Cuban diplomats expelled from U.S. over mystery illness

"Some United States government personnel who were working at our embassy in Havana, Cuba, on official duties have reported some incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

Despite ostensibly improved ties between the USA and Cuban governments, the State Department on Wednesday confirmed it had expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington because of an "incident" in Havana that harmed US personnel there. "She would not say what the symptoms were except that they were not life-threatening", the AP added.

- The Canadian government said Thursday that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba also has been treated for hearing loss following disclosures that a group of American diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss that USA officials believe was caused by an advanced sonic device.

The FBI is now conducting further investigations into the reported incidents, and the State Department is prepared to take further action against the Cuban government if any evidence points in their direction. "Initially, when they'd started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing".

A subsequent report from CNN compared the symptoms aside from the hearing loss as resembling those of a concussion, suggesting that the sonic devices can damage a brain in a way similar to a physical blow.

The Associated Press reported that a U.S. investigation determined that the American diplomats' hearing loss could have been linked to sonic devices which emit inaudible sound waves that can cause deafness.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday denied any involvement in the attack, saying the decision to remove the Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and unfounded".

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A communiqué, published by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, says the authorities were informed and they have launched an "exhaustive, high-priority, urgent inquiry", increasing the security measures for all US Embassy employees and US diplomatic presidents. Those officials have left the country.

Cuba denies the allegation, but the United States has removed two Cuban diplomats from Washington DC in retaliation. "We're taking this incident very seriously, and it's under investigation right now".

View of the U.S. Embassy in Havana on December 17, 2015.

"We have some Americans who choose to come home as a result of that", said Nauert.

"Personal harm to U.S. officials shows the extent the Castro regime will go and clearly violates global norms".

Cuba has denied the USA claims it used any kind of sonic weapon, noting it has never permitted and would never allow Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families.

President Donald Trump, who made it clear he opposed the Obama administration's "détente" with the Castro regime during his 2016 campaign, had already scaled back many of his predecessor's diplomatic overtures.

  • Ismael Montgomery