Quick Takeaways from House Hearing on U.S.-Cuba Policy

On Thursday, Sep. 6, the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Western Hemisphere Subcommittee held a hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy. Witnesses from State Department Bureaus of Western Hemisphere, Diplomatic Security, and Medical Services; the Health Incident Task Force; and GAO testified before the subcommittee.

The health incidents affecting U.S. personnel dominated the discussion.
All witnesses stated for the record that they believe the incidents were attacks, but refused to discuss speculation.

Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) asked why the USG consulted Dr. Hoffer, who is being investigated by the Pentagon and has no experience with concussions. Dr. Hoffer was “among many professionals consulted;” "mostly used in the beginning stages.” A day later, the Miami Herald reported theories of Dr. Hoffer’s team in FL. 

Differences between China and Cuba response became a main theme. 
There was a general hesitance, especially from the Task Force witness, to definitively connect the China and Cuba cases. They stressed that we can’t confirm more than one case in China. 

Even when pressed directly by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) on why the U.S. is treating China differently from Cuba (“We’ve treated China more favorably, and Cuba more harshly”), State gave vague answers about the history of relations with China vs. with Cuba, and sensitivity to South FL—“It’s a different political context.” Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) jumped in at this point to remind everyone of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Engel asked why it took CDC a year to investigate in Cuba but started on China immediately. USG response: we were prioritizing care for victims; the timeline of events in Cuba was initially unclear. 

Other areas of U.S.-Cuba policy: 
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) asked how the current policy is actually helping the Cuban people and requests details on specific plans to expand internet access, among other goals. State promised it will continue to pressure Cuba into allowing more access, but largely avoided linking policy outcomes to helping the Cuban people.   

Rep, Ted Yoho (R-FL) raised property claims and argued it was a failure of Obama’s foreign policy to open travel before property claims were negotiated. He offered to send State a list of recommended additions to the Cuba Restricted List. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) echoed the need to cut off revenue to the Cuban military.