Canada recall of diplomat families over mystery illness ‘unjustified’: Cuba

Nearly five million foreign tourists visit Cuba every year, among them more than a million Canadians
AFP

Havana (AFP) – Cuba said Wednesday it saw no justification for Canada’s decision to recall the families of its diplomatic staff on the island following a probe into an as-yet unexplained illness affecting US and Canadian envoys. 

“The Cuban government respects the decision taken by the government of Canada but sees it as lacking any justification,” said a foreign ministry statement.

Ottawa on Monday announced the move, saying the families would be returning to Canada in the coming weeks. It said the number of staff and family members with symptoms had risen from eight to 10. 

In total, 27 diplomats and family members were tested after complaining of dizziness, headaches, nausea, nosebleeds or sleeplessness between April and December last year.

Canadian and US authorities had initially suspected a “sonic attack” or a “mass psychosomatic incident” but that idea was later dismissed, with a senior Canadian official describing it as “unlikely”

“According to the Canadian government itself, there have been no reports of new incidents in more than six months, the cause being unknown, and no evidence which would suggest that Canadian travelers in Cuba are at risk,” the Cuban ministry’s statement said. 

It said Havana would continue working with the Canadian authorities to find out what caused the ailments. 

Canadian officials have said previously the situation does not warrant the closure of Canada’s mission in Havana, and Ottawa does not believe there are any risks for Canadian tourists.

Canada is the main source of tourists to the communist island, with more than a million visiting the island in 2017, ministry figures show. 

In March, the US State Department said it will permanently scale back its mission to Cuba, which had already been operating with a reduced staff since September last year, when diplomats and relatives were evacuated because of the health incident.

In all, at least 24 US envoys and family members fell ill.

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