Tillerson to launch new review of Havana 'attacks'

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Josefina Vidal, director general of the U.S. Division of Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, attends a negoating session with the United States in this file photo.

But State Department officials told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that they had spent months examining all possibilities for how the U.S. Embassy workers grew ill, and that every theory had a major hole - with the exception of deliberate attacks.

"I don't think we can say categorically that we can guarantee that they would be safe from this (if staffers return)", Brown told the hearing, chaired by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American and strong critic of Cuba. It is still unclear what caused the injuries, but Mr. Rubio said it was an intentional attack.

Embassy in Havana in October. Credit Yamil Lage  Agence France Presse — Getty Images
Embassy in Havana in October. Credit Yamil Lage Agence France Presse — Getty Images

"Why wasn't it set up according to law?" he asked Palmieri and Todd Brown, the State Department's diplomatic security assistant director for global programs. Other symptoms included ear pain, vision problems, headaches and fatigue, and the pattern "indicated a non-natural source", Rosenfarb testified. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a longtime advocate of improving ties with Cuba, said there is no evidence of a sonic attack.

Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, the director of the State Department's medical unit, said doctors tested the victims extensively and found the symptoms were consistent with "mild traumatic brain injury", and stressed that the tests "are not easily faked", though no cause has been confirmed or ruled out. There are 24 victims, and this is not simply a case of mass hysteria.

Rubio, a Cuban-American and dogged critic of the Cuban government, will lead the Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing, which will look into the unexplained illnesses that befell USA diplomats and their family members and the State Department's response.

As we've said previously, based on continued assessment of USA government personnel, 24 persons are confirmed to have experienced health effects. Officials said investigators, working with top academic experts, considered every possible benign explanation, such as environmental toxins.

"It's a documented FACT that 24 US government officials and spouses were victims of some sort of sophisticated attack with stationed in Havana", Rubio tweeted Sunday. So far, USA officials have not confirmed what caused the it or who was behind it.

"First of all, no matter what, there is no way you can conduct sophisticated attacks targeting American government officials in Havana without the Cuban government at least knowing about it", Rubio said. Still, he insisted that President Raul Castro's government "knows what occurred" and refuses to tell the United States.

Havana, Jan 10 (Prensa Latina) Cuba slammed as irresponsible statements made by Deputy Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Francisco Palmieri, regarding alleged health incidents suffered by Washington diplomats in Havana.

"I still believe that the Cuban government, someone within the Cuban government can bring this to an end", Tillerson said.

"The first victim of today's hearing was the truth", she told a news conference in Havana, adding that Cuba rejected the USA politicization of the matter.

"I'd be intentionally putting them back in harm's way". "What I heard today is that when you are sent to Havana you are told the only thing you can do to protect yourself is if you hear something odd, move out of the way".