In the continuation of a truly bizarre and unfortunate trend, two US diplomats in Havana recently lost their hearing due to covert devices that perform “acoustic attacks”; that is, devices that play frequencies out of the range of normal hearing that can cause damage to the internal ear. One of the diplomats may never regain his hearing, and another reports that he now requires a hearing aid.
The trend began in the fall of 2016 when several US diplomats in Cuba began suffering from unexplained hearing loss. Since the embassy was reopened very recently in 2015, some of the affected diplomats were new additions to the embassy.
Several diplomats were forced to cut their missions short, making early returns to the US for medical treatment. According to NPR, the events constitute what appears to be “international sabotage.” TIME reported that a Canadian diplomat suffered similar injuries.
Although nothing has been made certain, the US has since booted two Cuban diplomats out of the country. The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that the Cuban government had anything to do with the attacks, and called this decision “unjustified and unfounded.” According to a recent statement from the CMFA, “The Ministry emphatically emphasizes that Cuba has never allowed…Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception.”
Some US officials suspect that the attacks have nothing to do with Cuba, and may have been carried out by a malicious third-party country seeking to worsen US-Cuba relations. Exactly who would wish to achieve such a result is uncertain.
However, the Cuban government’s various security services are so thoroughly embroiled across all of the country’s various affairs that some parties speculate that the Cuban government is totally innocent. At the very least, these skeptics suggest that the government may have chosen to turn a blind eye to third-party operations.
This is not an isolated incident–other US government employees have recently reported other cases of additional physical symptoms, although the specifics of these case are yet unknown. One US official commented: “Because there are a variety of symptoms, there could be a variety of sources. That is why we are being very careful here with what we say. There is a lot we still don’t know.”
Apparently, relations between US government employees and Cuban government employees in Cuba have a rather fraught history–before the restoration of US-Cuba relations in 2015, US officials often complained of their homes and cars being targeted. By and large, this seems to have come to an end after the restoration, but these acoustic attacks suggest otherwise.
No American tourists or civilians have been affected by the attacks, and officials say that US citizens traveling to Cuba have nothing to worry about.