By LAUREN MAINGOT
The Canadian government has confirmed another case of mysterious symptoms affecting one of its embassy employees in Havana. The government released a statement on Wednesday that it plans to withdraw half of its diplomatic staff stationed in Cuba as a result.
The unknown ailment has stricken dozens of American and Canadian government employees since early 2017, who suffered unusual symptoms including dizziness, nausea, insomnia, ringing in the ears, and occasional memory loss. A total of 14 Canadian employees, spouses and dependents have fallen ill.
Canada pulled all nonessential staff and family members of diplomats in April 2018 in response to the onset of symptoms. According to a government statement, it now plans to cut its diplomats from 16 to eight.
“The health, safety and security of our diplomatic staff and their families remain our priority,” the statement said. “The Canadian government continues to investigate the potential causes of the unusual health symptoms … to date, no cause has been identified.”
According to the U.S. State Department, 26 Americans have suffered from a similar illness. Inner-ear damage was discovered in some of the afflicted Americans upon medical examination, but similar to Canada, the United States has yet to determine a cause.
The United States has also reduced the staff stationed at its embassy in Cuba to about two dozen. The Trump administration warned against traveling to the country in October 2017, after expelling over a dozen Cuban diplomats.
“This behavior favors those who in the United States use this issue to attack and denigrate Cuba,” Josefina Vidal, Cuban ambassador to Canada, told CNN. She said Cuba is cooperating in the investigation and is committed to maintaining good relations.
Many news outlets have been consistently following this story for more than a year and covering developments in the case as they arise; The New York Times in particular has covered when 25th U.S. embassy employee fell ill in June 2018, the discovery of inner-ear damage in diplomats in December 2018, as well as the initial withdrawal of nonessential Canadian personnel and the expulsion of Cuban diplomats from the U.S.
Related articles speculating the potential cause of the maladies have also been published, including a theory that a kind of microwave weapon may have been deployed against the diplomats or that two scientists suggest a loud species of cricket found in Cuba is responsible for their neurological symptoms.
The Canadian government said there is no evidence that Canadian travelers are at risk, and that its embassy will continue to function with minimal effect to its services.