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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

"Why do these leaks to the press continue?" asked Valdes Sosa. "Obviously someone is interested in keeping the allegations alive."

Diplomats began reporting headaches, dizziness, hearing problems and ear pain in December 2016 and January 2017, Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, director of the Department of State's Bureau of Medical Services, said at a Senate subcommittee hearing in January.

As early as November 2016, some diplomats said they heard strange sounds in their homes that accompanied the onset of symptoms.

Some described "a high-pitched beam of sound, a "baffling sensation" similar to driving in a car with the windows partially open, or intense pressure in one ear, said Rosenfarb.

The Cuban investigative team said security and protection -- both visible and invisible -- have been stepped up at the U.S. Embassy and 42 diplomatic homes. The Cubans are continuing their investigation, and the team said it is close to publishing a scientific summary of its work.

Later incidents were reported at the Capri and Nacional hotels in Havana. Cuban investigators said those reports involved room No. 823 at the Nacional. It offers an expansive view of the sea and is outfitted with two double beds, two rocking chairs, heavy drapes, a Samsung television, a capsule coffee maker, a mini-bar and a closet safe.


The two rooms at the Capri are on the 15th and 17th floors. After checking them out and finding nothing suspicious, the rooms at both the Capri and Nacional were returned to the hotels' inventory and are now being rented to guests, the Cuban investigators said. They chose the Nacional as the site for their interview with the Herald.

The two hotels are included in the State Department's most recent travel advisory for Cuba. Because diplomats' "safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk," the advisory said.

Cuban investigators say they are absolutely serious about trying to find what could have caused the range of symptoms reported by the United States and to determine whether any criminal activity was involved. Acts against the diplomatic corps and chiefs of mission are serious crimes in Cuba with stiff penalties, said Lt. Col. Roberto Hernandez Caballero, a criminal investigator in the Interior Ministry.

However, with no access to the affected diplomats who have returned to the United States, Villar said, all that Cuban doctors had to work with was a document from the American doctors who had seen them. It was a synopsis of the ailments suffered by the diplomats.


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