Cuban leader sympathetic, puzzled by U.S. envoys’ injuries
HAVANA — Raul Castro seemed rattled.
The Cuban president sent for the top American envoy in the country to address concerns about a spate of U.S. diplomats harmed in Havana. There was talk of futuristic “sonic attacks” and the subtle threat of repercussions by the United States.
The way Castro responded surprised Washington, several U.S. officials told The Associated Press.
The number of “medically confirmed” cases among the envoys stands at 21, plus several Canadians. Some described bizarre, unexplained sounds, including grinding and high-pitched ringing. Victims recounted how they could walk in and out of what seemed like powerful beams of sound that hit only certain rooms or only parts of rooms.
Some Americans have permanent hearing loss or mild brain injury.
Castro told U.S. diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis that he was equally baffled, and concerned. Castro denied responsibility. But U.S. officials were caught off guard by the way he addressed the matter, devoid of the indignant, how-dare-you-accuse-us attitude the U.S. had come to expect.
The Cubans even offered to let the FBI come down to Havana to investigate — a surprising level of access.
Nevertheless, anger is rising in Washington. On Friday, five Republican senators wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to kick all Cuban diplomats out of the United States and close America’s embassy in Havana.
“Cuba’s neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged,” said the lawmakers, who included Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“The reality is, we don’t know who or what has caused this,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday. “And that’s why the investigation is underway.”