Tag: Cuba

US State Department puts Cuba back on ‘sponsor of terrorism’ list, makes early days tough for incoming Biden administration

US State Department puts Cuba back on ‘sponsor of terrorism’ list, makes early days tough for incoming Biden administration

Biden administration: Outgoing United States President Donald Trump and his administration are not backing down from making early days of Biden administration tough as it takes charge on January 20, one week from now. State Department led by Mike Pompeo has put Cuba back on the list of ‘sponsor of terrorism’. This action will make Biden’s attempts to realign with Havana more complicated. 

The controversial decision has put Cuba reclassified into the list, putting it alongside Syria, North Korea and Iran. The announcement was made by Mike Pompeo who said that Cuba was engaging in a “range of malign behavior across the region”. With this Pompeo has highlighted Cuba’s support to Nicolas Maduro, authoritarian leader of Venezuela, that Trump had tried to overthrow, though unsuccessfully. 

Pompeo has justified the decision of reclassifying Cuba on the list by accusing Havana of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists”.

This action reverses former President Barack Obama’s decision of 2015 to remove Cuba from the list after being there for over three decades. 

The move by Trump administration is in reference to enabling and giving shelter to former Black Panther Assata Shakur who was jailed in the US over killing of police officer in 1973. She later escaped to Cuba where was given shelter by then Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Furthermore, the decision is also made due to refusal by Cuba to hand over a group of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas, which were involved in Bagota bomb attack in 2019. 

But many US allies are not in favour of Trump’s charges on Cuba. Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House said, “Terrorism as an international definition is committing acts of violence against unarmed civilians intended to frighten the population. Cuba doesn’t do that. Yes, it represses its own people – but so does Saudi Arabia.”

Sabatini explains that move by Trump is more of a “parting gift” to incoming Biden administration. He said, “It’s like when departing armies leave scattered mines in a field. They are planting these political mines for the Biden administration that will be very difficult to be rolled back and to lock in, at least temporarily, their policy preferences.” 

Havana is furious with the decision. Its foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted, “The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims.” He called the move ‘hypocritical and cynical’. 

“Havana Syndrome”: US diplomats suffer sonic attacks through microwave energy

“Havana Syndrome”: US diplomats suffer sonic attacks through microwave energy

Havana Syndrome: Many US diplomats stationed in Cuba have reported of developing mysterious and puzzling symptoms leaving scientists and intelligence agencies scratching their heads. The US State Department has sanctioned in a report that these have most likely been caused by “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy.” The report was published on Saturday by National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Havana Syndrome, as the condition has popularly come to be known as, emerged first in 2016 among US federal personnel stationed in Havana, Cuba. The symptoms reported range from headaches, nausea, dizziness to blurred vision among others. In the past the possible reasons for this were explained as mosquito fumigation and noisy crickets. But the report by National Academy of Sciences has suggested it to be due to radio frequency energy. 

The report states, “After considering the information available to it and a set of possible mechanisms, the committee felt that many of the distinctive and acute signs, symptoms, and observations reported by state department employees are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency energy.” 

The complains after being reported in diplomats in Cuba, have also been mentioned among those stationed in China. 

The report was presented by the 19 member committee of medical experts on request of the State Department. 

Though the report doesn’t mention deliberate use of the microwave energy, it mentions that it could be used for notorious purposes. “The mere consideration of such a scenario raises grave concerns about a world with disinhibited malevolent actors and new tools for causing harm to others, as if the U.S. government does not have its hands full already with naturally occurring threats.” 

Researchers also revealed reports of brain analysis of a diplomat, Mark Lenzi, who was stationed in Guangzhou, China in 2017. Lenzi had reported of unexplained symptoms like headache, irritability, memory and sleep related problems. The MRI shows 20 brain regions of having extremely and abnormally low volumes. These regions are those associated with memory, motor skills and emotions – explanatory of Lenzi’s symptoms. Three regions also showed to have bigger volumes. 

Majority of the cases of these “sonic attacks” have been documented from 2016 and 2017, with few reported later as well. 

Officials from Cuba have consistently rejected the allegations of these attacks. Citing the complexity of the aforesaid attacks, US government had long suspected involvement of a third nation as well. In August 2017, Russia was included in this list on behest of suspected involvement. Russia has in past used microwave technology. There has been “significant research in Russia/USSR into the effects of pulsed, rather than continuous wave exposures.” 

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