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On Christmas Eve, he was a happy child in Cuba. On Christmas Day, alone in a new country

The author’s ninth-grade class from “el Colegio Salesiano de Guines” in Cuba. Pictured in the center is the principal from the school, Father Mendez, (no relation). Armando Mendez, the author, is the second boy from the left in the front row. The photograph is from 1960-61, the last school year Armando Mendez completed in Cuba.

The Miami Herald

On Christmas Day, 1961, I lost my innocence.
Instead of waking up to presents given by loving parents, family and friends, I received goodbyes from aunts, uncles, cousins, school friends, my dog, my town, my school, my parents and my grandmother.
In my suitcase, I packed my memories. Would I ever see my beloved Güines again? I could hear my mother and grandmother crying behind closed doors, and my father giving me advice on what to do and not to do as I left for this flight — the flight of Pedro Pan into Never-Never Land. I didn’t understand the reasons why; I only knew that my parents and all the adults, including the headmaster of the Salesian school where I had been since kindergarten, thought that this flight was for the best. Best because I would be going to the promised land of freedom, even though I had to go by myself, like Wendy and her siblings, leaving my parents behind.
I remember arriving at the airport of Rancho Boyeros and going into the “fish bowl,” sitting next to other children of all ages who like me were looking at their parents behind the glass. We put up a brave front, although inside we were all crying. We were stripped of not only our personal possessions, such as the ruby ring given to me by my grandfather, but of our happy times together with our families. Parents and children separated by glass and by a Communist government that was going to indoctrinate their children. As I ascended the stairs to the plane, I kept looking back trying to catch a glimpse of my parents; I don’t know if it was the tears, but I was unable to see them one last time.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miDuring the 45-minute flight, a myriad of thoughts assailed me. I was afraid of how I was going to survive separated from my parents. Who was going to take care of me? Where would I sleep? Where was I going to live? How was I going to survive when I didn’t even know English? Too soon, and before I had answers to any of these questions, we arrived at our destination: Miami.
As I and approximately 150 other children arrived, we were herded like cattle, according to our age group and gender. The girls were sent to Florida City; boys 16 years old and older were sent to Matecumbe in the Keys. I, along with boys 15 and younger, was sent to Kendall. The Catholic Welfare Bureau had set up these centers to house the children of Operation Pedro Pan.
Upon arrival at the Kendall camp, we were assigned a bunk bed, shown where to put our meager possessions and have a meal. I quickly remembered my father’s words when I was presented with the first plate of food in a new land, cornmeal, which I didn’t like. “Eat son, whatever is put in front of you, because you don’t have a choice. It’s either eat or go hungry.”
How different it was. At home, if I didn’t like something, Abuelita prepared something else for me. Here, at the Kendall camp, the lessons started right away: Eat cornmeal or go hungry. As we were getting ready for bed, I looked at the sad faces of my companions, the children of Pedro Pan. I’m sure my own face also reflected the sadness that overwhelmed all of us because of the separation. Each one of us dealt with our loss differently – some cried, some nervously giggled and one boy started taking flight with a knife because he wanted to go home. When he was finally calmed down by the counselor, he started whimpering like a wounded dog; his heart, like mine, was wounded by leaving behind all that was near and dear to us.
As I lay in bed that Christmas Day night, I thought how quickly and irrevocably life changes. On Christmas Eve, I was a happy, innocent, pampered child, and on Christmas Day, I became a man. How ironic that they chose that name for this operation, Pedro Pan – Peter Pan, the child who never grew up. No, I grew up overnight; I ceased being a child the moment I became part of the Pedro Pan Operation and left Güines, Cuba, never to return again.

Chirps, hums and phantom noises — how bizarre events in Cuba changed embassy workers’ brains

The Washington Post

They would sometimes wake in the night to hear a disembodied chirping somewhere in the room, or a strange, low hum, or the sound of scraping metal.
Sometimes they felt a phantom flutter of air pass by as they listened. Others in the room would often not notice a thing, the Associated Press reported, and the noises would cease if the person moved just a few feet away.
And then, usually within 24 hours of these bizarre events, bad things happened to those who heard the noises.
What exactly two dozen Americans experienced at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba — in incidents last year and then again in August — remains a mystery to science and the FBI. They have alternately been blamed on a high-tech sonic weapon or a mysterious disease, and have caused a diplomatic crisis because U.S. officials blame Cuba for the attacks.
Now physicians are preparing to release a report on what happened to the people who heard the sounds, the AP reports, including physical changes in their brains.
Workers and their spouses at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Havana began complaining of maladies in late 2016, as Anne Gearan wrote for The Washington Post, after hearing strange, localized sounds in their homes.

Their symptoms included a loss of hearing or sight, vertigo and nausea. Some people struggled to recall common words.
For lack of other explanations, U.S. officials initially blamed a “covert sonic weapon,” the AP reported. Although medical experts largely dismissed the theory, the United States continues to blame the incidents on the Cuban government and has recalled many diplomatic workers, and considered closing the embassy, which opened in 2015.

Meanwhile, the AP reported, physicians at the University of Miami and the University of Pennsylvania have been treating the victims and trying to figure out what happened to them.
While what caused the phantom sounds is still unknown, tests have revealed at least some of the workers suffered damage to the white matter that lets different parts of their brains communicate with each other.
The physicians are planning to publish their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, according to the AP, which quoted several unnamed U.S. officials who aren’t authorized to talk about the investigation.
The discovery only deepens the mystery, and makes the possibility of a sonic attack even less likely in the eyes of medical experts. As The Post has written, other theories include an electromagnetic device, chemical weapons or a hitherto unknown disease.

“Physicians are treating the symptoms like a new, never-seen-before illness,” the AP wrote, and expect to monitor the victims for the rest of their lives, although most have fully recovered from their symptoms by now.
The physicians are working with FBI agents and intelligence agencies as they look for a source, and U.S. officials have not backed down from their accusations against the Cuban government, which denies any involvement despite a history of animosity between the two countries.

When asked about the attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Dec. 6 he had told the Cuban government “you can stop it.”

“What we’ve said to the Cubans is: Small island, you got a sophisticated security apparatus, you probably know who’s doing it, you can stop it,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a news conference at NATO on Wednesday.

He said he’s told U.S. officials to withhold any personal information about the victims from the Cubans — and “not to provide whoever was orchestrating these attacks with information that is useful to how effective they were.”

Cuban Exiles Recount ‘Sonic’ Torture by Castro Regime

The Daily Signal

A group of Cuban exiles and former political prisoners gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday to recount human rights abuses that they and their relatives suffered at the hands of the Fidel Castro regime.
In a hearing organized by Freedom House and the Justice Cuba International Commission, survivors told gripping stories about friends and family who were imprisoned, tortured, and killed for resisting communist rule in Havana.
The tales of two former political prisoners stood out among the heart-wrenching accounts of abuses, if only for their parallels to the strange, unexplained sonic attacks inflicted upon U.S. diplomats in Havana last year. Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez and Luis Zuniga, anti-Castro dissidents who were sent to hideous regime prisons, said they were repeatedly subjected to “ultra-sonic” torture over more than 20 years in confinement.
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“The methodology consisted of placing large loudspeakers around 4 feet high each … at both ends of the hallway of cells,” Zuniga recalled of his experience in 1979. “Then, they were connected to some sort of electronic device that produced high-pitched sounds.”
“The sounds oscillated from high pitch to very high pitch that almost pieced the eardrums,” he added.
Zuniga went on to describe symptoms from the torture sessions, saying that he began to feel “increasingly uneasy” and “unable to think.” Other prisoners suffered debilitating headaches. The brutal punishment lasted for days, he recalled, leading to the suicide of a fellow inmate.
“This torture was kept [up] for days and nights without a respite,” Zuniga said. “It ended when one of the prisoners … hung himself. He died from the torture.”
For the former prisoners and exiles gathered at Wednesday’s hearing, the memories of audio torture were made fresh this summer, when it was revealed that American diplomatic personnel had been subjected to similar treatment over the previous year. What the State Department described as “sonic attacks” may have occurred in diplomatic residences and hotels in Havana—not in the regime’s dank prisons—but many of the physical and mental effects were eerily similar to those described by Zuniga.
Victims of the mysterious attacks, which began in late 2016 and continued through this summer, experienced disturbing symptoms, including permanent hearing damage, memory loss, and impaired cognitive function. In several cases, the affected officials reported hearing noises similar to loud crickets and then experiencing physical distress.
Last month, the Associated Press obtained and released an audio recording of the noise that U.S. intelligence officials believe was used in some of the incidents. Like the sound described by the Cuban political prisoners, the noise heard by American diplomatic personnel was a high-pitched whine that modulated in intensity and tone.
The U.S. has not directly accused the Castro regime of carrying out the attacks. Investigators are looking into the possibility that Cuban intelligence, perhaps a rogue element of spies, orchestrated the provocations in order to derail the normalization of diplomatic relations begun under the Obama administration, reports Politico.
Whoever is to blame, the episode has certainly soured relations between Washington and Havana. In a series of diplomatic reprisals, the State Department reduced the size of its Cuban mission, ordered Havana to withdraw several of its own diplomats, and issued a special warning advising Americans to avoid travel to Cuba until further notice.
Those moves were a prelude to new travel and trade restrictions President Donald Trump implemented earlier this month, halting and reversing the bilateral rapprochement initiated by his predecessor. Trump, who came into office highly critical of the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba, has made good on his promise to take a tougher stance toward the Castro regime.
Trump’s position was met with unanimous approval among the exiles, their relatives, and Cuban-American politicians assembled at the Justice Cuba event. Rene Bolio, Justice Cuba’s chairman, told attendees that human rights abuses in Cuba did not end with Fidel Castro’s death and the succession of his brother, Raul Castro.
“It’s not a thing from the past,” he said.
Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Fla., one of the most ardent Cuba hawks in Congress, concluded the event with praise for the Trump administration’s hard line on Castro—and a swipe at President Barack Obama’s approach.
“I am exceedingly grateful that the policy of the last number of years, of trying to legitimize the corrupt, murderous [Castro] regime, of the visual of the president of the United States doing the wave at a baseball game with a tyrant—those days are over,” Diaz said.

Amid growing isolation, North Korea falls back on close ties with Cuba

The Washington Post

In the midst of increasing international isolation, North Korea is sending its foreign minister to an old ally: Cuba. In a short message released Friday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency announced that Ri Yong Ho and his delegation departed on their journey to Havana.
The move comes after a number of North Korean trading partners announced that they would be suspending trade with North Korea. Pyongyang’s seventh-largest trading partner, Singapore, announced that it would halt its trade ties with the country Thursday. In September, the Philippines — North Korea’s fifth-largest trading partner — said it would do the same.
In purely economic terms, Cuba is probably of negligible importance to North Korea compared to these nations: Official figures show that Havana fails to crack the top 10 trading partners, and it certainly falls far behind China, North Korea’s most important economic ally.
However, at this point, Pyongyang may be hoping to shore up international partners wherever it can.
“Looking at the vast number of countries that have announced severed ties with North Korea over the past few weeks, it makes a great deal of sense for the regime to attempt to reinforce the bonds that exist in whatever ways possible,” said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and co-editor of North Korean Economy Watch, in an email.
Notably, the move also comes at a time of increasing tension between Cuba and the United States following the Obama administration attempt at normalization of relations with Havana from 2014 onward. “Considering that the country’s own detente with the U.S. appears to have stalled,” Katzeff Silberstein said, referring to Cuba, “North Korea might (reasonably) see some particular momentum.”
For Havana and Pyongyang, warm relations are nothing new. Cuba and North Korea came to be allies during the early days of the Cold War — Che Guevara, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary who played a key role in Cuba’s revolution, visited North Korea in 1960 and praised Kim Il Sung’s regime as a model for Cuba to follow. Even after the Cold War ended, the two nations, now both isolated internationally, kept up their ties: Cuba also remains one of the few countries in the world to not have diplomatic relations with South Korea, for example.

The two nations were willing to flout sanctions to work together economically. In July 2013, a North Korea-flagged vessel was seized by Panamanian authorities carrying suspected missile-system components hidden under bags of sugar upon its return from Cuba. A report released the following year by a United Nations panel of experts concluded that the shipment had violated sanctions placed on North Korea, although Cuban entities were not sanctioned in the aftermath despite protests from the United States.
Crucially, the thawing of ties with Washington didn’t seem to significantly damage the relationship: In December 2016, a North Korean delegation to the funeral of Cuban leader Fidel Castro emphasized that the two nations should develop their relations “in all spheres” — a comment that was echoed by Raúl Castro, according to state media reports at the time.
Since President Trump took office in January, there have been signs that the thaw with Cuba is over. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced strict new restrictions on U.S. travel and trade with Cuba, a move that largely followed through on Trump’s campaign promise to “terminate” the Obama-era normalization with Cuba.

 

US takes steps to make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba

CNBC

he Trump administration is imposing travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba.
The prior administration pursued a thawing of relations with the island nation.
Americans wanting to visit Cuba will have to go as part of organized tour groups run by U.S. companies under the new rules.
The Trump administration is imposing travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba that will make it harder for Americans to visit the island nation.
New rules are coming out Wednesday that put in place President Donald Trump’s partial rollback of the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening with Cuba.
Americans wanting to visit Cuba will have to go as part of organized tour groups run by U.S. companies. A representative of the sponsoring group must accompany the travelers. The Treasury Department is exempting trips booked before Trump announced his Cuba policy on June 16.
The State Department is also publishing a list of dozens of hotels, shops and other businesses that it says are linked to Cuba’s military. Americans are banned from doing business with them — making travel even more complicated.

 

JFK files a trove of Miami secrets

The Miami Herald

If the federal government makes good on a 25-year-old pledge Thursday and releases 30,000 secret documents about the Kennedy assassination, the results might look a little bit like a 1963 Miami phone book.
The trove of files, mostly from the CIA and FBI, contains thousands of documents on South Florida people and organizations involved in efforts to topple Fidel Castro’s communist Cuban government in the early 1960s, when that was practically Miami’s leading industry.
Under a law enacted in 1992, the documents — supposedly the last batch of classified government files on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy — must be opened to the public no later than Thursday unless President Donald Trump intervenes to block the process.
Trump tweeted last weekend that he would go through with the declassification. But he left himself a bit of wiggle room by adding that his promise was “subject to the receipt of further information.”
That was a reference to fierce lobbying by the CIA and FBI to keep at least some of the documents secret — an effort that is still going on. “[CIA chief] Mike Pompeo is definitely fighting hard to hold them back,” said Roger Stone, a longtime on-and-off Trump political associate.
Stone is also a Kennedy assassination researcher — his 2013 book “The Man Who Killed Kennedy” argued that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was behind the killing — and he said he spoke to the president a week ago, urging that the release take place.
Stone is convinced that it will. But he noted that the last batch of assassination documents to be released was so heavily censored (“redacted,” in CIA-speak) that much of it was useless. “I’m not confident we won’t have that again, that there won’t be a back-door bureaucratic effort to nullify the president’s decision,” he said.
Censorship isn’t the only threat to the documents. The National Archive’s last release of assassination files, in July, was marred by cyber-crash-and-burns that locked up computers for hours at a time. And researchers who got through found many of the documents were impenetrable pastiches of CIA jargon and code words.
“A lot of these files are going to be written in the language of the CIA’s operational directorate, which is not easy for outsiders to comprehend,” warned former CIA analyst Brian Latell, author of “Castro’s Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, The CIA, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy,” which contends that the assassination was carried out with at least the knowledge — and perhaps even help — of the Castro regime.
JFK files a trove of Miami secrets
Whether any of the South Florida-linked files are among those being hotly contested is impossible to know. But some assassination researchers told the Miami Herald that it’s likely they are.
“The CIA is not trying to keep these things hidden because there’s a signed confession to the Kennedy assassination in the archives,” said Gerald Posner, the Miami Beach author of “Case Closed,” which argues strongly that the assassination was not the result of a conspiracy. “It’s doing it because there’s stuff that’s embarrassing. And one thing that might be embarrassing is some of the activities of these anti-Castro groups that the CIA was friendly with.”
A peek inside the cyberbackdoor of the National Archives, where the documents are housed, reveals that many of those groups, their members and their associates are the subject of classified files. Using a digital search engine that the archives maintains to help it keep track of exactly what files it has, the Herald located nearly 3,000 files linked to various anti-Castro groups and figures — though their exact contents remains secret:
• Among the biggest caches of documents — more than 1,600 pages of them — concerns militant Cuban exiles Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, who lived in the Miami area off and on beginning in the 1960s. (Bosch died in 2011; Posada Carriles is believed to still be here.)
They partnered in various violent attacks on targets associated with the Castro regime — including, allegedly, the bombing of a Cubana airline flight that killed 77 people, though they denied it and were never convicted. Bosch specialized in bombings of Cuban diplomatic posts; Posada Carriles, in attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. His last known one, in Panama, took place in 2000. He was convicted, then pardoned.
• Convicted Watergate burglars Virgilio González, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez and Frank Sturgis, along with their former CIA boss, Howard Hunt, are mentioned in a collective 764 pages of files. All the men participated in militant anti-Castro attacks, and all lived in Miami at various times from the 1960s onward. Hunt, Barker and Sturgis have all died. The others live in South Florida.
• More than a thousand pages of the classified files refer to Manuel Artime, who helped plan the CIA backed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and then was captured ashore. Ransomed home by the U.S. government, he was on stage next to President Kennedy during a huge “welcome home” rally for captured participants in the invasion. Living in Miami, he spent the next several years on armed attacks on Cuba; he died in 1977.
• Ricardo Morales, better known by the nickname Monkey as he moved through the nightscape of Miami conspiracy and narcotrafficking in the early 1980s, is the subject of 172 pages of documents. A former Cuban intelligence officer who defected in 1960, Morales spent several years under contract with the CIA as a paramilitary officer, fighting secret wars in, among other places, Africa. Later he turned to freelance anti-Castro work — he, too, was accused but never convicted of involvement in the bombing of the Cubana airliner — and then drug-running. He was shot to death in a Key Biscayne bar brawl in 1982.
• Tony Cuesta, who blew off a hand and an eye during a 1966 raid on Cuba by his Miami-based militant group Commandos L but continued to mastermind attacks against the island until he died in 1992, is the subject of 48 pages. Two other Miami-based anti-Castro groups, Alpha 66 and the Revolutionary Student Directorate, figure in 112 pages.
Both Cuba and Miami-based anti-Castro exiles have long been near the center of the vast complex of theories about who killed Kennedy. The motive for the exiles, supposedly, is their rage at the lack of U.S. battlefield help during the Bay of Pigs invasion, particularly Kennedy’s decision at the last minute to pull American air support.
Castro’s purported motive is more direct: his knowledge that the Kennedy administration was trying to kill him through various exotic CIA-supplied weapons, including an exploding seashell and a poisoned diving suit. The Cuban dictator had even issued a not very veiled threat to an American reporter in Havana: “U.S. leaders should think if they are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders they themselves will not be safe.”
To add intrigue to the Cuba angle, Lee Harvey Oswald — the malcontent Texas Marxist who fired the bullets that killed Kennedy, according to the much-disputed official investigation conducted after the assassination by the Warren Commission — visited the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City about six weeks before the assassination in search of visas to visit the two countries.
Journalist-historian Jefferson Morley believes that the documents scheduled for release this week may shed more light on what Oswald was up to and, more importantly in his view, what the CIA knew about him.
Morley’s new book, “The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton,” offers evidence that Angleton — one of the most powerful yet cryptic spies in the history of American intelligence — knew Oswald was in Mexico and was following his activities closely.
Morley notes 151 pages of testimony Angleton gave in secret in 1975 to a U.S. Senate investigating CIA activities is among the documents scheduled for declassification. He think it may include material on Oswald’s visit to Mexico.
“Angleton was interested in Oswald from the start and used him for intelligence purposes,” Morley told the Herald. “From these files, we might find out a lot more about what those purposes were.”

Dangerous sound? What Americans heard in Cuba attacks

It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.
The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.
The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.
What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.
Whether there’s a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The U.S. says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.
The recordings from Havana have been sent for analysis to the U.S. Navy, which has advanced capabilities for analyzing acoustic signals, and to the intelligence services, the AP has learned. But the recordings have not significantly advanced U.S. knowledge about what is harming diplomats.
The Navy did not respond to requests for comment on the recording. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert wouldn’t comment on the tape’s authenticity.
Cuba has denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. The U.S. hasn’t blamed anyone and says it still doesn’t know what or who is responsible. But the government has faulted President Raul Castro’s government for failing to protect American personnel, and Nauert said Thursday that Cuba “may have more information than we are aware of right now.”
“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” said White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Not all Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard precisely the same thing.
Yet the AP has reviewed several recordings from Havana taken under different circumstances, and all have variations of the same high-pitched sound. Individuals who have heard the noise in Havana confirm the recordings are generally consistent with what they heard.
“That’s the sound,” one of them said.
The recording being released by the AP has been digitally enhanced to increase volume and reduce background noise, but has not been otherwise altered.
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again.
A closer examination of one recording reveals it’s not just a single sound. Roughly 20 or more different frequencies, or pitches, are embedded in it, the AP discovered using a spectrum analyzer, which measures a signal’s frequency and amplitude.
To the ear, the multiple frequencies can sound a bit like dissonant keys on a piano being struck all at once. Plotted on a graph, the Havana sound forms a series of “peaks” that jump up from a baseline, like spikes or fingers on a hand.
“There are about 20 peaks, and they seem to be equally spaced. All these peaks correspond to a different frequency,” said Kausik Sarkar, an acoustics expert and engineering professor at The George Washington University who reviewed the recording with the AP.
Those frequencies might be only part of the picture. Conventional recording devices and tools to measure sound may not pick up very high or low frequencies, such as those above or below what the human ear can hear. Investigators have explored whether infrasound or ultrasound might be at play in the Havana attacks.
The recordings have been played for workers at the U.S. Embassy to teach them what to listen for, said several individuals with knowledge of the situation in Havana. Some embassy employees have also been given recording devices to turn on if they hear the sounds. The individuals weren’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly and demanded anonymity.
Cuban officials wouldn’t say whether the U.S. has shared the recordings with Cuba’s government.
Another big question remains: Even if you know you’re under attack, what do you do? Still dumbfounded by what’s causing this, the United States has been at a loss to offer advice.
The embassy’s security officials have told staff if they believe they’re being attacked, they should get up and move to a different location, because the attack is unlikely to be able to follow them, the commenting individuals said. The AP reported last month that some people experienced attacks or heard sounds that were narrowly confined to a room or parts of a room.
The State Department has said 22 Americans are “medically confirmed” to be affected and that the number could grow. The symptoms and circumstances reported have varied widely, making some hard to tie conclusively to the attacks. The incidents began last year and are considered “ongoing,” with an attack reported as recently as late August.
Cuba has defended its “exhaustive and priority” response, emphasizing its eagerness to assist the U.S. investigation. Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story but have complained in the past that Washington refuses to share information they say they need to fully investigate, such as medical records, technical data and timely notification of attacks.

Dr. Darsi Ferret, who helped expose the lies about Cuba’s ‘free healthcare’ was found dead in Florida

I am very sorry to report the death of Dr. Darsi Ferret, a well-known Cuban dissident and human rights activist, who in 2007 worked closely with me to help expose the lies about Cuba’s ‘free healthcare’ that were portrayed on Michael Moore’s document “Sicko”, which claimed that healthcare in Castro’s Cuba was “free and much better than healthcare in the U.S.”.
According to press reports, Darsi was found dead on Friday morning in the offices of Dar-TV, a TV channel in West Palm Beach. The cause of his death is not known at this time. He was 47 years old.
My deepest condolences to his two sons, his sister, his ex-wife and the rest of his family.

In June of 2007, I was contacted by a producer of ABC/20-20, who had seen photos of Cuban hospitals on my website.

ABC was preparing a program about private healthcare in the U.S. compared to government healthcare in other countries. It also wanted to know if the information about healthcare in Cuba, presented on Sicko was true or pro-Castro propaganda.

The producer, Melissa Scott, came to Miami and told me she was planning to go to Havana with an ABC cameraman and other technicians to film inside the hospitals that are used by regular Cubans, not the hospitals for foreigners who pay the Castro brothers in hard currency and that were shown on Michael Moore’s documentary.

I explained to her that this was impossible because the Cuban regime would never allow it, but that if she wanted, I knew a Cuban doctor who was very familiar with the reality of healthcare in Cuba and could go inside the hospitals and film using a concealed camera.

For the next 3 months, I took part on daily three-way phone conferences between Ms. Scott in New York, Dr. Darsi Ferret in Cuba and myself. Unbelievable as it may seem, ABC didn’t know how to do a three-way conference call with Cuba, so I had to do it from my house phone. It was at a time when there were very few cellular phones in Cuba and Darsi didn’t have a phone in his house and much less a cell phone. He had to go to the home of another dissident, who lived nearby, and wait for our call. I would call each morning and let them know the time we were going to call in the afternoon, to make sure they could advise Darsi to be there.

The producer, who didn’t speak Spanish, would tell me what she wanted him to film and I would convey that to Darsi. We were always concerned that government agents would find out and arrest him, but he was never worried and always willing to take the risk. “I want the world to know the truth,” he would tell us.

Even though ABC News had a bureau in Havana, they refused to get involved in any of the filming or to interview Darsi, or other dissidents, because they were afraid that Cuba could close the bureau and expel those working there. They wouldn’t even provide a camera for Darsi to use, and we had to spend weeks looking for one in Cuba.

At the end, when Darsi finally got all the films that the producer wanted, he told me: “Mi hermanito (his favorite phrase) I have the DVD ready, how do you I get it to you?” I called ABC in New York and they told me they had someone in Cuba who could transmit it to them through the Internet. But the person this person refused to do it because he had not filmed the material.

So, after all this work we had a DVD with all the films taken without government permission, and no way to get it out of Cuba. I called a good friend, Maria Werlau who had originally put me in touch with Darsi, and asked her if she could help. She contacted the president of a country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union and he agreed to help. Darsi took the DVD to their Embassy in Havana, and they sent it to their Consulate in Cancun and from there to my house in Miami.
I wanted to tell this story for people to know the risks that Dr. Ferret took in order to expose the lies of the Cuban regime and Michael Moore’s documentary. He suffered prison and beatings several times while he was in Cuba, for his work in defense of human rights.

The videos and photos that appeared on ABC 20/20 and also on Fox News’ Hannity can be seen below:

5 senators call for US to shutter embassy in Havana

The Hill

Five GOP senators are pressing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to expel all Cuban diplomats from the U.S. and shutter the American Embassy in Havana.

In a letter to Tillerson dated Thursday, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and James Lankford (Okla.) admonished Cuba for failing to ensure the security of U.S. diplomats based in the country.

“Cuba’s neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged,” the letter reads.

The letter comes as the number of Americans confirmed to have suffered mysterious health symptoms during stints in Havana continues to rise. That number was updated to 21 this week.

Some Americans have experienced permanent hearing loss and mild brain damage, or concussions, from the so-called “health attacks,” the cause of which remains unknown.

“The safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families posted overseas remains one of our high priorities and a shared responsibility of those nations that host U.S. diplomatic facilities,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to remind the Cuban government of its obligation and to demand that it take verifiable action to remove these threats to our personnel and their families.”

Symptoms were first reported in fall 2016 and were initially believed to have continued until spring 2017. But the State Department revealed earlier this month that an incident happened as recently as August. U.S. officials are investigating the matter.

The incidents were made public in early August, when the State Department revealed that the U.S. had expelled two Cuban diplomats from the country’s embassy in Washington.

It remains unclear who is responsible for the attacks, and the Cuban government has repeatedly denied any wrong-doing. The Associated Press reported Friday that, after hearing of the attacks, Cuban President Raul Castro voiced concern and befuddlement to Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a U.S. diplomat in Havana.

The Cuban government even offered to allow the FBI to investigate the matter — a level of access rarely offered by foreign governments, according to the AP.

The U.S. relationship with Cuba is a tense one, after President Trump earlier this year said his administration would clamp down on the travel and trade restrictions former President Obama had relaxed during his tenure.