HAVANA -- Cuban officials have made a lengthy presentation on a series of mysterious illnesses suffered by U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana, reiterating that no evidence supports allegations that the symptoms resulted from high-tech attacks.
The officials said Thursday that they don't dispute that diplomats became ill, but suggested that many of the cases consisted of ordinary illnesses that were erroneously blamed on a mysterious single phenomenon due to the high degree of public and media attention focused on the case.
Mitchell Valdes-Sosa, director of Cuba's Center for Neuroscience, said that a review of U.S. studies of the illnesses showed that some had begun before the start of the supposed phenomenon, and others consisted of a wide range of symptoms that hardly ever result from the same disease.
Cuba's director-general for the United States, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, accused the Trump administration of using the illnesses to falsely accuse Cuba of attacking diplomats, something he said his country would never do.
U.S. officials have told Cuban officials in meetings that there is no evidence of an attack, De Cossio said.
“It's a scandal that the State Department is still using the term 'attacks' in its statements to the press, with total irresponsibility,” De Cossio said. “This is a subject of national security for Cuba.”
Tensions are high between the United States and Cuba over Venezuela, Cuba's closest ally and the subject of a U.S. push to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with opposition leader Nicolas Guaido.
Canada has confirmed 14 cases of unexplained health problems since early 2017. Twenty-six workers at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba have also been affected, suffering a range of symptoms and diagnoses including mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion.
The U.S. withdrew most of its non-essential diplomatic staff from Havana in September 2017 and Canada announced in January that it was removing up to half of the Canadians at its embassy in Cuba after another diplomat fell mysteriously ill.