The Trump administration has decided to recall most of their diplomats from Cuba after “sonic attacks” have been used by an unknown perpetrator to harm diplomats at the American Embassy in Havana. These attacks are believed to have started in the fall of last year, and have had significant impacts on several American diplomats, including brain damage and permanent hearing loss. As a result, around two-thirds of Cuban diplomats in Washington D.C. have been expelled and a State Department travel warning has been issued for the country.
Needless to say, this is an unusual development. Though the communist country exercises strict control and surveillance of foreign diplomats and those they interact with, the United States had considered Cuba a safe country for its diplomats. However, the United States is beginning to question whether this assessment will continue to apply.
This leaves the questions: What exactly is going on, and who is to blame?
So far, at least 22 U.S. diplomats and their family members have been negatively affected by these attacks, making up as many as 50 incidents that officials are investigating, all of which occurred at diplomatic residences that are government owned, operated, and heavily monitored properties. The symptoms of those affected include hearing loss, cognitive issues, severe headaches, and even traumatic brain injury.
Shortly after the issue was raised by American officials in February, the Cuban government insisted they would launch an “exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government.”
Interestingly, Cuba agreed to let FBI agents into the country in an unprecedented display of openness, but so far, investigators have been unable to determine exactly who is responsible for these attacks or what exactly is causing them.
The Cuban government has denied any connection to the incidents, claiming: “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.”
However, the Trump administration isn’t convinced, with President Trump stating that he believes Cuba is responsible for the attacks, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly saying that the Cuban government could have done more to stop the attacks from happening.
In recent developments, the Associated Press has released the sounds that are believed to have been heard by those attacked at “extreme volumes.” These sounds are reported as short, repeated bursts in specific parts of rooms before the victim falls ill.
In retaliation to Cuba’s apparent inability, or unwillingness to prevent lasting damage to U.S. diplomats in their country, 15 Cuban diplomats have been expelled from the United States. Cuban officials reacted by calling the decision “hasty, inappropriate, and unthinking.”
One must ask how is it possible that Cuban officials, who carefully monitor U.S. diplomats in government housing, did not know of these mysterious attacks? At best, Cuba is incapable of protecting Americans from this bizarre form of attack. At worst, they are complicit.
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