American diplomats in Cuba are falling ill after a series of mysterious, vaguely identified, “health attacks.” Neither the U.S. nor the Cuban government has identified the cause of these attacks, which have left U.S. citizens in the diplomatic community with symptoms ranging from permanent hearing loss to brain trauma. A possible explanation for these attacks is a sonic weapon—a device which could produce frequencies of sound capable of inflicting severe damage on human beings. Cuban President Raul Castro has responded publicly to the continuing concerns. According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials are reviewing whether to close the American embassy in Havana, the capital city of Cuba.
It reads like something out of a Cold War-era novel. Diplomats hearing strange grinding sounds, or a loud ringing, coming from their Havana apartments or a hotel popular with the diplomatic community in Cuba. Following these sounds, those exposed began to report symptoms such as nausea, hearing loss, and aphasia (inability to recall common words). With relations and economic ties between the U.S. and Cuba only recently reestablished, the spectre of the Cold War is the last thing either nations want brought back from the dead. Cuban tourism is on the rise and the prospect of a fruitful relationship with the United States seems possible after a long and troubled history between the U.S. and Cuba.
The first of these attacks was reported on February 17 but it was only publicly confirmed by the United States government almost six months later on August 9. Since February, the number of reported incidents has risen to 21.
U.S. Government Concern
Five U.S. senators on Friday wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging that all Cuban diplomats be expelled from the United States and that the recently opened U.S. Embassy in Havana be immediately closed.
The five senators included Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (R) who is himself Cuban-American. The letter to Raul Castro (brother to longtime Cuban President Fidel Castro, who died last year) was written in strong language accusing the Cuban government of “neglect” of their duty to protect American diplomats, and stating that it cannot go “unchallenged.”
Several anonymous officials declined to comment to the AP if there was an active investigation but stated that there was real reason to question if Cuba was secretly carrying out these attacks. A very troubled history of Cuba and U.S. relations stands between real reconciliation and there may be rogue elements within Cuba that would perpetrate these strange sort of attacks. Officials also stated that there may be a connection with other nations unfriendly to the U.S. but as of now there is next to nothing known about the nature of these attacks.
According to CNN, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering closing the Havana embassy.
The Cuban Response
President Raul Castro surprised the United States on Friday when he made an unusual face-to-face address of top U.S. diplomat in Cuba Jeffrey DeLaurentis. Castro told DeLaurientis that he was just as “baffled” and “concerned” as the United States, The Washington Post reports.
Without indignation, Castro denied culpability but shockingly offered to allow the FBI access to Cuba to conduct their investigation. Cuba has not allowed the FBI access ever before and the two nations entered into “law enforcement” dialogue on Friday in Washington. Leo Taddeo, a retired FBI supervisor explained that “some countries don’t want any more FBI agents in their country than they have to — and that number could be zero.”
Neither the U.S. government nor the Cuban government have publicly identified just what exactly these attacks were but it is now known that between five and 10 Canadian diplomats have been affected as well. From the descriptions given it has been speculated to be a sonic weapon, but no one quite knows what that is. The probe into the incidents reportedly involves both the FBI and CIA.
[Featured Image by Ismael Francisco/AP Images]