U.S. diplomats still won't return to Cuba after health mystery

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Associated Press that the United States would be “putting people intentionally in harm’s way” if it returned its diplomats to Cuba. The U.S. withdrew most of its Cuba embassy staff in September 2017 due to health concerns from suspected use of some kind of “sonic radar”.

Investigations undertaken in the wake of the withdrawal, including an FBI report dated January 4, have “uncovered no evidence that sound waves could have damaged the Americans’ health.” (AP)

But Tillerson said he’s not convinced the “deliberate attacks” are over. He pledged to “push back on anybody” who tries to change his decision, until he can guarantee the safety of American personnel returning to Cuba.

The U.S. government has never claimed Cuba perpetrated the attacks but believes the Cuban government must know who did, according to the AP.

Cuba denies involvement in the alleged attacks or knowledge of who might have conducted them. The FBI said it will keep investigating the case until it can prove no intentional harm was done.

Earlier reporting…

The U.S. is withdrawing about 60 percent of its embassy staff in Cuba after diplomats there experienced strange health problems, due to suspected sonic radar use. This decision comes a week after the Trump administration announced it was considering closing its embassy in Havana.

U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba
U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba

The U.S. is also warning Americans not to visit the country because some of the health “attacks” are said to have occurred in hotels, according to the BBC. 

Several U.S. diplomats who visited Cuba have experienced hearing and speech loss, sickness and concentration problems. Until now, 21 U.S. citizens have been medically confirmed as having health problems. Some are still having difficulties concentrating or recalling specific words.

U.S. intelligence initially focused on the Cubans’ suspected use of a sonic weapon. Some victims said they felt vibrations and heard sounds while on the island, according to the Associated Press. The FBI investigated the U.S. Embassy in Cuba and found no corroborating evidence.

“None of this has a reasonable explanation,” said Fulton Armstrong, a former CIA official.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that the administration has the embassy “under evaluation.”

Five Republican senators have called for the Trump administration to expel Cuban diplomats and possibly shut down the U.S. embassy there.

Cuba has denied any involvement. The U.S. State Department has not blamed Havana for the attacks but asked two Cuban diplomats to leave Washington in May after its government’s failure to protect Americans serving there.

America and Cuba reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after about 50 years of estrangement.

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