Thursday, 23 May, 2019

Canada Cuts Staff in Cuba After Another Diplomat Falls Ill

Children's shadows are cast on a Cuban national flag as they take part in a caravan tribute marking the 56th anniversary of the original street party that greeted a triumphant Castro and his rebel army in Regla Cuba Thursday Jan. 8 2015 Canada Reduces Diplomatic Mission by Half in Cuba 14th Staffer Falls Oddly Ill
Patty Aguilar | 02 February, 2019, 08:57

Canadian government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that Global Affairs Canada will consider halving its diplomatic presence in the Cuban capital, potentially reducing its representation by eight people from the current 16 serving in the Havana embassy.

Canadian officials have confirmed a case of its diplomats falling ill in Cuba.

Previously, the Canadian government declared the Havana embassy as an "unaccompanied post", so diplomats there could not be accompanied by their relatives.

A senior Canadian government official said in a briefing for journalists that the latest case involves a diplomat who arrived at the Caribbean island in the summer and reported symptoms on December 29.

Josefina Vidal, Cuba's ambassador in Canada, issued a statement saying her Government considered the move "incomprehensible", but "Cuba remains committed to keeping the good state of bilateral relations".

Media reports at the time said some of the USA diplomats suffered permanent hearing loss and possible brain injuries due to a sonic weapon.

Dr. Shawn Marshall, who has been treating affected Canadian diplomats and their families, also does not believe mass hysteria or stress could be the culprits. The majority of the cases took place in 2017, and more than a year passed before the 13th case was reported in November.

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Canada said it will continue to have an ambassador in Havana and full consular services will be available for Canadians.

The agency said that some other programs may be "adjusted" in the coming weeks, however.

This latest case brings to 14 the number of Canadian diplomats and family members who have come down with unusual symptoms of what media have dubbed the "Havana Syndrome", including nausea, dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds, loss of balance, hearing and vision complications, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.

The Cuban Government has been cooperating with a Canadian investigation into the cause of the illnesses, which has not been determined. Canadian travellers should continue to consult the Government of Canada's Travel Advice and Advisories for the latest updates.

"I think I can safely say the Cuban officials are as frustrated as we are that we cannot get any closer to determining a cause", the Canadian Government official told reporters. She said the reduction also would help "those who in the United States use this issue to attack and denigrate Cuba". USA diplomats in Cuba have also developed a similar illness and reduced their staff in the country.

At least 26 US officials in Havana showed symptoms of vestibular disorders and brain damage that have befuddled doctors.

Very early on in the investigation, US security agencies discarded the possibility that the sounds themselves could be the cause of the illnesses suffered by the diplomats. "Before they even knew something was going on, they were describing some pretty remarkable symptoms that would be hard to explain as it being due to other causes, like social influence or fear, anxiety".

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