Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Secy Tillerson to Investigate Health Attacks on Diplomats in Cuba

Secy Tillerson to Investigate Health Attacks on Diplomats in Cuba

FBI agents investigated the incidents in Cuba but so far have not determined what caused the illnesses.

USA diplomats will not be returning to Cuba anytime soon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday morning, as a Senate Committee prepared to review the alleged attacks. At that point, more than 20 officials had gotten sick.

Now, US press reports suggest that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents dispatched to Havana have been able to find no evidence to support the acoustic or sonic weapon theory. Two more bouts were reported in August, but none since then. Securing the USA border and figuring out how to normalize the status of "the 10 million to 15 million undocumented immigrants" already here - "who, let's be honest, will not and should not be forcibly removed" - are the two biggest challenges, they add, and "when prioritizing the immigration problems we face, the case of 200,000 Salvadorans who accepted our invitation to live and work here legally would not even make a Top 10 list".

"If senior Cuban officials did not directly order these attacks, they must've been aware or given tacit approval to foreign agents to operate in Cuba", Menendez said. "He also emphasized that we will not release information that helps the perpetrator determine the effectiveness of any attacks".

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the subcommittee chairman, is a vocal opponent of rapprochement with the Cuban government.

"Whatever happened to these officials is the result of some sophisticated technology that quite frankly is so sophisticated that we don't understand it", Rubio said.

Senator Robert Menendez, a Cuban-American and ranking Democrat on the Western Hemisphere subcommittee, said Cuba had failed to meet its global obligations but also that the State Department response had been "inadequate and troubling".

As the investigation into the incidents continues, the US Embassy in Havana is no longer issuing visas to Cubans and has reduced the services it provides to Americans visiting the island.

Cuba has denied any wrongdoing.

"U.S officials approached the Cuban government in mid-February to demand it meet its obligation under the Vienna convention to protect our personnel". The hearing was originally scheduled for last November, but it was postponed without a reason given. State Department officials will also deliver statements as well as medical proof of injuries to members of Congress at the Senate of Foreign Relations Committee.

The victims claimed to have heard loud noises before experiencing dizziness, headaches, fatigue, cognitive disorders, and hearing loss, which has in some cases proven permanent.

Some recovered from the most acute symptoms, Rosenfarb said, but the severity, range and recovery time was mixed and its not yet clear whether any have suffered permanent injury.

"They associated the onset of these symptoms with unusual sounds or auditory sensations", Rosenfarb said.

Various descriptions were given - a high-pitched beam of sound, an incapacitating sound, a baffling sensation akin to driving with the windows partially open in a auto or just an intense pressure in one ear.

Rubio criticized the State Department as being too slow to take the attacks seriously and for inadequate protection for diplomats today.

Todd Brown, diplomatic security assistant director at the State Department, said that as well as the possibility of an acoustic or sonic attack, U.S investigators were considering whether people might have been deliberately exposed to a virus.

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