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us and cuba


Two Cuban diplomats have been expelled by Washington after US embassy staff in Havana suffered mysterious physical symptoms, the US state department announced.

It was not immediately clear what had happened, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert said there were no “definitive answers about the source or cause”.

One government official quoted by Reuters said that some staff had suffered hearing loss.

Cuba’s foreign ministry announced it was investigating the allegations.

Cuba called the expulsion of its staff unjustified but said it was willing to co-operate with Washington to clarify what had happened.

The ministry said: “Cuba has never, nor would ever, allow the Cuban territory to be used for any kind of action against accredited diplomats or their families.”

Image source Wikipedia

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It was suggested the hearing loss could have been caused by some kind of sonic device placed outside the diplomats’ homes, emitting inaudible sound waves that can cause deafness.

Heather Nauert said staff began complaining of the strange symptoms late last year.

While they were not life-threatening, she revealed that a number of people had been brought home to the US as a result.

Heather Nauert said the government was taking it “very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way”.

It is understood that the two expelled Cuban diplomats left Washington DC in May..

The US and Cuba only re-established ties in 2015, following 50 years of hostilities between the two countries.


Cuban President Raul Castro has spoken publicly for the first time against President Donald Trump’s rollback of a thaw between the two countries a month ago.

Raul Castro said “attempts to destroy the revolution” would fail.

President Trump has tightened restrictions on US travel to and business with Cuba.

However, the US embassy in Havana, re-opened by former President Barack Obama, is still operating.

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President Castro was speaking in front of Cuba’s national assembly. It was his first public comment on the policy changes President Trump announced a month ago.

State-run Cuban media quoted President Castro as saying that President Trump was using “old and hostile rhetoric” and had returned to “confrontation that roundly failed over 55 years”.

The Cuban president said: “We reject the manipulation of the topic of human rights against Cuba, which can be proud of much in this area and does not need to receive lessons from the United States nor anyone.”

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Donald Trump anchored his policy rollback in human rights concerns raised by political opponents of Cuba’s communist government, many of whom have fled to Miami where the president announced the changes on June 16.

President Castro continued: “Cuba and the United States can cooperate and live side by side, respecting their differences. But no one should expect that for this, one should have to make concessions inherent to one’s sovereignty and independence.”

Raul Castro will step down as president in seven months, but will remain the head of the country’s Communist Party.


Starwood Hotels & Resorts has become the first American company to agree a deal with the Cuban authorities since the revolution of 1959.

The hotel and leisure company will renovate and run three hotels in Havana.

A Starwood spokesman said the company would be making a “multimillion-dollar investment to bring the hotels up to our standards”.Starwood Cuban deal

The news comes on the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba – the first by a US president in almost 90 years.

The deal is a welcome reminder of how far things have come between the US and Cuba since they decided to normalize ties.

Tourism in Cuba is at an all-time high, including a sharp rise in the number of US visitors, especially since travel restrictions were eased by President Barack Obama.

The US and Cuba have agreed to restore regular commercial flights, in a deal that could jumpstart economic relations between the two countries.

The agreement paves the way for thousands of visitors to Cuba on a daily basis.

The deal was announced on December 17, exactly one year since President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, President Raul Castro, announced a historic detente.

It is not known when the first Cuba-bound flights will take off.

The pact – the most significant business development since the presidents’ announcement one year ago – allows US airlines to negotiate with the Cuban government over commercial flight routes and schedules.

It could mean more than a dozen flights arriving into Cuba from the United States a day, officials said.

The understanding is a key development as Cuba and the US continue to negotiate over a number of issues which could ultimately see the US trade embargo lifted.

Photo AP

Photo AP

The news comes as travel between the United States and Cuba surged by over 70% in 2015, according to Reuters.

Thousands of Americans are already visiting Cuba and hotels and hostels are booked for months.

Those traveling have to do so using difficult-to-book charter flights or via third countries, and are forced to navigate an intricate web of laws in order for their travel to be legal.

The State Department reminded US citizens on December 17 that a ban on touristic travel to Cuba remains in place.

Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the normalization of relations on December 17, 2014, after more than 50 years of hostility between the Cold War foes.

One year out, President Barack Obama is marking the anniversary by calling on the US Congress to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, releasing a statement that says, in part: “Congress can support a better life for the Cuban people by lifting an embargo that is a legacy of a failed policy.”

Since then, embassies have opened in Havana and Washington, a pilot postal program has been agreed, phone links established, environmental deals have been inked, human rights talks have started, as well as a number of other developments.

Yet much stands in the way of fully-restored relations, most notably the US-imposed trade embargo, which Republicans have strongly defended.

US and Cuba Agree to Restore Regular Commercial Flights

The United States and Cuba are to announce the opening of embassies in each other’s capitals, a senior US official has said.

The embassies opening is a major step in re-establishing diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba which were severed in 1961.

Relations had been frozen since the early 1960s when the US broke links and imposed a trade embargo with Cuba.

The US and Cuba agreed to normalize relations at the end of 2014.

Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro held historic talks in April 2015.

Since 1977, the US and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called “interests sections” in each other’s capitals under the legal protection of Switzerland. However, they do not enjoy the same status as full embassies.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

US officials said President Barack Obama would make a formal announcement from the White House on July 1.

It is still not clear exactly what the date will be for opening the embassies, but it is likely to be in mid-July.

The US State Department must give Congress two weeks’ warning before the embassy can open.

It is the latest major milestone in a thawing process between the two countries’ relations, which started with secret negotiations and was announced last December.

In April, Barack Obama and Raul Castro met for the first formal talks between the two countries’ leaders in more than half a century.

A month later, the US removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Plans to resume ferry and air services between the US and Cuba were also announced.

Despite the new transport links, a Cuba travel ban is still in place for US citizens.

Cuba is also still subject to a US arms embargo which has been in place since 1962, though President Barack Obama has urged Congress to lift it.

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a revolution toppling US-backed President Fulgencio Batista. The Castro brothers established a revolutionary socialist state with close ties to the Soviet Union.

In December 2014, Barack Obama and Raul Castro made a surprise announcement saying they would seek to re-establish diplomatic ties, ending more than 50 years of ill-will.