Cana­dian diplo­mat in Cuba, like Amer­i­cans, suf­fered hear­ing loss

Sonic de­vice likely cause; not known who is be­hind it.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Matthew Lee, Rob Gil­lies and Michael Weissenstein

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment said Thurs­day that at least one Cana­dian diplo­mat in Cuba also has been treated for hear­ing loss fol­low­ing dis­clo­sures that a group of Amer­i­can diplo­mats in Havana suf­fered se­vere hear­ing losses that U.S. of­fi­cials be­lieve was caused by an ad­vanced sonic de­vice.

Global Af­fairs Canada spokes­woman Bri­anne Maxwell said Cana­dian of­fi­cials “are aware of un­usual symp­toms af­fect­ing Cana­dian and U.S. diplo­matic per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies in Havana. The gov­ern­ment is ac­tively work­ing — in­clud­ing with U.S. and Cuban au­thor­i­ties to as­cer­tain the cause.”

Canada helped bro­ker talks be­tween Cuba and the United States that led to re­stored diplo­matic re­la­tions.

In the fall of 2016, some U.S. diplo­mats be­gan suf­fer­ing un­ex­plained losses of hear­ing, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials with knowl­edge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the case. Sev­eral of the diplo­mats were re­cent ar­rivals at the em­bassy, which re­opened in 2015 as part of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s re-estab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions with Cuba.

Some of the U.S. diplo­mats’ symp­toms were so se­vere that they were forced to can­cel their tours early and re­turn to the United States, of­fi­cials said. Af­ter months of in­ves­ti­ga­tion, U.S. of­fi­cials con­cluded that the diplo­mats had been at­tacked with an ad­vanced sonic weapon that op­er­ated out­side the range of au­di­ble sound and had been de­ployed ei­ther in­side or out­side their res­i­dences.

The U.S. of­fi­cials weren’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

State Depart­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said the U.S. re­tal­i­ated by ex­pelling two Cuban diplo­mats from their em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton on May 23. She did not say how many U.S. diplo­mats were af­fected or con­firm they had suf­fered hear­ing losses, say­ing only that they had “a va­ri­ety of phys­i­cal symp­toms.”

The Cuban gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment late Wed­nes­day that “Cuba has never per­mit­ted, nor will permit, that Cuban ter­ri­tory be used for any ac­tion against ac­cred­ited diplo­matic of­fi­cials or their fam­i­lies, with no ex­cep­tion.”

The state­ment from the Cuban For­eign Min­istry said it had been in­formed of the in­ci­dents on Feb. 17 and had launched an “ex­haus­tive, high-pri­or­ity, ur­gent in­ves­ti­ga­tion at the be­hest of the high­est level of the Cuban gov­ern­ment.”

It said the de­ci­sion to ex­pel two Cuban diplo­mats was “un­jus­ti­fied and base­less.”

The min­istry said it had cre­ated an ex­pert com­mit­tee to an­a­lyze the in­ci­dents and had re­in­forced se­cu­rity around the U.S. Em­bassy and U.S. diplo­matic res­i­dences.

U.S. of­fi­cials said that about five diplo­mats, sev­eral with spouses, had been af­fected and that no chil­dren had been in­volved. The FBI and Diplo­matic Se­cu­rity Ser­vice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Cuba em­ploys a state se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus that keeps many peo­ple un­der sur­veil­lance and U.S. diplo­mats are among the most closely mon­i­tored peo­ple on the is­land.

How­ever, of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the probe said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity that the in­ci­dents were car­ried out by a third coun­try such as Rus­sia, pos­si­bly oper­at­ing with­out the knowl­edge of Cuba’s for­mal chain of com­mand.

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