Cuban leader sym­pa­thetic, puz­zled by U.S. en­voys’ in­juries

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Nation&world - By The Associated Press

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.”

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