President Donald Trump asserted that the communist Castro regime in Cuba was responsible for a series of unexplained attacks on American diplomats on Monday, the first issuance of blame in the matter by an American official.
Trump made the claim in response to a question from a reporter during a press conference asking whether he agreed with previous comments by Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly in which Kelly stated that Cuba could stop the attacks on American personnel if it wanted to.
Trump agreed, adding, “I do believe that. It’s a very unusual attack, as you know, but I do believe that Cuba is responsible.”
Trump’s phrasing varies somewhat from Kelly’s. Kelly did not state that Cuba was responsible for the attacks, but that Cuban officials were aware of the attacks and “could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” whether they were responsible for them or another country was.
The Castro dictatorship is allied with America’s most vocal rivals and enemies on the global scale, including but not limited to Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, and Venezuela. It also has its own extensive history of harassing and attacking American officials who travel to the island.
The Cuban government responded to Trump on Twitter, with senior diplomat Josefina Vidal posting on Monday, “Reminding @realDonaldTrump @CubaMINREX Oct.3 Statement: Govt of #Cuba categorically rejects any responsibility on incidents reported by #US”:
— Josefina Vidal (@JosefinaVidalF) October 17, 2017
The official account of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) posted an excerpt from Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September in which he declared, “Cuba complies with all rigor and seriousness its obligations with the Vienna Convention regarding the protection of all diplomats”:
— Cancillería de Cuba (@CubaMINREX) October 17, 2017
The account has also posted a number of anti-American propaganda messages since its rebuttal to Trump on Tuesday:
— Cuba Vs Bloqueo (@cubavsbloqueo) October 17, 2017
While the State Department has not blamed Cuba for the attacks, spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed that administration lawyers would be “looking into” whether Cuba has violated the Vienna Convention by allowing the attacks to occur.
Reports in major media outlets began to surface in August of an untold number of American diplomats suffering hearing loss, nausea, dizzyness, and mild brain damage as a result of what some outlets have branded an “acoustic” or sonic attack. The State Department has not discussed the symptoms or any evidence involving the nature of the attack, but has confirmed that 22 individuals working for America in Cuba have been the victims of the attack. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began referring to the matter as a series of “attacks” in September.
The State Department responded to the attacks by withdrawing all “non-essential” American staff from the U.S. embassy in Cuba and expelling 15 Cuban agents operating in the Cuban embassy in Washington to balance out the number of workers in each diplomatic post. The State Department has also issued warnings for two hotels in Havana in which it has evidence that suggests attacks occurred.
Some Cubans in the exile community have protested that the withdrawal of U.S. embassy staff has significantly impacted the ability of Cuban civilians to obtain visas to visit family in the United States, while maintaining easy passage for Cuban spies and communist officials through the Havana embassy. While Cuban civilians now have to travel to Colombia—if they manage to obtain communist regime permission—to enter the United States, members of Cuban government organizations like the Cuban Communist Party still have access to American resources at the embassy.
Florida-based journalist Yusnaby Pérez clarified on Facebook that the “Cuban organizations” exempt from the extended Colombia process are groups like the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)—a civilian spy network meant to curb freedom of expression—Cuban Communist Party (PCC), and Cuban military organizations.
While the Castro regime had initially agreed to “cooperate” with American officials on uncovering the nature of the attacks, Foreign Minister Rodríguez denied the existence of the attacks entirely following the expulsion of Cuban diplomats from Washington, calling them “science fiction.”
The Associated Press subsequently published a sound it obtained from sources involved in the probe it claims was identified by diplomats as the loud screeching they heard before they began exhibiting symptoms. While experts note that listening to the sound at a reasonable volume for short periods of time has no adverse effects on people, extremely loud and prolonged exposure to it may cause physical harm.
A Cuban former political prisoner who experienced sonic torture in two Cuban prisons told Breitbart News last weekend the sound resembled what was used against him and other prisoners of conscience on the island. He attested to the suicide of at least one prisoner while undergoing sonic torture in the 1970s.