The Canadian government on Wednesday announced it would halve the number of diplomats at its embassy in Cuba after a 14e Canadian has mysteriously fallen ill with brain injury.
The latest December case suggests that the puzzling incidents — which began in late 2016 and were deemed attacks by the US government — are still ongoing and are straining relations between Cuba and the US, and now Cuba and Canada.
Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, called the decision “incomprehensible” on Wednesday.
“This behavior benefits those in the United States who use this issue to attack and denigrate Cuba,” she wrote in a statement. “It is well known that some individuals in high positions in US foreign policy are working very hard to create a climate of bilateral tension to portray our country as a threat.”
The latest confirmed Canadian case involves a senior government official who arrived in Cuba over the summer and reported symptoms on Dec. 29, officials said. Symptoms generally include nausea, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and headaches. US medical experts with access to affected US cases confirmed the presence of mild traumatic brain injury and described “injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma”.
US officials have confirmed 26 US cases, many of which were related to unexplained irritating noises, pressure and vibration.
In September 2017 and March 2018, the US government announced the withdrawal of diplomats from its embassy in Cuba, which operates only with a skeleton crew.
Canada had so far issued no such draws, working with the Cuban government to try to determine the cause of the injuries. However, in April 2018, the government designated Cuba as an “unaccompanied” post, meaning diplomats were not allowed to take their families with them. With Wednesday’s announcement, Canadian embassy staff will go from about 16 positions to no more than eight.
Cuba is a popular tourist destination for Canadians, and the Canadian government noted that “[t]here is no evidence that Canadian travelers to Cuba are at risk.” The US government, on the other hand, has issued a Level 2 travel advisory, urging travelers to “be more careful”.
Conspiracies and Crickets
Meanwhile, the three governments seem no closer to determining the cause of the injuries and illnesses, despite a wide range of ideas being put forward. Scientists and experts have discussed the possibility that microwave attacks, sonic weapons, faulty surveillance equipment, chemicals, viruses and mass delusions could be the cause.
In late 2017, a panel of Cuban scientists speculated that the sound associated with some injuries may have simply been crickets – the Jamaican field cricket (Gryllus assimilis) To be precise. This month, an American biologist and a British entomologist published an article speculating that another cricket — the Indian short-tailed cricket (Anurogrilus celerinictus)—may explain the sound. However, neither theory provides an explanation for the brain injury.
Cuba’s Vidal added in her statement that Canada’s decision to remove personnel will not clear the air. “Skipping Canadian embassy personnel in Cuba and adapting the mission’s programs are actions that are not helping to find answers,” she wrote.
Since the reports of the mysterious incidents and ills in Cuba came to light, US diplomats in China have reported similar experiences and injuries.