Cuba

Associated Press

The Trump administration is considering closing down the recently reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana following a string of unexplained incidents harming the health of American diplomats in Cuba, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday.

Tillerson's comments were the strongest indication to date that the United States might mount a major diplomatic response, potentially jeopardizing the historic restart of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The two former foes reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after a half-century of estrangement.

R
Claudia Daut/Reuters

As Hurricane Irma churned toward Cuba last weekend, residents on the island switched on their televisions and radios, hoping to hear a familiar, reassuring voice. 

No, it wasn't the words of the late leader Fidel Castro they longed for — it was the forecast of esteemed Cuban meteorologist José Rubiera. 

But the beloved weatherman was nowhere to be found.

Joel Rouse / AP via Miami Herald

Atlantic hurricanes rarely leave the Caribbean unscathed. The basin is like a bowling alley for storms and the islands its pins. Hurricane Irma – which left at least 36 people dead in the Caribbean last week, including 10 in Cuba, before roaring into Florida on Sunday – was an outsize bowling ball, setting strength records as it crashed into the Leeward Islands on the basin’s eastern fringe.

Virginia Aponte / Courtesy

After killing more than 20 people across the Caribbean this week, Hurricane Irma ravaged Cuba’s northern coast Friday night and Saturday morning – and may hammer Havana before it moves into the Florida Straits headed for the Keys on Sunday.

“The television pictures we’re seeing from the middle coast are very bad,” Havana resident Carlos Caridad told WLRN Saturday afternoon. “Housing and building construction out there is not as good as it is here, and we’re seeing a lot of wrecked houses in places like Camagüey [province].”

At least 16 U.S. government employees in Cuba have been treated after experiencing symptoms including hearing loss.

Employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba started experiencing odd medical symptoms starting in late 2016, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has characterized as "health attacks."

AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

This is turning out to be quite the embarrassing summer for communist Cuba.

This week the State Department revealed that two Cuban diplomats working in Washington had been booted out of the U.S. in response to “incidents” last year that made U.S. diplomats working in Havana physically ill. The Associated Press reported investigators believe sonic devices were planted in the U.S. diplomats’ residences that left the Americans with hearing loss.

Alejandro Ernesto / EFE

The Cuban government is putting the breaks on the bustling private taxi industry. It has released a proposal for a state-run taxi cooperative, and though membership will be optional, drivers are being enticed to join with incentives like cheaper gas and exclusive access to certain routes.

The announcement comes about a week after the government stopped issuing licenses for new private businesses in lucrative areas, including restaurants, Bed and Breakfasts, home rentals, web development, and tutoring.

Tim Padget / WLRN.org

COMMENTARY

This week a Twitter troll with the typically (and typically cowardly) anonymous handle of @Jesus78773335 came after me online.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images via Miami Herald

A Coral Gables business consultant watched one day in June as Cuban authorities carried out chairs, tables, plates, sound systems and bottles of imported liquor from a popular private restaurant near the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

“They took everything except the drywall and loaded it into a green truck,” said Saul Cimbler, president of U.S.-Cuba Business Advisory. He happened upon the scene outside El Litoral — a stylish paladar known for its high-end cuisine and customers — just as officers from the Technical Department of Investigations were carting off its fixtures.

Fears of a dictatorship forming in Venezuela seemed borne out early Tuesday  when the government hauled opposition leaders to jail. But this is shaping up to be a bad week for democracy and free enterprise across the Caribbean.

Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolás Maduro, had promised to jail many of his opponents once a new constituent assembly was elected on Sunday. That body will now rewrite Venezuela’s constitution to give Maduro sweeping new executive powers that critics call a dictatorship.

CubaOne

For a lot of first-generation Cuban-Americans, Cuba is almost a myth. Grandparents talk about it at family gatherings, always insisting the music, the beaches and even the sugar was better there.

Donna E. Natale Planas / Miami Herald

They are teachers, engineers or farmers, all seeking freedom in the United States. But after an unexpected policy chance and an end to special treatment that allowed the majority of Cuban migrants to remain legally in the country, more than 1,300 are now being held at detention centers across the country awaiting their fate to be decided by immigration judges.

Courtesy of ruthbehar.com

A few years after Ruth Behar and her family arrived in Queens, New York from Cuba in the early 1960's shortly after Fidel Castro took power, they were in an awful car accident that killed five teenage boys and left her in a full-body cast for most of the next year. She was nine years old, and spent her 10th birthday in that cast. 

Key West Art & Historical Society

Twenty-five years before the Spanish-American War,  the two countries bristled at each other across the Florida Straits, with a show of American Naval force assembled in Key West.

The Virginius Affair centered around the 1873 capture of an American ship that was helping Cuban rebels during the Ten Years War, an unsuccessful attempt to throw off Spanish rule from the island.

The Virginius was originally a Confederate blockade runner during the American Civil War. In the 1870s, it was carrying weapons to Cuban rebels. It was crewed by American and British citizens.

Isabella Cueto / WLRN News

It wasn’t at a fancy Calle Ocho hangout or even at a Cuban restaurant that the ten travelers on Cuba One Foundation’s next voyage met. It was at the childhood home of poet Richard Blanco, one of the guides who will be leading the literary trip to Cuba alongside anthropologist and writer Ruth Baher.

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