Will US close embassy in Havana after recent sonic attacks?

Ros-Lehtinen: 'Heaven knows what effects this could have in the years to come'

HAVANA, Cuba – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration is considering closing down the U.S. Embassy in Havana following unexplained sonic attacks that have affected the health of American diplomats.

Tillerson's comments are the strongest indication to date that the United States might mount a major diplomatic response, potentially jeopardizing the historic restart of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The former foes reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after a half-century of estrangement.

"It's a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered," Tillerson said.

There have been various theories about who is behind the sonic attacks, but none have been confirmed.

"I think that Donald Trump is going to be seriously looking at expelling Cuban diplomats and closing that embassy, but still have a U.S. interest section, but downgraded until we find out really what happened," U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, said.

"We're talking about brain injury, hearing loss. Heaven knows what effects this could have in the years to come. Immediately, they've been harmed -- harm that perhaps cannot be recovered from, but long-term, who knows? Because we're still looking at what the source of those sonic attacks have been." 

Some of the 21 medically confirmed U.S. individuals affected -- diplomats and their families -- have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.