Cuban diplomats expelled from U.S. over mystery illness

US government personnel in Havana report

An investigation has found that USA diplomats in Havana were affected by sonic devices.

"We don't have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of what we consider to be incidents", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a news briefing.

The Canadian government is confirming that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba also has been treated for hearing loss. "The government is actively working - including with U.S. and Cuban authorities - to ascertain the cause".

Nauert confirmed that the Cubans left Washington on May 23. The AP also reported that investigators are trying to determine if the Cuban government used sonic devices that create non-audible noise to try to deafen the Americans.

The U.S. State Department says it expelled two Cuban diplomats earlier this year after several Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Havana experienced odd medical symptoms and were either recalled to the U.S. or allowed to come home. "There is a lot we still don't know".

"The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva convention to protect our diplomats, so that is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours". The State Department first learned of these incidents in late 2016, she said.

A Cuban wearing a handkerchief with the USA flag in Havana.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. diplomats, who were living in housing owned and maintained by the Cuban government, began suffering unexplained losses of hearing in fall 2016.

At this point, all that is for certain is that an "incident" occurred that has gone unreported for months and suddenly diplomatic relations with Cuba are on the rocks.

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President Barack Obama reopened the US embassy in Havana in 2015 following the announcement of a new, pro-Castro American policy that would allow American businesses to further enrich the Castro regime while accepting Raúl Castro's repeated demands that "nothing" would be expected from the regime in return, in particular, respect for worldwide human rights norms.

Expulsions follow report of alleged use of covert sonic device in 2016 that left USA diplomats with severe hearing loss.

The incident threatens to set back relations between the two countries, which President Barack Obama took major strides to fix in 2015.

The embassy, however, will remain open, "in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path", he added. "It's virtually impossible for anyone to take action against an American diplomat without an element of the Cuban state being aware".

The Cuban government denied involvement in the incident, saying it would never allow actions against diplomats and their families.

The Associated Press, one of the few Western news outlets with offices in the Cuban capital, reported from Havana that the injuries may have been caused by sonic equipment that Cuban intelligence officers installed in the U.S. Embassy or residences of its staff.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry got involved thereafter, and launched their own "exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government".

Citing an anonymous government official, CNN reports that the U.S. is still investigating the possibility this was an attack by a third country that might be trying to harm America's relations with Cuba.

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