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Cuban Experts Insist No Proof Exists of Attack on Diplomats

The New York Times logo The New York Times 4 days ago By GARDINER HARRIS

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WASHINGTON — Some of Cuba’s top scientists and medical specialists denounced on Thursday claims that two dozen American diplomats in Havana had been the targets of mysterious attacks over the last two years.

The experts were careful not to offer a definitive explanation for the episodes, in which the diplomats reported hearing strange noises that led to symptoms similar to those after a minor traumatic brain injury or a concussion.

But they complained that the United States had concluded, with no evidence, that an attack had been carried out to start.

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“We believe there can be a few individuals who have some sort of illness,” said Dr. Mitchell Joseph Valdés Sosa, the director general of the Cuban Center for Neurosciences. But he said the possibility that psychological factors may have played a role could not be eliminated.

In late 2016, diplomats posted to the United States Embassy in Havana reported hearing high-pitched noises before suffering a slew of health problems. The symptoms resembled those caused by mild brain trauma, including sharp ear pain, dull headaches, tinnitus, vertigo, disorientation, nausea and extreme fatigue. In all, 25 American Embassy personnel appear to have been sickened.

The Cuban government has repeatedly denied any responsibility.

a group of people standing around a table with wine glasses: Johana Tablada, an official with the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke at a news conference Thursday in Washington about the mysterious health issues of United States diplomats in Havana. © Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press Johana Tablada, an official with the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke at a news conference Thursday in Washington about the mysterious health issues of United States diplomats in Havana. Dr. Valdes, responding to recent reports that suggested a microwave weapon might have been the cause, dismissed the idea.

“If you’re going to try to explain why donkeys fly, you’re first going to have to see a flying donkey,” he said. “And we haven’t seen a flying donkey.”

Mass hysteria could be one explanation, the Cuban experts suggested.

Even after investigations by the F.B.I., top medical authorities and the State Department, the cause of the illnesses has not been confirmed.

Officials have frankly admitted in background conversations that they still have no idea who or what may be responsible. But outside experts argue that some sort of microwave weapon, not a sonic one, is the most plausible explanation. Some analysts cite a phenomenon known as the Frey effect in which microwaves can trick the brain into perceiving what appear to be ordinary sounds.

As the number of American Embassy personnel and their family numbers believed to have been affected began to grow, the Trump administration responded by expelling more than a dozen Cuban diplomats from the United States. The decision escalated tensions between the two countries, the latest in a series of moves by President Trump to unwind the détente undertaken by former President Barack Obama.

The medical mystery only broadened after an American government employee at the consulate in southern China complained of similar symptoms in May, raising questions about whether other countries might be to blame.

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