Canadian diplomats hit by Cuba illness feel ‘abandoned’ -paper

People wait to enter the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, in this September 29, 2017 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 November 2018

Canadian diplomats hit by Cuba illness feel ‘abandoned’ -paper

  • US and Cuban officials met at the State Department in September to discuss the mysterious health problems

OTTAWA: A group of Canadian diplomats who left the embassy in Cuba after suffering unusual health symptoms say their foreign ministry has abandoned them, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Monday.
Canada said in April it would remove the families of staff posted to Havana, where both Canadian and US diplomats have complained of dizziness, headaches and nausea.
The diplomats complained that the foreign ministry — unlike the US State Department — had said very little about the matter in public and did not appear to be making their case a priority. Getting specialized medical care has been difficult, they added.
“We did not expect to be abandoned, or more precisely, sacrificed — that’s how we’re feeling now,” the paper quoted one of them as saying.
Several of those affected believe Ottawa has said little in public because it wants to maintain friendly relations with Cuba, the Globe added.
An official at the Canadian foreign ministry did not respond directly when asked about the diplomats’ complaints that they had been abandoned, but said the situation was very difficult.
“It is really an unprecedented type of incident, which has a lot of uncertainty. Our response to it has evolved since we first became aware of it,” said the official, adding that Ottawa had done its best to make medical care available.
The official requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
US and Cuban officials met at the State Department in September to discuss the mysterious health problems. The United States has reduced embassy staffing in Cuba from more than 50 to a maximum 18.
NBC News said in September that US officials believe the health problems may have been caused by sophisticated electromagnetic weapons.
The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) — the union representing rank and file diplomats — said the initial government reaction had been inadequate, in part because no one had experience of such a problem.
“Everyone is worried because if you don’t know what something is, and it’s unpredictable, nobody can say for sure that (it) isn’t going to happen again,” PAFSO president Pamela Isfeld said in a phone interview. “I totally do not blame them for being very unhappy with this.”
Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said she was deeply troubled by the health problems the diplomats were experiencing.


Poland seizes two for plotting Breivik-style attacks on Muslims

Updated 24 min ago

Poland seizes two for plotting Breivik-style attacks on Muslims

  • The two suspects were taken into custody on Sunday in the capital Warsaw and the northern city of Szczecin
  • Breivik, an anti-Muslim neo-Nazi, massacred 77 people in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity in July 2011

WARSAW: Polish agents arrested two people accused of planning attacks against Muslims inspired by Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand, the security service said on Wednesday.
The arrests follow a spate of attacks involving white supremacists targeting ethnic and religious minorities across the globe. Far-right groups have grown in strength in Poland, the largest of the European Union’s post-communist states.
The two suspects were taken into custody on Sunday in the capital Warsaw and the northern city of Szczecin.
“The arrests are the result of information collected earlier by the Internal Security Agency (ABW) about an extremist group whose aim was to intimidate Muslims living in Poland,” the statement said.
“The materials gathered during the investigation show the group modelled itself on terrorist attacks carried out by extremists including Anders Breivik (in 2011 in Norway) and Brenton Tarrant (in 2019 in New Zealand).”
The group intended to carry out attacks using firearms and explosives, the statement said, and during one search of a house in the Warsaw suburb of Wlochy, ABW agents found materials for making large quantities of explosives, guns and ammunition.
Breivik, an anti-Muslim neo-Nazi, massacred 77 people in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity in July 2011.
Tarrant has been charged with an attack broadcast live on Facebook in 2019 on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 51 people and wounded dozens.