Ex-diplomat Vicki Huddleston points out that the extreme right has taken over US policy towards Cuba
By: Cubadebate Editorial Staff
April 5, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The former head of the U.S. Interests Office in Cuba between 2001 and 2005, Vicky Huddleston, has just published a book of her authorship entitled “Our Wife in Havana”, in which she points out that the extreme right-wing forces, opposed to any rapprochement, have taken into their hands the course of the Trump administration’s relations with Cuba.
Vicky Huddleston, a career diplomat who was head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, has written a book about her visions and experiences with Cuba.
In his particular account of his stay in Cuba, Huddleston gives space to analyze the most recent events that have undermined the rapprochement between the two countries. He writes: “For some months after President Donald Trump’s speech in Miami in June 2017, there was hope that the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Cuba would survive, even if it did not prosper. But that expectation was crushed by the bizarre case of injuries sustained by U.S. and Canadian diplomats. In August 2017, the media revealed that U.S. diplomats had suffered hearing loss, nausea and traumatic brain injuries from some kind of sonic attack. Several of the incidents occurred in the homes of diplomats responsible for security and intelligence between November 2016 and January 2017. However, some took place after February, including the one made public in August. According to the State Department, the injuries also occurred at the Hotel Nacional and the Hotel Capri. None of the attacks, which now total 24 against US diplomats and five against Canadian diplomats, were directed at the US embassy.
“When the injuries first occurred, the U.S. and Cuban governments tried to address them responsibly. Raúl Castro sought out the embassy’s Chargé d’affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, to assure him that Cuba was not responsible, and invited the FBI to visit Havana, which he did several times to investigate. The State Department expelled two diplomats from the Cuban embassy in Washington D.C., presumably to balance the staff, as U.S. diplomats were forced to leave their post in Havana as a result of their illness. “When the diplomats’ injuries were made public in August 2017, Cuban-American conservatives led by Senator Marco Rubio used the incidents to demand that the United States retaliate against Cuba. Ignoring the American Foreign Service Association’s public statement that the diplomats were prepared to stay in Cuba and continue their work, the Trump administration cut the U.S. embassy staff by more than half and sent all the dependents home. Faced with Rubio’s demands, the government ordered the Cuban embassy to reduce its staff by an equivalent number of diplomats. In addition, the State Department issued an aggressive travel warning, advising U.S. visitors to avoid the island, even though only diplomats had been affected by the sonic incidents.
“On October 16, 2017, President Trump added his voice to the growing tensions. At a new Rose Garden conference, he said, “I think Cuba is responsible. I do believe that. “He did not cite any evidence of his belief. The State Department continues to claim that it does not know who is responsible for the attacks or the type of device that caused the ailments. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Padilla rejected Trump’s accusation, saying that “there is no evidence, no evidence whatsoever, of the occurrence of the alleged incidents or the cause or origin of these ailments reported by U.S. diplomats. He then added: “There is also no suggestion that these health problems were caused by an attack of any kind during his stay in Cuba”.
Elsewhere in the text dedicated to the incidents, in her autographical book, the former diplomat Huddleston proposes:
“The Senate hearing on January 9, chaired by Marco Rubio, further politicized the issue. Acting Secretary of State Francisco Palmieri intensified Rubio’s demonization of Cuba by declaring that “Cuba is a state of security. The Cuban government, in general, has a very closed lid on everything and anything that happens in that country. Her boss, Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein, was more circumspect in pointing out that “we’re not much further ahead than we were in finding out what happened. “However, he insisted that Raul Castro knows what happened.” These statements by U.S. government officials reinforce the idea that the Cuban government should explain what happened before semi-normal relations are restored.
“…. the conservative Cuban Americans who have now gained ground in U.S.-Cuban relations will not voluntarily give up control of politics. Instead, they will use their power to demand that embassies continue with only basic personnel and that the U.S. government tighten the embargo. As former Secretary Gutierrez said, “The conservative diaspora does not like stability in our relationship. For them it means that we accept the regime.
“Senator Rubio and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) have already complained that the new embargo regulations (NR blockade) issued on November 8, 2017, are insufficient. As Trump promised in his Miami speech, regulations further restrict travel by individual Americans, but visits by groups of people to people engaged in cultural, religious or humanitarian activities are still permitted.
“We can expect Rubio, Diaz-Balart and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to continue to press their lead, insisting that the Treasury Department issue additional sanctions, further limiting contact with Cuba. Once again, as during the George W. Bush administration, conservative Cuban-American lawmakers will try to force regime change by reducing U.S. contact with the island to an absolute minimum. Your next focus will probably be on face-to-face visits and educational trips. As in the past, they may also seek to reduce the travel and money transfers of the Cuban diaspora, many of whom are U.S. citizens, who visit family and friends and provide more than $1 billion in remittances. Even the two dozen bilateral agreements will not be immune to efforts to restrict cooperation between the U.S. and Cuban governments.
“As has been the case in the past, the Cuban people will suffer more with these new measures. The travel warning has already reduced the number of U.S. visitors, harming the small family businesses that emerged as a result of Castro’s privatization reforms and the influx of U.S. visitors. The closure of the consular section of the U.S. embassy means that Cubans can no longer obtain visas to travel to the United States, whether to visit friends, to receive medical care, to conduct business, or for cultural, religious and sporting exchanges. Although the State Department has said it will provide a means for family reunification, since January 16, 2018, the U.S. embassy in Havana is not issuing visas of any kind, either for those who hope to join the family in the United States or escape persecution, or for those who simply wish to visit or participate in cultural exchanges. concludes the former US ambassador in her analysis of the current state of relations between Cuba and the United States.