Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Washington: US visitors to Cuba report same symptoms as diplomats

Washington, Jan 29 (EFE).- Since September, 19 US tourists who visited Cuba reported the same symptoms as the American diplomats thought to have been the targets of mysterious attacks in Havana between November 2016 and August 2017, a State Department spokesperson told EFE Monday.

“Starting on Sept. 29, 19 US citizens reported having symptoms similar to those appearing in the travel alert we issued that day with the request not to visit the island,” the spokesperson said.

Turistas caminan por el Malecón habanero hoy, 29 de diciembre del 2017, en la capital cubana. La isla espera cerrar el año con un nuevo récord de turistas al alcanzar 4,7 millones de visitantes. EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa

The notice comes at a very complicated time for Cuban-US bilateral relations because the Donald Trump administration accuses Havana of knowing who perpetrated the alleged attacks between November 2016 and August 2017 on 24 of its diplomatic officials on the island and not divulging who that was, as well as not having adequately protected the US personnel.

For months, Washington called the attacks “sonic,” but in a Senate hearing on Jan. 9, the State Department admitted for the first time that it is not certain that they were acoustic attacks.

The State Department spokesperson said on Monday that the department “is not in a position to medically evaluate or provide individual medical advice,” but it encourages “those who may be concerned to report it and seek medical attention.”

For reasons of “privacy,” the US government will not reveal where the tourists presenting symptoms may have suffered the supposed attacks or what cities they visited.

Although Cuba says it has not found evidence of the attacks and denies knowing anything about the matter, the US reduced its staff at the US Embassy to a minimum last September and expelled 17 Cuban diplomatic officials from Washington.

News of the supposed new attacks comes on the day when about 20 US companies linked to the tourism sector were in Havana to tout Cuba as a safe destination for the country’s citizens to which they can still travel legally, despite the “confusion,” they said, created by Trump’s new moves.

The US in early January changed its system of travel alerts and withdrew its recommendation not to travel to Cuba issued in September after the departure of non-essential personnel from the US Embassy there in response to the alleged attacks.