On Thursday, Canada’s consular affairs office said that one of its diplomats in Cuba was suffering from the same mysterious hearing loss that apparently forced several U.S. diplomats to leave Havana.
Global Affairs Canada gave no details. But a spokeswoman said officials “are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working, including with U.S. and Cuban authorities, to ascertain the cause.”
Separately, the U.S. government said earlier this week that personnel at the U.S. embassy in Havana were evacuated back home for hearing problems and other symptoms over the past six months.
According to the Associated Press, the diplomats’ hearing loss could have been linked to a sound-deafening attack emitted by some kind of sonic device meant for eavesdropping. The most likely location of exposure was at their residences.
Heather Nauert, speaking for the U.S. State Department, told reporters that the exact cause of the incidents was unclear. Americans serving in Cuba had returned to the U.S. for non life-threatening “medical reasons.” As a result, the U.S. on May 23 asked two Cuban officials in Washington to leave the country and they have done so.
The device caused hearing loss, headaches, sleeplessness and general disorientation, and forced several U.S. personnel to return home early.
Cuba’s Official Reaction
It was unclear who ordered such actions against the Americans and why. But Cuba’s Foreign Ministry sent out a statement saying the highest levels of its government had ordered an investigation.
The statement said Cuba never had and never would allow its territory to be used for “any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception.”
It said that Cuba seriously complies with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and that “its impeccable performance in this area is internationally recognized.”
The ministry said Cuba was a safe place for foreign visitors and diplomats, and it called the U.S. expulsion of the two Cubans from Washington “unjustified and groundless.”
Despite Cuba’s assertion that there has never been action taken against diplomats on Cuban soil, experts say such tactics as harassing Americans were common before the U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic ties two years ago.
But the harassment was never intended to cause physical harm.