Recent Developments Regarding U.S. Diplomats Sickened in Cuba 

There have been two recent developments regarding U.S. diplomats sickened in Cuba.

New Confirmed Case in Cuba [1]

The first was on June 21, when the U.S. State Department announced that a 25th U.S. diplomat working at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba has been sickened by a mysterious illness. This case suggests that “whatever caused the illnesses in late 2016 and the first part of 2017 had started again or was continuing. Yet the U.S. at least privately still states that it has no idea of whom or what may be behind the attacks.

This is one of the two potential cases that the U.S. announced on June 8, as discussed in a previous post. The other individual is still under evaluation.

The official announcement of this development came at the June 21 Department Press Briefing, when spokesperson Heather Nauert stated the following:

  • “On June 21st, following a comprehensive medical evaluation, one U.S. diplomat working at the U.S. Embassy Havana was medically confirmed to have experienced health effects similar to those that were reported by members of the U.S. Havana diplomatic community. This is the first medically confirmed case in Havana since August of 2017. The number of Americans now affected is 25. Previously, that number was 24; it is now 25. The health and well-being of our personnel remains our top priority here at the State Department. The investigation into the origin of these symptoms continues, and it is an interagency effort.”
  • “The interagency community continues to work diligently to determine the cause of the symptoms, as well as develop mitigation measures. We informed the Cuban Government of this occurrence on May the 29th of this year. The Cuban Government assured us that they will continue to take this seriously and are continuing their investigation. We strongly remind the Cuban Government of its responsibility under the Vienna Convention to protect our diplomats.”
  • “Our other employee is still being evaluated at this time, so we don’t have any updates on his or her condition yet.”
  • The U.S. has “had conversations with the [Cuban] government, reminding them, of course, of their responsibility under the Vienna Convention. They have pledged to be of assistance in the investigation. . . .”

Other Patients Have Retained Attorney

The other recent development has been at least eight of the 25 U.S. diplomats, intelligence officers and relatives with medical problems from their service in Cuba have hired an attorney, Mark Zaid, to take action to ensure reimbursement for medical expenses.[2]

Zaid, a Washington, D.C. attorney who often represents former/current federal employees who have grievances against the U.S. government, said, “Are they being treated or are they being studied? It’s not entirely clear what is happening.” He added that some of the victims had problems accessing their medical records at the UPenn treatment center because the records are government property. “They are doctors working for the U.S. government.”

Moreover, the attorney added that the uncertainties tied to the cases have placed the government in a predicament because of the mystery not just on the so-called attacks but the injuries experienced. For example, federal employees who have been injured by incidents such as explosions, “the wounds have been specific and concrete, not strange brain and neurological damages. It’s much more complicated.”


[1] U.S. State Dep’t, Department Press Briefing-June 21, 2018; Harris,25th Person at U.S. Embassy in Cuba Is Mysteriously Sickened, N.Y. Times (June 21, 2018); Assoc. Press, 1 More US Worker Confirmed Hurt by Mystery Cuba Incidents, N.Y. Times (June 21, 2018).

[2] Torres, These Americans suffered severe neurological disorders in Cuba. Now they have a lawyer, Miami Herald (June 20, 2018).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

2 thoughts on “Recent Developments Regarding U.S. Diplomats Sickened in Cuba ”

  1. Another U.S. Diplomat Sickened in Cuba

    On June 28 the U.S. State Department disclosed that another U.S. diplomat has been sickened while in Havana. This is the second case medically confirmed this month and both “result from a single occurrence in late May in a diplomatic residence in which both officers were present.” They raised the number of Americans affected to 26.

    Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said U.S. government agencies continue “to work diligently to determine the cause of the symptoms, as well as develop mitigation measures.” The confirmed Cuba patients have been found to have a range of symptoms and diagnoses including mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussions.

    She added that Cuba has assured the U.S. it will continue its investigation. It was informed of the “attack” on May 29.


    Reuters, U.S. Says Another American Suffers Illness at Its Cuba Embassy, N.Y. Times (June 28, 2018),

    Assoc. Press, Another US Diplomat Hurt in Mystery Incidents in Cuba, N.Y. Times (June 28, 2018), Cuba has assured the U.S. it will continue its investigation. It was informed of the “attack” on May 29,

  2. Cuba Repeats Denial of “Attacks” on U.S. Diplomats

    On June 28, after the U.S. reported the 26th U.S. diplomat suffering from ailments in Cuba, one of its Foreign Ministry officials denied any Cuban involvement in causing these ailments.

    This official, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, the Director General of the US in the Foreign Ministry, also accused the U.S. of political opportunism in calling these incidents “attacks.”
    Indeed, he also said that “the [U.S.] has a long history of resorting to political manipulation and aggression through open and covert ways to achieve its political and economic purposes” and that Cuba has “persistently been attacked” by the U.S.
    Washington persists in political manipulation of “acoustic incidents” to attack Cuba, Cubadebate (June 28, 2018)

    ‘Political manipulation’ and ‘opportunism’: this is how Havana considers the ailments of US officials, Diario de Cuba (June 29, 2018)

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