Thursday, December 14, 2017

Obama's Cuba policy legacy three years later: brain damaged diplomats, microwaves and the sounds of crickets

2014 Change in policy worsened relations with Cuba.

President Barack Obama with General Raul Castro in 2016
President Obama announced his new Cuba policy on December 17, 2014 to great fanfare but downplayed commuting the sentences of three Cuban spies, including Gerardo Hernandez who was serving a life sentence for his role in a murder conspiracy that claimed four innocent lives in 1996 and freed them the same day. 

The argument at the time was that this opening would lead to normalized and improved relations between Cuba and the United States.

On May 29, 2015, despite a long history of sponsoring terrorism, the Obama State Department removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. In November of 2017 former Cuban diplomat, Jose Antonio "Tony" Lopez was linked to terrorists responsible for the June 17, 2017 bombing in Bogota, Colombia that killed three and injured nine according to prosecutors in the South American country. A mother of one of the accused denied her son's involvement in the attack but confirms the link with the former Cuban diplomat.

Commerical center in Bogota, Colombia where bomb went off in June 2017
Human rights violations escalated over the remainder of the Obama Administration and trade between the two countries collapsed. Three years later the U.S. Embassy in Havana is mothballed and two dozen diplomats have been seriously injured. 

The Obama Administration's Cuba policy marked two years on December 17, 2016 and  American diplomats had already been suffering brain injuries. U.S. diplomats in Havana started being harmed in attacks in November of 2016. Despite that on December 7, 2016 the United States and Cuba held their fifth Bilateral Commission meeting where they celebrated progress on U.S.-Cuba relations, and signed 11 non-binding agreements on health, the environment, counter-narcotics, and other areas of cooperation.  

No word on these attacks. On January 2, 2017 Cuban troops in Havana marched in a parade over which Castro presided chanting that they would repeatedly shoot President Obama in the head so many times that they would make a “hat of lead to the head.” Despite that on January 12, 2017 the Obama Administration provided further concessions to Cuba gutting the Cuban Adjustment Act and ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program that had bothered General Castro for years.  

On January 16, 2017 the Obama State Department issued a statement that "the United States and Cuba [had] signed a bilateral Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding to deepen law enforcement cooperation and information sharing." American diplomats were suffering serious harm, including mild traumatic brain injury, permanent hearing loss that included loss of balance, headaches, and brain swelling. Yet, according to The Wall Street Journal no complaint was made until February of 2017 but the attacks on American diplomats continued until August 2017. Cuban officials at first said they did not know what was going on, and later claimed that the noises were crickets and the injuries imaginary.
Medical experts discovered changes in the brains of US and Canadian diplomats.
However the injuries are very real. "Medical experts discovered changes in the brains of US and Canadian diplomats, which fueled growing skepticism that some kind of sonic weapon was involved. Medical testing revealed the embassy workers developed changes to the white matter tracts." Professor James Lin, an expert in Electrical Engineering, at the University of Illinois at Chicago,  made the case that weaponized microwaves may be behind the attacks in Cuba.

This raises some difficult questions. Did the Obama Administration by downplaying the past crimes of the Castro regime lead the regime to calculate that it could get away with attacking or allowing diplomats to be attacked? Did downplaying the attacks on diplomats in Cuba in November and December of 2016 lead to others being harmed in 2017? 

Microwaves going through walls

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