The Trump administration is considering closing the recently reopened US Embassy in Havana following a string of unexplained incidents harming the health of American diplomats in Cuba, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday.
“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said. “It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. We’ve brought some of those people home. It’s under review.”
Tillerson’s comments were the strongest indication to date that the US might mount a major diplomatic response, potentially jeopardizing the historic restart of relations between the US and Cuba. The two former foes reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after roughly a half-century of estrangement.
Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions while others have suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the Associated Press has reported.
Some victims felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, leading investigators to consider a potential “sonic attack”. Others heard nothing but later developed symptoms.
Tillerson once called the events “health attacks” but the state department has since used the term “incidents” while emphasizing the US still does not know what has occurred. Cuba has denied any involvement or responsibility but stressed it is eager to help the US resolve the matter.
The US has said the number of Americans affected could grow as more cases are potentially detected. The last reported incident was on 21 August, according to a US official briefed on the matter but not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and requested anonymity.
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