At the always interesting DiploPundit blog (although I doubt we’re all on the same page ideologically, it’s still a great blog and read) the author, or authors published, an update to the Post Havana story related to the allegations that close to 20 U.S. government personnel in Cuba have been subjected to some sort of health-impacting operation: 16 USG Employees in “Sonic Attack” and More on The Secret History of Diplomats and Invisible Weapons.
Born after the Cold War? Read the DiploPundit piece as well as the comments section. There is an old, yet apt Cuban expression that keeps popping in my mind overtime I read these stories. It goes something like this: Hierba mala nunca muere (roughly translated, weeds, or evil, never dies). By the way, the State Department spox has confirmed this week that another American may be suffering from a traumatic brain injury.
On August 26 I posted a short piece that, among other things, suggested that the U.S. Embassy should be temporarily closed until the Cubans could guarantee the health and safety of all U.S. government personnel. A tall order in a totalitarian police state; however, from public accounts, this seems a serious matter that requires more than symbolic expulsions of Cuban government personnel from Washington, D.C.
Finding out who did this and why should be the only priority. We did well without an embassy for decades. Two weeks will not impact a thing that cannot be addressed by a skeletal crew. A temporary shut down also affords the Trump administration, potentially, a unique opportunity to reorient relations with the ever batty members of the Communist Party as well as the, usually, a few of the more rational members of the Cuban military.
Bring Cuba back to the negotiating table? Why not. It is light years ahead from what the Obama administration did and, for many reasons, it comes at an ideal time. Pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, among other things, Cuba is under a “special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the consular premises against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the consular post or impairment of its dignity.” Cuba failed, in spades, has failed to do that.
Rather than engage Cuba without conditions, as the prior administration did, engage Cuba by putting America First. First and foremost, get to the bottom of what happened to U.S. government personnel in Cuba and, if possible, hold them accountable. Until this is resolved to the satisfaction of U.S. investigators and Trump administration officials, the Embassy remains closed.
Of course, there is a lot more to talk about. Security concerns should top the list as should the billions of dollars that Cuba owes U.S. taxpayers for stolen properties that Cuba never paid for. Then there is the statutory transition roadmap as well as regional matters that need addressing in a serious manner and, in a way that puts U.S. interests first. Finally, Venezuela should also be on the table. Cuban meddling in Venezuela needs to stop.
Cuba needs a firm reminding that access to the U.S. market is a privilege, not a right. Cubans should really, really, cooperate with Uncle Sam, especially when the Treasury Department and other agency officials are busy rewriting sanctions regulations. They should also remember that someone will be held responsible for hurting Americans; it is in their interest to work with Uncle Same to ensure justice for the affected families or, if they were involved, or knew and did nothing to alert us or stop it, there should be consequences that go well beyond shuttering a building for two weeks.