Cuba Travel Advisory – Part 1

The U.S. State Departments travel advisory has people concerned about traveling to Cuba. The State Department has gone so far as to say that due to the reduction in embassy staff “the embassy would not be able to assure our security.”

While pronouncements of this sort by our government should be taken seriously it needs to also be remembered, in this case at least, that until the last year of President Obama’s tenure there wasn’t even an embassy, or any other official presence, in Cuba. 

In any event, enough people are concerned that here are a few things my associates are saying:

  1. Collin Laverty of Cuba Educational Travel (a biggie) noted that the U.S. State Department has issued numerous alerts and advisories against travel by Americans to places like Mexico and Europe because of crime, terrorism and other dangers. In contrast, in Cuba, “they have no evidence to indicate that U.S. travelers at risk during their visits to Cuba.” He also called the warning “absolutely unnecessary and counterproductive.”
  1. “It is still legal to travel to Cuba,” reiterated Greg Buzulencia, CEO of ViaHero, which creates personal itineraries for Americans visiting Cuba. “I don’t have any insight on the claimed attacks on U.S. diplomats, but there have been no such attacks on US travelers.” He said they’d had no cancellations from travelers.
  1. Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said that because the incidents referenced in the warning took place in hotels and diplomatic residences, “we do not feel that they pose a risk to our cruise passengers.” 

In addition, U.S. airlines continue to offer regular flights to Cuba, cruises continue to make stops there, Airbnb has a thriving rental business in Cuba and tour companies are still offering trips.

American Airlines is among a number of carriers declining to refund or waive change fees for Cuba flights despite the warning Friday.

Bear in mind that since I have been traveling there, beginning in 2001, the worst crime in Cuba is purse snatching and camera theft. Watch your possessions, carry no more cash than you can afford to lose, and leave your passport in your room (carry a photocopy).

Update – October 16, 2017

As might be expected, I have been watching for news regarding the alleged attacks on U.S. Embassy members and most recently on tourists.

I would like to share several things that have caught my attention. First, the attacks are alleged to have begun late last year. All of the initial reports are said to have been made by U.S. spies stationed in Cuba. This is convenient as spies can neither be publically identified or interviewed by reporters.

The “spies” reported they first noticed a disturbance sometime around November of 2016, shortly after Trump won the election, but the injuries, including hearing loss and brain damage, did not manifest until some months later. This time lag should be noted as I will return to it later.

It should also be noted that they must be appallingly bad spies to have been so easily identified and targeted by whoever the alleged perpetrator may be.

Second, until recently all of the reported injuries have been to U.S. spies or embassy personnel, and most, if not all, staying in the Hotel Capri near the embassy. As far as I know, the identity of embassy personnel is not top secret. In fact, U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba can meet them in person. Yet none of the embassy victims has yet to be identified by name or interviewed in the press. Is this to protect them from embarrassment or harassment? Or perhaps from answering questions from reporters?

Third, only within the last few weeks has it been alleged that an unspecified number of U.S. tourists have been attacked. Again, no names given. Does it strike anyone, besides me, as interesting that only when the alleged attacks on embassy personnel failed to illicit an outcry from anyone other than Senator Marco “Mad Dog” Rubio (R-Fl) and his right-wing Cuban constituents, that an unspecified number of tourists were alleged to have been attacked?

The average stay of U.S. tourists is seven to eight days. The time between when the “spies” reported first hearing strange sounds and when their alleged injuries occurred was several months.

"The attack, which may have been caused by a sonic wave machine, seemed to begin last December. But American officials did not notice a pattern to the symptoms reported by employees until two months later." (16 Americans Sickened After Attack on Embassy Staff in Havana, New York Times, Politics)

Have the perpetrators managed to advance their technology to a point where it now only takes a few days rather than a few months to cause hearing impairment and brain damage?

Fourth, the infrasound technology most likely to cause the reported injuries is possessed by only a few nations in the world, primarily Russia, Germany, and France. It is unknown if even the U.S. has access to this technology. And, according to Kausik Sarkar, an acoustics expert and engineering professor at George Washington University, "Very high energy could potentially lead to hearing losses and other harmful bio-effects. However, it remains intriguing how that itself can cause brain damage."

Fifth, it is well known that every action by Trump since taking office has been aimed at reversing anything accomplished by President Obama. Why not the fledgling rapprochement with Cuba? Why should he let this stand? Is it possible the alleged attacks are a fabrication of those in the Trump administration who oppose normalization of U.S. and Cuba relations?

Finally, according to an article in the New York Times:

"Government officials have suggested anonymously that the diplomats may have been assaulted with some sort of sonic weapon.

Experts in acoustics, however, say that’s a theory more appropriate to a James Bond movie.

Sound can cause discomfort and even serious harm, and researchers have explored the idea of sonic weaponry for years. But scientists doubt a hidden ultrasound weapon can explain what happened in Cuba.

“I’d say it’s fairly implausible,” said Jürgen Altmann, a physicist at the Technische Universität Dortmund in Germany and an expert on acoustics." (A ‘Sonic Attack’ on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It, New York Times, Science)

Cuba Travel Advisory - Part 1 - Cuba photo workshop

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