US Studies Possible Viral Attacks on its Diplomats in Cuba


State Department official Todd Brown spoke at a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Photo: US State Dept.

HAVANA TIMES – The Trump Administration is studying whether a virus could be the source of the health problems suffered by 24 of its diplomats in Cuba, said a senior official of the State Department in the US Senate. Previous accusations have centered around “acoustic attacks”.

Under the presidency of Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing Tuesday morning on the alleged attacks, whose origin is unknown and which, according to the US government, took place between the end of 2016 and August 2017.

Todd Brown, Deputy Director of Diplomatic Security, said during the hearing that, apart from the possibility of acoustic attacks, other possibilities are being considered, and he cited among them a “viral” attack, that is, someone deliberately infecting the US diplomats with a virus.

“The hearing symptoms could be part of another attack,” Brown said. “There are a variety of things that technical experts are looking at.”

It is the first time that the US Administration admits not being sure that the symptoms of its diplomats are due to an acoustic attack.

Also present at the hearing were the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Francisco Palmieri, and the medical director of the State Department, Charles Rosenfarb.

When asked by Rubio, one of the greatest critics of the thaw in relations with Cuba that was implemented by Democratic President Barack Obama, Brown said he cannot guarantee that US diplomats can be safe in Cuba since it is not known what caused the symptoms.

Palmieri insisted that it is difficult to believe that the attacks occurred without the knowledge of the government of Raul Castro and recalled that both President Trump and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, have assured that the Cuban government “has responsibility in them.”

The hearing, which lasted about an hour and a quarter, was held a few days after an FBI report was leaked to US media which said no evidence of an acoustic attack has been found.

The United States says that since November 2016, 24 diplomats who worked in Cuba and relatives have suffered alterations in their health due to attacks of unknown origin that have caused symptoms such as hearing loss, dizziness, buzzing, headaches, fatigue, cognitive problems and sleep difficulties.

At the end of September Trump ordered the removal of more than half of the US embassy staff in Havana and shortly after he expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington. Later the US closed down virtually all of its consular services in Havana forcing visa seekers to go to Colombia or Mexico.

The issue over the supposed attacks has fueled the tension in bilateral relations that Obama and Raul Castro resumed in 2015 after more than 50 years of rupture. They already suffered when Trump announced changes in US policy toward Cuba in June, which included a hardening of the embargo and greater limitations of the trips of US citizens to the island.

Cuba has not questioned the health problems that the US diplomats have suffered, but assures they were not the result of any attack. In early November, foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez accused Washington of lying to damage relations between the two countries.

After the top Cuban leaders, starting with Fidel Castro, sharply criticized Obama’s overtures to the people of Cuba during his visit in March 2017, they now find themselves dealing with a US president who brings a more familiar adversarial roll to US-Cuba relations.

12 thoughts on “US Studies Possible Viral Attacks on its Diplomats in Cuba

  • Having listened to Senator Rubio’s hearing on You tube where he did most of the speculation testimony we have this form the medical experts. A medical opinion that the injuries were consistent with a non natural sources due to head trauma. Most of rest of the so called testimony consists Senator Rubio letting us know that anti Castro Cubans were not behind the attack because they lack the capability, no one in this room believes they would do such a thing and that the US government neither knows about how this was done nor has some thing that can do this and if we did we certainly wouldn’t use it.

    Thanks for the assurance Senator Rubio we would never ever think those kind of things.
    Kim O’Brien

  • The corporate owned media has been very vague on this issue. Americans and Canadians visit each other often as they are close cultural cousins to each other. You will have to ask the Canadians yourself, but at least they don’t make a big fuss about it. When the Democrats are back in power, we’ll find out what the hoax is all about with the help of Mr. Obama (and heads will start to roll off starting with little Marco).

  • Still doesn’t explain how the “hoax” has managed to involve the Canadians.

  • Little Marco is cooking up another story for his boss in the WH; none of the Canadian staff members were identified either, but yet they haven’t had any problem maintaining the relationship for the last 59 years. Trump has been known for his lies and Rubio is more than willing to help him!

  • So how do you explain the fact that Canadian embassy staff suffer from the same problems? Are you suggesting that they are in on the hoax?

  • Cubans on the island are tough people, Jenny, and can best fight any viruses. Perhaps, American diplomats picked up the virus in Washington, DC on their way to their posts in Havana. I’ve been to DC twice, and the place can be awfully hot and humid through most of the year! Climate-wise, I’d rather be in Havana and enjoy the cool breezes at the Malecon than in stuffy Washington, DC.

  • This is nothing but bullshit invented by Senators Rubio and Menendez! Now the Trump regime is inventing another story. What is strange is that none of the “victims” were identified and interviewed by the media.

  • The whole thing is nothing but a hoax, created by Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez because they were opposed to the new Cuba policy of President Obama. That is why no one, including the FBI can come up with a cause of the “attacks”.

  • I have been fighting a viral infection since returning from Cuba in November and I have some of the described symptoms. I think, most likely, I was infected while I was on the plane traveling to Cuba from Canada, since germs can circulate quite easily in that environment. Perhaps one of my fellow Canadians “attacked” me with a virus! Quite a few Canadians seem to have similar long-lasting viral infections; a nasty “bug” is going around, I hear people say. However, none of my friends in Cuba have reported such health problems. Do Cubans have stronger immune systems or better treatments for viral health problems? Perhaps the climate makes a difference.

  • Although it is notable the first attacks were reported while Obama was in his last few months in office.

  • I am suffering every one of the above described symptoms. I’d thought I was just getting old; but now I know- it’s the Cubans! Probably hiding under my bed!

  • My god this is getting old. With Trump in the White House and Rubio the chief advisor on Cuba policy, relations were destined to return to the old Cold War rhetoric with or without the supposed attacks. My impression is that both governments are far more comfortable with the current state of affairs. The brief Obama opening, highly popular in Cuba, troubled both the hard line Miami crowd and the Castro government.

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