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Thursday, August 30, 2018

US make new diplomatic actions in Havana

Por Damian

The government of the United States is implementing a plan to increase the security of its personnel at the embassy in Havana. Among the measures that are already being applied is the "consolidation of United States personnel in a smaller number of residences," said Orna Blum, spokeswoman for the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau of the State Department.

"Due to security considerations, we will not provide further details in this regard. The Department is exploring additional strategies to mitigate the risk to US personnel in Havana," the spokesperson added in an email.

The new strategy follows recommendations of the Committee for the Evaluation of Foreign Risks of the Department of State.

The US reduced its staff in Havana last year due to alleged attacks that have affected 26 employees and that have caused symptoms such as hearing loss, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, cognitive problems, visual problems and difficulty sleeping.

The staff reduction became permanent in March of this year.The State Department also does not allow family members to accompany the diplomats during their stay in Havana, which was reduced from three to one year.

However, on Thursday, the State Department reduced the level of alert in its recommendations to Americans traveling to Cuba. Previously, the Department advised Americans to reconsider travel to the island. The new warning calls on Americans to exercise "greater caution" when they are in Cuba.

The change is due to the Department's view that the attacks appear to be directed at US officials and not at travelers in that country.

On Friday, the US embassy in Havana reported that it resumed its offer of services to US citizens in Cuba, including the application and renewal of passports, notary services, document authentication services, consular reports of birth abroad and emergency assistance.

Almost half a million Cuban-Americans travel to the island every year. In the first half of this year, 266,455 American travelers also arrived.

Visa procedures for Cuban citizens and the refugee program remain suspended, although immigrant visas can be obtained in Guyana.

In addition to jeopardizing compliance with immigration agreements with Cuba, the reduction in personnel has also made it difficult for diplomats "to cover significant economic and political developments in Cuba" as well as maintaining a relationship with human rights activists, according to a recent memo published by the Congressional Research Service.