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A formal investigation has been launched to determine the culprit behind a series of sonic harassment attacks that has led to unusual symptoms ranging from mild brain injuries to hearing loss for U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba. The reports of victims stated that they felt vibrations, heard sounds such as a loud ringing, high-pitched chirping, grinding noises and woke up with ringing in their ears. The list of confirmed victims has grown to 21 Americans and at least 2 Canadians since the first complaint was made in February of this year. The most recent attack to be reported was on September 1st, 2017. Cuba’s president Raul Castro has denied involvement in the sonic attacks and has offered to assist the FBI with the investigation.
Dating as far back as November of 2016, US diplomats and their families started feeling sick and described bizarre and unexplained sounds, including grinding and high-pitched ringing. When diplomats first started to come forward with mysterious symptoms, U.S. officials didn’t quite see the connection. It was only a matter of weeks before the embassy was able to piece together all the reported incidents and confirm health damage for several of the victims. On February 17th, 2017 the first complaint by U.S. officials was made to Cuba’s embassy in Washington and its foreign ministry in Havana.
The victims of the alleged sonic attacks have been diagnosed with hearing loss, nausea, headaches, balance disorders and conditions as serious as mild traumatic brain injury and damage to the central nervous system. For one American diplomat, the incident consisted of one blaring, grinding noise which jolted him right out of his bed in his hotel room in an area highly populated with tourists. According to the AP, the American diplomat proceeded to move away from his bed and within just a few feet, the noise was completely gone. When he returned to his bed, the agonising sound reappeared.
After a month-long investigation conducted by the US and Canada in cooperation with Cuba, there has yet to be an answer to how the attacks transpired or who was behind them. The FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police examined the homes where the attacks were reported, but no sonic device of any kind was found. The Cuban government has promised full cooperation and has so far shown to be treating the situation with utmost importance. According to Telegraph, the Cuban government stated that “Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families, without exception.”
According to Reuters, five Republicans have urged the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a letter to remind the Cuban government of its responsibility toward U.S. diplomats and for Tillerson to “declare all accredited Cuban diplomats in the United States persona non grata and, if Cuba does not take tangible action, close the U.S. Embassy in Havana.” By late May, frustrated with the lack of answers, the Trump administration expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington to protest Cuba’s failure to protect U.S. diplomats. On the other hand, Canada does not intend to take any diplomatic action at this time according to Reuters. The U.S. is now considering closing its embassy in Havana after the reported health problems attributed to the alleged sonic attacks.
Foreign policy experts are saying that it is hard to see what Cuba could possibly gain by such attacks considering they have made substantial progress in the relationship with the U.S. It is even more strange that Cuba would execute such an attack on Canadian diplomats considering Cuba has had such close ties with Canada for many years. For Cuba to allow the U.S. to come to Havana to investigate is already strong enough evidence to support that Cuba is in fact as innocent as they claim to be. Investigators aren’t ruling out any theories yet, but there is speculation that this could be a rebel group within Cuba’s security forces or even a third party country like Russia or North Korea who is trying to cause a stir. However, there is not enough evidence to support any one of these theories and the U.S. should be sure to wait before pointing the finger. It was already a pretty rash decision to expel Cuban diplomats from Washington and therefore it is important that the U.S. treads lightly moving forward in order to maintain their new-found relationship with Cuba.