HAVANA – The operators of the Havana hotel said to be the scene of alleged acoustic attacks on US diplomats assigned to Cuba said Friday that no other guests have reported symptoms like those affecting the American officials.
“We know that there has been no complaint. Either the sonic attacks are very selective and are capable of identifying the nationality of the guest or someone needs to explain it to me. I say this with respect for everybody,” Ramon Aragones, CEO of Spanish-based hotel chain NH, told EFE.
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.
Two weeks ago, the Trump administration imposed new restrictions on travel to Cuba and barred US citizens and firms from entering into transactions with scores of entities and sub-entities controlled by the Communist-ruled island’s military, intelligence or security services.
These include more than two-dozen hotels in Havana and more than a dozen hotels in Varadero, a popular beach resort.
The NH Capri is not on the US government blacklist.
Aragones, whose company runs the NH Capri in partnership with Cuban state firm Gran Caribe, said that the hotel has not noticed any reduction in bookings by US visitors.
As a matter of corporate strategy, he said, NH hotels seek not to become dependent on clientele from a single source.
“In the case of this hotel, the American clientele was only around 25 percent and this was somewhat deliberate,” Aragones said. “The problem that some hotels in Havana are having is that they went all-out on the Americans. Well, now the Americans have gone and you have a problem.”
Cuba’s foreign minister said early this month that US government claims its diplomatic personnel in Havana developed illnesses as a result of sonic attacks were 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,” Bruno Rodriguez told reporters at the Cuban Embassy in Washington.
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.
Trump, however, 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.