Cuban official: Still no clue on US diplomat health mystery
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Cuba hasn’t unearthed any information so far about who or what caused a mysterious series of health problems that have affected U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana, its top diplomat said Friday.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla told the U.N. General Assembly that early results from its investigation have to date “found no evidence whatsoever that could confirm the causes or the origin” of the incidents, though the inquiry is continuing.
“It would be unfortunate if a matter of this nature is politicized,” Rodriguez added in a speech that also laid into U.S. President Donald Trump as a leader with a “supremacist vision” of “America First.” Trump had slammed Cuba’s leadership as “corrupt and destabilizing” in his own General Assembly speech Tuesday.
At least 21 Americans and several Canadians in Havana’s diplomatic community have suffered hearing loss and other symptoms believed to have come from some sort of sonic attack.
Some of the Americans have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, The Associated Press has reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has described the incidents as “health attacks,” though the State Department has since used the term “incidents.” In their wake, Tillerson said Sunday that the U.S. was considering closing its recently reopened Havana embassy.
Cuba has said it knows nothing about the incidents, and Rodriguez reiterated that denial Friday.
The U.S. State Department had no immediate response to Rodriguez’ remarks. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week that America’s “aggressive investigation” into the issue was ongoing.
The U.S. and Cuba, foes since the island nation’s 1959 communist revolution, began normalizing relations in 2014. They reopened embassies in each other’s capitals and eased restrictions on travel and commerce the next year.
But Trump has taken steps to roll back the rapprochement since he took office in January. While he kept some elements of predecessor President Barack Obama’s policy, Trump announced this summer that the U.S. would impose new limits on Americans traveling to Cuba and ban any payments to the military-linked conglomerate that controls much of the island’s tourism industry. He said the U.S. wouldn’t consider lifting those and other restrictions unless Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of internal changes, including freeing political prisoners and holding free elections.
And Trump underlined his criticisms of Cuba by mentioning them in his debut address to world leaders at the General Assembly.
“The United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom,” he said.
Rodriguez rebuked Trump over his “America First” policy, celebration of national sovereignty and view of patriotism.
“It embodies an exceptionalist and supremacist vision of ignorant intolerance in the face of diverse political, economic, social and cultural models,” Rodriguez said. “The U.S. president manipulates the concepts of sovereignty and security to his exclusive benefit and to the detriment of all others, including his allies.”
He said Trump “ignores and distorts history and portrays a pipe dream as a goal to be pursued,” reciting a list of ills he said capitalism had wrought, from colonialism to environmental degradation.
This story has been changed to correct the first name of the Cuban foreign minister to Bruno.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed.