‘Health Attacks’ on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba Baffle Both Countries

“This is likely another installment in the long saga of spy-vs-spy in U.S.-Cuba relations,” said Peter Kornbluh, a co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana.”

The Cuban government has long harassed American government employees in Havana. Stories of feces left in diplomats’ residences became part of Cold War lore. The power would go out, and agents would tailgate diplomats’ vehicles and make it impossible to change lanes. But the recent sicknesses were worse than the standard harassment, even in the worst times, officials said.

“They would come into your house and erase the pictures of your kids off your computer, or turn all the books around on your bookshelf, just to show you that you had no privacy,” said James Cason, who ran the United States Interests Section in Havana a decade ago said. “They never did anything physical to anybody.”

This, he said, “sounds like a science experiment.”

The mystery deepened this week, when Canada said that its employees had also gotten sick.

“Cuba has very good relations with them, so it doesn’t make sense for them to have been a target of something intentionally designed to injure, even if it was a rogue operation,” said William M. LeoGrande, a professor at American University who is the other author of “Back Channel To Cuba.” “None of the existing speculations make any sense to me.”

John Caulfield, chief of mission at the United States Interests Section in Havana from 2011 to 2014, said it was “inconceivable” that a third government would have been able to act without the knowledge if not the cooperation of the Cubans. The Cuban government, he said, kept “such close tabs on us they would’ve immediately detected someone else.”

He added, “My speculation is that it was a surveillance effort that went bad.”

In a statement Thursday, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said that “Cuba has never allowed or will it allow the Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception.”

Several Americans cut their tours in Cuba short after falling ill last year, the State Department said, adding that the government expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington, because Cuba had failed in its obligation to keep American diplomats safe.

The State Department said the employees got sick in late 2016. The Cuban government…

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