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Fidel Castro’s firstborn joined a long list of suicides in Cuba

Clinica de Seguridad Personal, a military hospital in the Kohly neighborhood, where Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart was reportedly getting treatment for depression.

The Miami Herald

Fidel Castro’s eldest son has joined a long list of public figures who have taken their own lives in a country with one of the highest rates of suicide.

In a rare exercise of transparency, the Cuban official press on Thursday reported that Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, 68, committed suicide after suffering from deep depression for months.

According to various versions, which el Nuevo Herald has not been able to confirm, his death occurred under circumstances that would be difficult to hide.

Rumors ranged from Castro Díaz-Balart shooting himself to jumping off the building in the Kohly neighborhood where he was receiving treatment.
Neighbors said there was a flurry of security activity around the Clinica de Seguridad Personal, a pink and buff colored military hospital in the Kohly neighborhood, on Thursday and Friday morning. But by Friday evening the neighborhood, where many military families live, was quiet. There is always tight security in Kohly with police posted on many corners.

One neighbor said Castro Díaz-Balart locked himself in a fourth-floor room at the clinic and wouldn’t let doctors enter, before throwing himself through a window and landing in front of the building not far from the Cuban flag, which remained at full staff Friday.

Another neighbor said that about two months ago, he saw Castro Díaz-Balart waiting at a bus stop in the neighborhood, and another saw him walking around Kohly.
If any of the death versions are true, it would help explain why the official press reacted so quickly to announce the suicide and share details about his depression with the population.

Reached by phone in Havana, Fidel Antonio Castro Smirnov — the son of Castro Díaz-Balart with first wife Olga Smirnova — said he would not make statements to the press and asked for “respect for the privacy of the family at this time.”

In Miami, Juanita Castro, sister of the current ruler Raúl Castro and the late Fidel Castro, said she did not know the details of her nephew’s death. Mirta Díaz-Balart, Castro Díaz-Balart’s mother and Fidel Castro’s first wife, lives in Spain but travels to the island frequently and was “on her way to Cuba and probably already there,” Juanita Castro said Friday. She said she lamented the death of her nephew but would not be attending the funeral. According to the official announcement and a statement by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the funeral will be strictly family, not a state ceremony.

On the island, news of the suicide did not raise eyebrows.

Cuba has one of the highest rates of suicide in Latin America with 17 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the World Health Organization. According to Cuba’s most recent statistics, in 2015 there were 2,535 deaths “due to self-inflicted injuries,” the eighth cause of death that year, above diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver.

Fidel Castro Diaz Balart committed suicide

Fidel Castro Diaz Balart (Fidelito), oldest son of Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro committed suicide on Thursday.

The news was confirmed by Cuba’s official press on Thursday Evening.

According to news reports, he had tried to commit suicide three months ago using a pistol but was stopped by his bodyguards. This time he jumped from a high floor of the hospital where he was being treated for depression.

He was 69 years old.

 

 

 

 

Provision that allows Cuban Americans to sue for confiscated property in Cuba is suspended

The new administration still refuses to enforce the embargo. Allowing Shannon, who is a friend of the Cuban and Venezuelan dictatorship, to make the decision proves that nothing has changed at the State Department.

The Miami Herald

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suspended — for another six months — a provision in the Helms-Burton Act that would allow more Americans, including nationalized Cubans, to sue those on the island who have been “trafficking” in private properties confiscated decades ago by the Cuban government.
According to a State Department notice, Tillerson, not President Donald Trump, notified Congress on Jan. 12 of his decision to temporarily suspend “the right to bring an action” under Title III of the so-called LIBERTAD Act starting Feb. 1. The State Department has had the authority to make a determination on Title III since January 2013, when former President Barack Obama delegated the matter to the Secretary of State.
The first time that the Trump administration had to weigh in on the issue, Tillerson, in turn, delegated authority to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon who finally decided last July to suspend Title III for six months.
Since the enactment of the law (also known as the Helms-Burton Act) in 1996, all subsequent U.S. administrations have suspended the controversial provision, considered extraterritorial by close allies and commercial partners with investments in Cuba, such as the European Union and Canada.
Under the Obama administration, the governments of the United States and Cuba sat down to discuss how to settle the pending claims on American property confiscated after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 and now valued at $8 billion. But the negotiations resulted in no agreement.
The idea of ​​maintaining Title III in force emerged again after the election of Donald Trump, who promised to take a tougher stance with Havana. The section would expand the group of people who could sue, in U.S. courts, companies and citizens of any country — including the United States — allegedly “trafficking in stolen property” on the island. So far, the government has certified nearly 6,000 claims filed by people who were U.S. citizens at the time their properties were confiscated by the Castro regime.
But the risk of alienating allies, setting legal precedents that contradict other principles of U.S. or international law and opening the door to a potential flood of claims has led each administration to opt for suspension.
Cuban-American politicians have asked Trump to do more to solve the thorny issue. A congressional hearing last week in Miami — attended by Florida Republican members of Congress Marco Rubio, Mario Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — had a neurosurgeon as oU.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suspended — for another six months — a provision in the Helms-Burton Act that would allow more Americans, including nationalized Cubans, to sue those on the island who have been “trafficking” in private properties confiscated decades ago by the Cuban government.
According to a State Department notice, Tillerson, not President Donald Trump, notified Congress on Jan. 12 of his decision to temporarily suspend “the right to bring an action” under Title III of the so-called LIBERTAD Act starting Feb. 1. The State Department has had the authority to make a determination on Title III since January 2013, when former President Barack Obama delegated the matter to the Secretary of State.
The first time that the Trump administration had to weigh in on the issue, Tillerson, in turn, delegated authority to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon who finally decided last July to suspend Title III for six months.
Since the enactment of the law (also known as the Helms-Burton Act) in 1996, all subsequent U.S. administrations have suspended the controversial provision, considered extraterritorial by close allies and commercial partners with investments in Cuba, such as the European Union and Canada.
Under the Obama administration, the governments of the United States and Cuba sat down to discuss how to settle the pending claims on American property confiscated after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 and now valued at $8 billion. But the negotiations resulted in no agreement.
The idea of ​​maintaining Title III in force emerged again after the election of Donald Trump, who promised to take a tougher stance with Havana. The section would expand the group of people who could sue, in U.S. courts, companies and citizens of any country — including the United States — allegedly “trafficking in stolen property” on the island. So far, the government has certified nearly 6,000 claims filed by people who were U.S. citizens at the time their properties were confiscated by the Castro regime.
But the risk of alienating allies, setting legal precedents that contradict other principles of U.S. or international law and opening the door to a potential flood of claims has led each administration to opt for suspension.
Cuban-American politicians have asked Trump to do more to solve the thorny issue. A congressional hearing last week in Miami — attended by Florida Republican members of Congress Marco Rubio, Mario Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — had a neurosurgeon as one of its witnesses. Javier García-Bengochea holds a certified claim and says he is the true owner of the port of Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city.
“The Castro dictatorship still owes us, the port owners, many hundreds of millions… and benefited from our properties over this period without any compensation or consideration to us. Foreign entities have similarly trafficked in our stolen properties for decades,” said García-Bengochea, emphasizing that the U.S. government needs to “enforce existing law.”
ne of its witnesses. Javier García-Bengochea holds a certified claim and says he is the true owner of the port of Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city.
“The Castro dictatorship still owes us, the port owners, many hundreds of millions… and benefited from our properties over this period without any compensation or consideration to us. Foreign entities have similarly trafficked in our stolen properties for decades,” said García-Bengochea, emphasizing that the U.S. government needs to “enforce existing law.”

Firework display explodes uncontrollably in Cuba leaving dozens injured

The Parrandas festival in Remedios is known for its raucous celebrations and a fireworks contest between two of the town’s neighborhoods.

The Christmas Eve event draws thousands of Cubans and foreign tourists each year.
Cuban state radio says 22 people were burned.

Radio station CMHW reported on its website that the accident left at least two adults in “very delicate” condition.

It also said six children between the ages of 11 and 15 had been hurt, describing their conditions as ranging from serious to critical.

All the victims appeared to be Cuban.

State media did not immediately provide further information.

Surprise! Cuban dictator Raúl Castro will stay in power past February

According to Cuban official media, the Cuban dictator will not ‘retire’ on February 24 as promised, because of the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.

This is hard to believe! The destruction caused by one hurricane is used as an excuse to keep in power the dictator that has caused more destruction and suffering to the Cuban people and the Cuban nation in the last 59 years, than all hurricanes and earthquakes combined.

In the end, it would not make any difference whether he or his hand chosen puppet Diaz-Canel has the title of ‘president.’ The suffering and destruction in Cuba will continue until all the Castros and their puppets are finally gone from the face of the Earth.

 

 

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.