Canadian diplomat in Cuba treated for hearing loss

Canadian diplomat in Cuba treated for hearing loss

Canada says that at least one of its diplomats has suffered "unusual symptoms" during their stay in Cuba, similar to those reported by USA officials. "The government is actively working, including with US and Cuban authorities, to ascertain the cause".

The ministry said Cuba was a safe place for foreign visitors and diplomats, and it called the USA expulsion of the two Cubans from Washington "unjustified and groundless".

USA state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says investigations are continuing and stressed that America was not directly blaming Cuba.

The FBI is also reportedly participating in an ongoing investigation regarding the incident, which some officials have pointed to as evidence of Cuba's poor relationship with the United States, and the island's inability to develop strong global relationships.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada said the country is "aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and United States diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana".

Justin Trudeau's government announced on Thursday that at least one of its diplomats has suffered "unusual symptoms" during their stay in Havana, similar to those reported by United States officials. USA diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island, and victims lived in housing owned and maintained by the Cuban government, but the use of sonic devices to harm diplomats would be unprecedented, The New York Times noted.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the first of the attacks, which are said to have caused a variety of physical symptoms, including hearing loss and signs of concussion, occurred in late 2016. Certain low frequencies can lead to balance problems, soft-tissue pain and disturbed visual function.

"It's tragic", he said of the reports, "but it can happen from viruses, genetic predisposition, an accident, exposure to urban noise".

While the harm caused by most acoustic weapons is minimal, some experts said they are not aware of what kind of sound may have caused those symptoms. But Cuba's Foreign Ministry sent out a statement saying the highest levels of its government had ordered an investigation.

Symptoms reported by USA personnel date to late 2016 and are not life-threatening, the State Department said.

The statement said Cuba never had and never would allow its territory to be used for "any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception". The expulsion of the two Cubans was "baseless", the statement said. American government officials are told to expect constant surveillance when serving in Cuba. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Americans previously served at a diplomatic office that did not carry full embassy status, and Cubans did the same in Washington.