HAVANA – Former Cuban President Raul Castro said on Thursday that there is no evidence of a “sonic war” against US diplomats on the communist island.
“Since last August, under the pretext of health effects on its diplomats, in what is called by some a ‘sonic war,’ the origin of which nobody has been able to explain or prove, ... bilateral links with the United States have deteriorated,” Castro said.
The former leader referred to the subject during his remarks at Thursday’s ceremony in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba marking National Rebellion Day.
The holiday commemorates the first armed action led by Fidel Castro (1926-2016) against the Fulgencio Batista regime, the failed July 26, 1953, attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba.
In his more-than-40-minute speech, Castro mentioned relations with the US, Havana’s historical enemy with which diplomatic relations were reestablished in 2015, and rejected accusations by Washington about the mysterious health incidents suffered by 26 US diplomatic officials in the Cuban capital.
The origin of the health issues has been under investigation for months, albeit with no concrete results.
Castro, who remains head of the island’s ruling Communist Party, said that Cuba remains ready to engage in “respectful dialogue,” although he noted that the US economic embargo remains in force and “has been intensified, especially in terms of the persecution of financial transactions.”
He also harshly criticized the statements about Cuba made by members of the Donald Trump administration, which run counter to the bilateral thaw launched by the US president’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
The remarks come days after the US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Paco Palmieri, visited Havana to evaluate the “unique challenges” posed by the mysterious health incidents and to meet with US diplomatic personnel posted to Cuba.
Palmieri also met with Cuban Foreign Ministry officials, who denied that US diplomats had been subjected to attacks and reiterated that such accusations are being made for political ends.
In a piece published Oct. 6, 2017, a science reporter for The New York Times recounted what he learned from experts in ultrasonics while researching an article on the attacks in Cuba.
“The consensus was that it was extremely unlikely the diplomats were the victims of a sonic weapon. It would be necessary to rule out less exotic possibilities before taking that one seriously,” Carl Zimmer wrote.