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Cuba on US diplomats' health attacks: No way it's sonic weapons. Maybe it's stress

Mimi Whitefield, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

HAVANA -- Cuban investigators have discarded widespread speculation that a sonic weapon is to blame for damaging the health of two dozen American diplomats stationed in Havana.

Among their own theories? That stress over shifting U.S.-Cuba relations could have exacerbated health problems.

Initial news reports in August, citing unnamed U.S. officials, blamed a mysterious host of symptoms -- hearing loss, ringing in the ears, disequilibrium, headaches, fatigue, facial and abdominal pain, memory and sleep disorders, mild concussions and nausea -- on attacks using a "covert sonic device."

In an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald, five top members of the Cuban team investigating the incidents described their hypotheses and preliminary findings in a case that threatens to put U.S.-Cuba relations in the deep freeze. The United States has already withdrawn most American diplomats from Havana, expelled 17 Cuban diplomats from Washington and warned that Americans should reconsider travel to Cuba and avoid two hotels, the Nacional and Capri.

Based on the still-limited evidence that's been shared by the FBI, the State Department and their own investigation, the Cuban researchers said they don't believe health symptoms suffered by U.S. Embassy personnel were caused by a sonic weapon or sound waves.

A State Department spokesman said in response to Herald queries about the Cuban theories: "We still do not have definitive answers on the source or cause of the attacks. The investigation into the attacks is ongoing."

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Unless the U.S. shares more data on their investigation, Cuban investigators said, what caused the health symptoms may remain an unsolved mystery.

They also complained that they're often the last to know when new developments in the bizarre case surface in the United States.

When the State Department said recently that it had received 19 unconfirmed reports from American travelers to the island who complained of health symptoms similar to those experienced by diplomatic personnel, Cuban investigators said they learned about it not from U.S. officials but by reading it in the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

"Without cooperation, we're not going to get anywhere," said Dr. Manuel Jorge Villar Kuscevic, an ear, nose and throat specialist and coordinator of the Cuban expert committee looking into the diplomats' health problems.

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