an intentional attack with sonic waves, or with an electromagnetic weapon. It also could have been a spying operation — an effort to eavesdrop — that went terribly wrong.
Another hypothesis is that the guilty party could be a player other than the Cuban government, a third country with an embassy in Cuba or even a dissident faction within Raúl Castro’s own regime, both outside-the-box explanations.
The truth is that this attack has strained the already difficult relations between Washington and Havana, ties renewed to much fanfare in 2015.
On Tuesday, officials from both governments meet in Washington to discuss the incidents. The distressing episodes must be thoroughly investigated, and the Cuban government must present more coherent explanations and not merely say that it had nothing to do with the incidents.
The attacks endanger relationships that began a few years ago, a new bond that has seen some achievements but too many difficulties; as many hopes as frustrations.
Still, improvement in the abuse of human rights in Cuba, which many thought would occur with the rapprochement between both nations, has not yet occurred, which is why the Editorial Board supported President Trump’s new business and travel restrictions imposed in June. Now, suddenly, there are these unexplained attacks against U.S. diplomats.
They need an explanation, and they need to stop. Our career diplomats put themselves in danger in the world’s hotspot every day, and these attacks are unacceptable. Cuba has much to lose if its still-flimsy relations with the United States are broken and it is again isolated without commercial and tourism ties to the economic power 90 miles away.
U.S. officials must demand that Cuba clarify the issue, determine who is responsible, and ensure the safety of our representatives on Cuban soil. It’s a lot to ask of such a perennially untrustworthy regime that, if it spurns U.S. demands, does so at its own risk.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
September 19, 2017
Remarks by President Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations New York, New York
The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world. In the meantime, we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially. Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own regions.
That is why in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom. My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.
We have also imposed tough, calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse.
The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country. This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.
The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch.
As a responsible neighbor and friend, we and all others have a goal. That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy. I would like to thank leaders in this room for condemning the regime and providing vital support to the Venezuelan people.
The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.
We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today. Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbors.
I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis. We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela. (Applause.)
The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. (Applause.) From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.
America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their wellbeing, including their prosperity.
Secure Freedom Radio Podcast (Starts at 10:17)
FRANK CALZON, Executive Director at the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington D.C., Former DC Representative to Freedom House:
- Sonic weapon attack at U.S. embassy in Cuba
- What is the extent of the Castro regime’s involvement in the embassy attack?
- Hurricane Irma’s devastation in Havana