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'I wish they’d distribute nooses through the rationing booklet, so we could all hang ourselves'

Havanans and the self employed express concern about Washington's measures in response to the 'acoustic attacks.'

La Habana

Cubans, who have received scant information about the episode of the so-called "acoustic attacks", which the international press reported on last August, are mainly concerned about Washington's decision to suspend the processing of visas indefinitely on the island.

Many complain about having to pay the price, once more, for the problems between the governments of Cuba and the United States. Some blame Donald Trump and others, Havana.

"It is the Cuban people who pay, as always, for the irresponsibility of the Government," said baker Candito Iznaga upon learning, in an article in the official newspaper Granma, of the measures implemented by the US Governmentafter months of attacks that affected some 20 of its diplomats on the Island.

On Friday Washington decided to reduce its staff to less than half on the island until Havana is able to guarantee the safety of US officials and their families.

"In Cuba, where a leaf has never moved without government permission, now it turns out that nobody knows what the hell happened with the American diplomats, and in the meantime the consequences will have to be borne by the Cuban people," said Iznaga.

Many Havanans complain of the limited information revealed on the island about a very mysterious episode that neither governments nor experts have managed to explain.

"What an acoustic attack is, how it is carried out, and the extent to which Cuba is involved, because the information in Granma is nebulous. We don’t know anything. It offers little to understand the issue," complained Estela Martinez, the manager of a pharmacy in Playa. "Here there are no lies, but they never tell any truths either."

"According to our press, this all goes back to the end of last year, but only now are they covering it," said nurse Racheli Domínguez.

"The measures that Trump established mean 'we're out of here.' Now we'll have to light candles for the saints and just pray that we know who's behind the attacks soon. I, who was in the process for family reunification, right now, I don't know if the embassy will give priority to cases like mine."

The first reports of the "acoustic attacks" date back to November of 2016. The last known incident occurred in August. Those affected have suffered permanent hearing loss, migraines, fatigue, cognitive deficits and sleeping problems. Some accounts have also mentioned "minor brain injuries."

Washington and Havana have not been able to clarify who carried out the attacks, or with what technology.

"Without the dry foot / wet foot (policy), and without visas for the US, this is going to be really bad," said Oscar Javier Mena, the owner of an auto shop, who claims to have qualified for the Diversity Visa Program.

"The Cuban people are children of politics, and will never be orphans of it. Neither Raúl nor Trump care that the people have nothing but dreams for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One uses us to maintain his 'Revolution,' and the other denies us the only way out of this madhouse... I wish they’d distribute nooses through the rationing booklet, so we could all hang ourselves."

María Luisa, a retired teacher in charge of a building in Nuevo Vedado, said she understands that the Trump Administration wants to protect its diplomats, but believes that the measures "criminalize the Cuban people."

"Cutting off the granting of visas is a measure against the people, not against those who had to ensure the health and safety of these diplomats and their families. Who does this retaliation affect? My message to Trump is simple: the people should not pay for their governments' decisions."

Mathematics for the private sector

In addition to the measures taken, which could affect diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, the State Department also recommended that Americans not travel to the island.

"I don't think we self-employed and cooperative workers will be affected if American tourists stop coming, because our experience with the cruise ships has shown us that the military will always have control over the really lucrative tourism," said Saul Matos, a “coco-taxi” driver.

"We were all excited the three times that the Adonia entered the port, but we all ended up like brides left alone at the altar. All dressed up and nowhere to go. Those affected will be the drivers of the old convertible taxis, because the Americans love to go in them all over Havana, but other than that, I don't think that the restaurants or hostels will be hit hard when the Americans stop coming."

Bárbara Zamora, on the other hand, the manager of two private hostels in Centro Habana, believes that a reduction in the flow of US tourists will affect the private sector on the island.

"The Americans fill up the State hotels, so tourists of other nationalities have to stay in private hostels. If the Americans stop coming, the State will try to fill that gap with tourists of other nationalities, and we will have a dip," she reasoned.

"It's pure math, and Trump knows that the military controls the tourism," added Joel Salazar, the owner of a hostel in Vedado.

"He [Donald Trump] recently issued a ban on US companies doing business with companies run by GAESA. If US tourism is cut off, the military will not lose out, and the first internal measures will be against us. Just wait and you'll see."

"And those who think that ordinary Cubans always look to the north and not to those responsible within Cuba, only see half the picture. After all, who is affected by the freeze on visas, and Americans not coming to Cuba?"

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