Sunday, 20 August, 2017

Canada says diplomat also suffered hearing loss in Cuba

A member of the Cuban honor guard stands next to a new plaque at the front door of the newly reopened Cuban embassy in Washington. The State Department has expelled two diplomats from Cuba's Embassy in Washington after a series of unexplained incidents US government personnel in Havana report "incidents" causing physical symptoms
Lillian Steele | 11 August, 2017, 00:39

It is not unprecedented or uncommon for American officials in Cuba to be harassed, the Post reported, pointing to the start of the practice emerging under the island's communist government in the 1970s. "I can't tell you the exact number ... but we had to bring some Americans home or some Americans chose to come home as a result of that".

Nauert confirmed that the Cubans left Washington on May 23.

"The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva Convention to protect our diplomats", Nauert said.

"It's very unusual", one official said in reference to the method of attack, which still remains a mystery.

The official said the State Department's office of Diplomatic Security has the lead on the investigation. "She would not say what the symptoms were except that they were not life-threatening", the AP added.

US officials believe a group of American diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss after being exposed to a covert sonic device. The report estimated that "about five" diplomats and spouses were affected and that American investigators had not yet concluded whether "the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other goal". After months of investigation, US officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. "The government is actively working - including with USA and Cuban authorities - to ascertain the cause". "They insist they don't know, but it has been very worrying and troublesome". The embassy reopened in 2015 when Barack Obama began to establish new diplomatic ties with Cuba, and many of these employees were new to the job.

Cuba responded by saying that it would never allow its soil to be used for actions against diplomats and that it is willing to cooperate with the U.S.to clarify the incidents.

Cuban officials have denied directing actions against the diplomats and have launched their own investigation into the allegations.

But it appears there are real US victims and that's what is most important. American diplomats operating in Cuba are known to be subject to surveillance and harassment, but the latest revelation is a substantial escalation.

The American diplomats suffered a "variety of physical symptoms" - some so serious that they necessitated a return to the USA, according to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

The US is taking the situation "extremely seriously", she added, and in May asked two Cubans working at the country's embassy in Washington, DC, to leave the US.

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