WASHINGTON – Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Thursday that US government claims that its diplomatic personnel in Havana have developed illnesses as a result of sonic attacks are a falsehood intended to hurt ties between the two countries.
“I can confirm categorically that whoever affirms that there have been attacks, deliberate acts or specific incidents as a cause of these health problems, is lying deliberately,” Rodriguez told reporters at the Cuban Embassy in Washington.
“These health effects are being used as a political pretext, with political objectives, to eliminate the progress achieved and damage the bilateral relationship,” Cuba’s chief diplomat said.
The US State Department says that 24 American diplomats have suffered effects from the ostensible sonic attacks, experiencing symptoms that include hearing loss, problems with balance and trouble sleeping.
In response, the State Department reduced the number of employees at the US Embassy in Havana to a minimum, forcing officials to stop issuing visas and provide only emergency consular services.
Washington subsequently ordered 15 Cuban Embassy officials to leave the United States, further aggravating tensions that had been on the rise since the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Donald Trump, who took office vowing to reverse predecessor Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba.
Asked if he was accusing the Trump administration of fabricating the claims about the attacks in Havana, Rodriguez said only that his government was certain that “no attack has occurred.”
“If the US government asserts the opposite, I invite them to present evidence,” the Cuban foreign minister said.
Besides what he called the absence of any evidence of attacks, he pointed to the opinions of “medical specialists” that the diverse set of symptoms described by the US diplomats could not be attributed to a single cause.
Rodriguez said it was striking “that the government of the United States continues talking about ‘attacks’ and ‘acoustic attacks’ and to take punitive measures against Cuba, when it has been demonstrated scientifically that this is not possible.”
The State Department has refrained from pointing the finger at the Cuban government, saying that it did not know who was responsible for the attacks, which the FBI is investigating with Havana’s cooperation.
Washington, however, has accused Havana of failing to protect US diplomatic personnel, while Trump has not hesitated to blame the Cuban government.
“I do believe Cuba’s responsible. I do believe that, and it’s a very unusual attack, as you know, but I do believe Cuba’s responsible, yes,” he told reporters last month.
In a piece published Oct. 6, 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.