Diplomats Sue Canada Government Over Mystery Illness in Cuba 1

The diplomats say Ottawa misled staff in Havana about the seriousness of the mysterious illness (Reuters)

By the BBC

A group of Canadian diplomats is suing the country’s government for C$28m ($21.1m; £16.4m) after they succumbed to a mysterious illness in Cuba.

The group of 14, including diplomats’ family members, says Ottawa took too long to warn, evacuate and treat them.

Last year, Canadian and US officials were recalled from Havana after complaining of dizziness and migraines.

The cause of the illness is unknown, but Canada has discounted the idea of a “sonic attack” on its embassy.

In a statement, the diplomats said: “Throughout the crisis, Canada downplayed the seriousness of the situation, hoarded and concealed critical health and safety information, and gave false, misleading and incomplete information to diplomatic staff.”

“My wife, she isn’t the same anymore,” one unnamed diplomat told Canadian broadcaster CBC.

“She has gaps in her memory, headaches, problems hearing. She picks up the telephone to make a call but forgets why, enters rooms without reason.”

According to CBC, staff at the Canadian embassy began experiencing symptoms of the so-called “Havana syndrome” in spring 2017.

Several families were subsequently moved from Havana, but until April 2018 Canada continued to post new staff to Cuba despite warnings from US counterparts who had received similar complaints.

The US withdrew most of its non-essential personnel from the country in September 2017 and said 21 embassy employees had been affected.

Last month, Canada said it would be cutting its embassy staff by up to half.

At a news conference in Washington, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was aware of the lawsuit.

“I am not going to comment on the specifics, but I do want to reiterate that I have met with some of these diplomats and, as I said to them, their health and safety needs to be our priority.”

Cuba has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident.

The country’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, said US claims were a “political manipulation” aimed at damaging bilateral relations.

 

 

 

 

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Canada Confirms 14th Case of Diplomat Falling Mysteriously Ill in Cuba 1

Canadian Embassy in Cuba (Courtesy BBC.com)

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN

(CNN) Canada has confirmed a 14th case of unusual health symptoms experienced by diplomatic staff in Havana, Cuba.

In a statement, the Canadian government acknowledged the case, and announced that diplomatic staff in Cuba would be halved. The number of diplomats at the Canadian embassy in Cuba will now be reduced from 16 to eight, according to a Canadian government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

“The health, safety and security of our diplomatic staff and their families remain our priority,” the statement said. “The Canadian government continues to investigate the potential causes of the unusual health symptoms experienced by some Canadian diplomatic staff and their family members posted in Havana, Cuba. To date, no cause has been identified.”

Cuban ambassador to Canada Josefina Vidal criticized the decision to cut staff as an “incomprehensible” move that “fuels speculation.” “This behavior favors those who in the United States use this issue to attack and denigrate Cuba,” she said. She emphasized Cuba’s cooperation in investigating the symptoms and affirmed the country’s commitment to good relations.

The Canadian statement said that after the last confirmed case of unusual health symptoms in November 2018, a number of Canadian diplomatic staff in Cuba underwent additional medical testing.

“These tests confirm that an additional employee has symptoms consistent with those of previously affected employees. This brings the total number of affected Canadian employees, spouses and dependents to 14.”

In April, Canada pulled all nonessential staff and diplomats’ family members, after testing concluded that their diplomats also suffered from mystery symptoms that included dizziness, ringing in the ears and memory loss.

The Canadian government said Wednesday there is no evidence that Canadian travelers to Cuba are at risk.

Feature continues here:  Sonic Attacks

 

Another Diplomat Was Diagnosed With ‘Havana Syndrome.’ Here’s What We Know. Reply

File picture showing a vintage US car passing in front of the US Embassy in Havana. (Getty Images)

By Amanda Erickson, Washington Post

Last week, another Canadian diplomat was diagnosed with a mysterious disease so weird it’s been referred to in some circles as “the thing.”

The illness afflicts only government employees from the United States and Canada. Sufferers report feeling pulsing or hearing a ringing in their ears. Then headaches, dizziness, trouble concentrating and struggles to remember basic words and facts.

Diplomats have been complaining about “Havana syndrome,” named for the city where nearly all the victims were based, for two years. And it certainly seems like they’ve been targeted by a hostile government or rogue officials. But, though the United States has sent CIA and FBI officials to investigate, we know very little about what’s happening or who’s behind it.

The newest case marks the 13th time a Canadian officer or family member has reported these “unusual health symptoms.” More than 20 Americans have also been affected. In light of this news, the Canadian government has said it will allow all staff posted in the Cuban Embassy to return home “if they wish.”

When was the first case reported?

On Dec. 30, 2016, a CIA agent operating in Cuba stopped by the U.S. Embassy’s health office. According to the New Yorker, the patient described “strange sensations of sound and pressure while in his home, followed by painful headaches and dizziness.” About a week later, the spy was back in the health office, complaining of another attack.

What happened next?

American officials told the New Yorker they weren’t sure how seriously to take things at first. “It’s like serial killers,” one former State Department official said. “It usually takes three or four before police conclude ‘Wait a minute, these are connected.’ ”

Soon, though, the pattern emerged. By February, two more CIA officers reported the same strange sensations. By spring, 16 people had reported symptoms. By the fall, another five Americans were afflicted. The attacks were unusual — some people reported hearing sounds; others said they felt a pulsing, followed by a severe pain. People were afflicted at home, in hotel rooms, in temporary residences several floors above the ground.

Around the same time, some Canadian officials began to report some strange symptoms. A Canadian diplomat and his wife were awakened one night by a feeling of waves of pressure. Their children had nosebleeds. Eventually, as many as 12 Canadians were afflicted by the symptoms.

Feature continues here:  WaPo perspective on Cuban sonic attacks

 

Target USA: Episode 120 — Rethinking the Illnesses of US diplomats in Havana: A New Theory 1

On Aug. 9, 2017, CBS correspondent Steve Dorsey broke the story that U.S. diplomats in Havana had been sickened by a mysterious illness, the cause of which no one could put their finger on. At the time no one had any answers about what happened. Doctors determined they were likely suffering from some kind of ultrasonic device. But since then other possibilities have arisen. Chris Simmons, a retired supervisory counterintelligence officer from the Defense Intelligence Agency with deep experience related to Cuba, has a theory and supporting evidence that makes perfect sense and is very plausible.

Podcast link:  Cuba’s Sonic Attacks

Cuba Spy Josefina Vidal Becomes Cuba’s Ambassador to Canada — 15 Years After Her Expulsion From The US For Espionage 3

Cuban Spy Josefina Vidal (in blue) as Cuba’s new Ambassador to Canada

(Courtesy:  Cuba’s Prensa Latina) The Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette, today received Josefina Vidal in solemn audience, who introduced her to the Letters accrediting her as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Cuba in this country.

During the ceremony, which took place at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor, Vidal had an exchange with Payette, who expressed the interest of the Government of the Greater one of the Antilles to broaden and strengthen the traditional mutually beneficial relations between the two nations and peoples, a note from the Cuban embassy here.

Before being appointed to represent the government in Havana in Ottawa, Vidal was director general of the United States in the Chancellery of the Caribbean island.

On December 17, 2014 the Cuban president Raúl Castro and his American counterpart, Barack Obama, announced the decision to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries and to move toward the normalization of bilateral ties, a process in which Josefina played a role of first order.

From 1999 to 2003 was first secretary of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and subsequently took over as General Manager of North America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean island, work which she did until being appointed ambassador to Canada.

Payette occupies the position since October 2017 and her functions eminently protocolary meetings as representative of the Queen Elizabeth is also preside over the inauguration of the Prime Minister, the chief judges and members of the Cabinet.

During the first 85 years of the existence of Canada only British personalities occupied that position, all with aristocratic titles, and became the first Canadian to reach the post was Vincent Massey in 1952, while the first female to head that office was Jeanne Sauvé, in 1984.

Editor’s Note:  Josefina Vidal was among 16 Cuban spies handpicked by the FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency for expulsion in 2003. The Cuban spy-diplomats were thrown out in retaliation for Havana’s targeting of US operations against Iraq. Vidal is assigned to Department M-I (US Targets) of the Directorate of Intelligence. Theoretically, Havana’s spies must retire from their spy service before they came become an ambassador.

Media Fact Check: Cuba Found to Have Targeted U.S. Tourists and Canadians More Frequently Than Alleged CIA Spies Reply

Cuba apologist Peter Kornbluh, who rarely misses an opportunity to blame the United States for events in Latin America, has struck again! In last week’s issue of the progressive weekly, The Nation, Kornbluh published “What the US Government Is Not Telling You About Those ‘Sonic Attacks’ in Cuba.” His scintillating subtitle makes the incredulous statement: “The key victims were CIA agents. Not a single tourist was affected….”  We are fortunate Kornbluh wrote that, since his complete disregard for the facts saves us from wasting any further time on this inaccurate and poorly-researched diatribe.

For example, the Miami Herald reported on 1-29-18 that 19 American tourists reported symptoms similar to those suffered by diplomats after they returned from Cuba. However, Kornbluh dismisses these reports because he apparently sees their complaints as inadequately investigated. Additionally, it does not appear he attempted to contact those tourists to get their first-hand accounts. Similarly, Kornbluh appears blissfully ignorant of the Associated Press report of 10-19-17 entitled “U.S. tourist, FBI agent may have been victims of Cuba sonic attacks.

Meanwhile, the Canadian media has recounted that 10 of the 20 Canadian diplomatic households in Havana reported at least one household member with unusual symptoms. A National Post article on 1-4-18 found that children were among those targeted. Shortly thereafter, Global News announced on 1-10-18 that eight Canadian diplomats had fallen ill. It’s information came from a Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation.

So, in reality, at least 19 American tourists and members of 10 Canadian diplomatic families fell victim to Havana’s unexplained sonic attacks. In contrast, 24 American diplomats and family members became sick from the same occurrences. So perhaps Kornbluh’s headline should have read:  “Cuba Targets U.S. Tourists and Canadians More Frequently Than Alleged CIA Spies.”

Living and Loving the Cold War: The Wild Ride of a Canadian Diplomat and Spy Reply

Former Canadian high commissioner Bill Warden, centre, stands with his daughter, Lisa, in an arms bazaar in Darra, Pakistan, 1982. (Submitted by Lisa Warden)

From spying for the CIA and dodging the KGB, to rallying Afghan warlords, Bill Warden’s life was an adventure

(CBCNews – Canada) They don’t make careers like this anymore.

Dodging the secret police in Cold War Berlin. Cranking up the music to deafen the KGB bugs in Moscow. Spying for the CIA in Havana. Rallying Afghan warlords to thrash the Russians. Wrangling former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s meditation session with Indira Gandhi. Faking documents to spirit a hostage out of Tehran.

Diplomacy is not designed to be a wild ride, but Bill Warden’s lasted three decades. He died in 2011, before his vivid journals were collected and published this fall by his daughter, Lisa, under the title, Diplomat, Dissident, Spook.

A sometime spy and eventual peacenik, Warden is little known to Canadians but well known to the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev, who writes a glowing forward to the book.

Roaming, off the radar, from Havana to Hong Kong, Warden relished the halcyon days of diplomacy when real spies wore fedoras and before, he says, ambassadors became trade commissioners. He watched the “Great Game” of the superpowers from the front row and didn’t mind jumping into the ring.

To all appearances, the polite Niagara Falls, Ont., kid was a dutiful member of the striped-pants set, patiently enduring the rants of Iranian mullahs or Fidel Castro.

But behind the scenes, his life was intrigue and adventure.

A typical chapter begins like this:

“Berlin, 1961. As I rounded the corner onto Unter den Linden and headed for the café, the black Wartburg sedan slid to a halt and four men in the black uniforms of the East German Security Service emerged looking as if they meant business. My back was drenched in instant perspiration.”

That’s where Bill Warden got his start, as a student in the world’s spy capital — ambling with fake nonchalance from the West to the​ Communist East, before the Berlin Wall was built. He rebuffed the CIA’s bid to recruit him and soon, RCMP officers back in Niagara Falls came to grill his father about why young Bill was spending so much time in the East.

Cockroaches and the KGB

His interest in fighting the Cold War was the reason — and he got his wish in his first Foreign Service posting: Moscow, in the tense aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Warden was constantly tailed by KGB goons, partly because he spoke Russian — so there was a danger he might learn something.

Article continues here:  Canadian Spy in Cuba

 

 

U.S. Diplomats, Families in Cuba Targeted Nearly 50 Times by Mysterious Sonic Attacks: Official 2

By KTLA 5

Some of the 21 US diplomats believed to have been impacted by mysterious acoustic attacks in Cuba were targeted multiple times, CNN has learned from a senior US official.

There were nearly 50 attacks in total, the official said.

The incidents have challenged the US government’s assessment that Cuba is a safe country for US diplomats and their families and threatened the future of the newly reopened embassy.

Despite the often-empty supermarkets and antagonistic relations with the communist-run government, Cuba for years offered US diplomats a rare benefit: It was safe.

Unlike in many other countries, in Cuba, US Embassy employees didn’t have to worry much about terrorist attacks, kidnapping or even petty crime. The Cuban government’s tight control over the island made Havana one of the safest cities in the world.

Diplomats — especially those Cuba suspected of being spies — might suffer harassment at the hands of the powerful state security apparatus, but there were established lines neither of the Cold War adversaries would cross.

But starting early this year, US diplomats heading to the island to begin their postings were quietly warned they could face a mysterious threat that was causing American Foreign Service officers to fall ill, some with long-lasting symptoms.

Investigators haven’t determined the cause of the incidents, but US officials told CNN they are convinced someone has targeted American diplomats in Havana with a sophisticated device never deployed before, at least not against US personnel.

Canadian diplomats have suffered similar health problems, according to US and Canadian officials.

Despite the often-empty supermarkets and antagonistic relations with the communist-run government, Cuba for years offered US diplomats a rare benefit: It was safe.

Unlike in many other countries, in Cuba, US Embassy employees didn’t have to worry much about terrorist attacks, kidnapping or even petty crime. The Cuban government’s tight control over the island made Havana one of the safest cities in the world.

Diplomats — especially those Cuba suspected of being spies — might suffer harassment at the hands of the powerful state security apparatus, but there were established lines neither of the Cold War adversaries would cross.

Feature continues here:  Sonic attacks

 

Senior Spy Specializing in Targeting Americans Assigned as Cuban Ambassador to Canada; Deputy Spy-Master Assigned as Spain’s Ambassador 2

Editor’s Note: Josefina Vidal, suspected of being a “US Targets” officer in the Director of Intelligence (DI), was expelled from the US in 2003 along with 15 other Cuban spy-diplomats. Her Deputy in the Foreign Ministry was Gustavo Machin, also a suspected US Targets officer. Machin was thrown out of the US in retaliation for the Ana Montes spy case. He later served as Cuban Ambassador to Pakistan where he is believed to have overseen Havana’s targeting of US counterterrorism operations in the region. He has now been selected to serve in Madrid as Cuba’s Ambassador. Historically, Mexico, Canada and Spain host the largest Cuban spy centers in the world (outside their three bases in the United States).  “Officially,” DI officers resign from the spy service when they become ambassadors. However, we can expect these two “retired” US Targets officers to have significant and adverse influence over the activities in their host nations. 

 

 

How a Canadian Businessman Lost Everything in Cuba Reply

Sarkis Yacoubian

Sarkis Yacoubian

By Jeff Gray, The Globe and Mail [Canada]

Canadian businessman Sarkis Yacoubian only knew his Cuban interrogator – the Cubans call them “instructors” – as Major Carlito. When they first met in the dim basement of the Havana house where security agents had initially imprisoned Mr. Yacoubian in July, 2011, he says Major Carlito greeted him by grabbing his own crotch.

“If you are expecting that the Canadian embassy is going to come to your help, this is what they are going to get,” Mr. Yacoubian, 54, says his captor warned him. Then, he says, Major Carlito accused him of being a spy, an accusation that would eventually be abandoned before the Canadian was convicted by a Cuban court of corruption charges and expelled last year.

His story, and that of Toronto-area businessman Cy Tokmakjian, who was released from incarceration in Cuba last month after a similar corruption trial, are cautionary tales for would-be investors in Cuba.

However, some say the historic Dec. 17 announcement of Canada-brokered talks to normalize Cuba’s relations with the United States – plus recent moves by leader Raul Castro to liberalize the economy – still has Canadian investors and entrepreneurs interested in the Communist-ruled island.

Despite Major Carlito’s threat, the Canadian embassy did closely monitor’s Mr. Yacoubian’s status as he spent two years in jail before facing any formal charge. And the ambassador attended Mr. Yacoubian’s 2013 trial, which saw him sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $7-million for corruption, tax evasion and doing “economic damage” to Cuba.

Mr. Tokmakjian, 74, spent more than three years in prison. Two of his Canadian employees who had been blocked from leaving Cuba were also recently freed. His Concord, Ont.-based Tokmakjian Group reportedly had a $90-million-a-year business on the island importing vehicles and construction equipment. His assets in Cuba were seized. Mr. Yacoubian, a former employee of Mr. Tokmakjian’s who broke away from his boss to build what he said was a $20-million-a-year business in Cuba bringing in similar products, says all of his assets on the island were also seized.

Article continues here: Sarkis Yacoubian