Earlier this week, Josefina Vidal, Raul Castro’s chief negotiator with Washington during the Obama Administration, objected to the testimony of Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America before a Senate subcommittee about the American diplomats who suffered serious health issues, including mild brain trauma while working at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Ms. Vidal, quoted [on January 9, 2018] by the Miami Herald’s Mimi Whitefield, said that “the “irresponsible statements” by Palmieri were “unacceptable.” 

What is really unacceptable and irresponsible is for the Cuban regime, that monitors all American diplomats 24/7 to expect the world to believe Havana knows nothing about it. Absent from Ms.Vidal’s comment and most media reports is the fact that some Canadian diplomats and their dependents were similarly harmed. Senator Marco Rubio said that “People were hurt and the Cuban government knows who did it.

“Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson is opening a formal inquiry into what the government has described as mysterious attacks in 2016 that sickened or injured 24 United States personnel who were stationed at the American Embassy in Cuba,” according to The New York Times,January 9.  Mr. Tillerson, in an interview with the Associated Press, January 9 said that “The United States would be putting people intentionally in harm’s way” if it sent diplomats back to Cuba.” The Secretary of State said "he’s not convinced that what he calls the 'deliberate attacks are over. He defended his September decision to order most U.S. personnel and their relatives to leave Cuba and said he won’t reverse course until Cuba’s government assures they’ll be safe."


Britain’s Daily Mail, January 10, reported that the Castro regime “gave Obama Cuban cigars and rum as president was lavished with gifts from foreign leaders in his final year.” President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, the President’s guru on Cuba Ben Rhodes, and the Obama’s children were given gifts by the Cuban dictator. Raul Castro had a lot to be grateful to Mr. Obama. The President did take Cuba out of the list of governments that support terrorism while the FBI offered a million dollars for information on an American terrorist residing in Havana who murdered an American police officer. President Obama also downplayed the discovery of Raul Castro’s attempted smuggling of war planes and missiles to North Korea. Excerpts from the article written by the Associated Press on Raul Castro’s gifts follows.

Daily Mail, January 10, 2018

Raul Castro gave Obama Cuban cigars and rum as president was lavished with gifts from foreign leaders in his final year

  • State Department documents detailing gifts from foreign leaders were published Thursday in the Federal Register
  • Among those presents, Cuban cigars and rum given to President Obama by Raul Castro
  • Government officials are allowed to accept gifts from foreign leaders if refusing them would cause the U.S. embarrassment  

 Cubans are proud of their cigars and rum.

So it made sense that Cuban leader Raul Castro provided more than $2,000 worth of his nation's most famous consumer products and other items to Barack Obama, his family and a top aide during the former U.S. president's final two years in office, according to federal documents posted online on Wednesday.

The gifts were apparently aimed at celebrating Obama's rapprochement with Cuba, which included an easing of the U.S. ban on importing Cuban liquor and tobacco.

Government officials are allowed to accept presents from foreign leaders and governments if refusing them would cause embarrassment.

But they must generally turn them over the National Archives if the goods are worth more than a modest amount.

Officials also could reimburse the government for their value.

The documents posted Wednesday by the State Department's Protocol Office indicate the Obamas and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes turned over their Cuban cigars and rum to the Secret Service and the archives.

Castro gave Obama 205 cigars of an unnamed brand, a humidor and cigar cutter along with the bottle of rum in 2015. The tobacco and booze were accompanied by a carved wooden bust of Abraham Lincoln.

The next year, Cuba's president gave former First Lady Michelle Obama a white linen dress and a large decorated ceramic plate worth an estimated $1,190.

The Obamas' two daughters also received linen dresses from Castro, two prints and a Cuban music collection on CD valued at $1,164.

Rhodes got 10 cigars, a silver earring and necklace jewelry set and a music CD worth a total of $670 in 2016, according to the State Department documents that will be published in Thursday's editions of the Federal Register.

Among other unusual gifts given to Obama by foreign leaders during his final year in office were a gold and silver sculpture of a Bedouin group decorated with precious gems, and a silver tone letter opener and pen worth $56,720 from Saudi King Salman. 

He got a black electric bicycle worth $1,499 from the president of Argentina, who also gave the first family two Argentine national football team jersey signed by star Lionel Messi that were valued at $1,700.