WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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28 Sep 2017 | Press Release

Cuba-U.S. Collaboration Essential to Investigate Mysterious ‘Sonic Attacks’

Safety Concerns Behind U.S. Withdrawal of Personnel from Embassy in Cuba

WASHINGTON, DC — On September 26, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, at the request of Cuban officials, in order to discuss the mysterious “sonic attacks” that have affected at least 25 U.S. diplomats since 2016. The U.S. government is in the midst of withdrawing family members and all non-essential personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Cuba due to safety concerns, as the attacks have afflicted U.S foreign officers with illnesses ranging from hearing loss to brain damage.

News agency McClatchy DC reported that the White House does not believe Cuba is behind the attacks, with one unnamed source stating, “No one believes that the Cubans are responsible.” While the U.S. should continue to take the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of its diplomatic personnel, getting to the bottom of this mystery will ultimately require continued collaboration with Cuban government officials, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

“The U.S. and Cuban government should continue working together in order to determine what’s behind these strange and frightening attacks,” said WOLA Program Director Geoff Thale. “Given reports that Cuba is just as confounded as the U.S. over what’s behind these attacks, these deeply unsettling incidents should not derail the progress that the U.S. and Cuba have made in re-establishing a more open relationship. If anything, further collaboration with Cuban officials will be vital in order to investigate and ultimately stop these attacks.”

The U.S. re-opened its Embassy in Cuba in 2015. The “sonic attacks” reportedly began affecting many newly-arrived U.S. diplomats during the fall of 2016. Reports say that U.S. officials believe inaudible sonic weapons were deployed outside the residences of the diplomats, although fact checking service Snopes has reported it would be difficult to use such a covert device against specific rather than mass targets, according to available research. Canadian diplomats serving in Cuba have also been affected with similar symptoms as their U.S. counterparts.

“For now, we can only presume that the U.S. Embassy in Cuba will restore its personnel to full capacity, once the source of the attacks has been discovered and the safety of U.S. diplomats and their families is assured,” said Thale. “Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens visit Cuba every year, U.S. companies are engaged in agricultural sales and exploration of business opportunities, and U.S. and Cuban agencies engage in cooperation on drug trafficking, human smuggling, and other security issues. An Embassy presence is vital to those continuing relationships.