President Donald Trump said he believes Cuba is responsible for the unexplained “attacks” that left at least 22 U.S. diplomats and family members in Havana with symptoms such as hearing loss, balance problems, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.
“I do believe Cuba’s responsible,” Trump said at a Monday press conference in the White House Rose Garden. “And it’s a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible.”
Trump made the comments four days after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Cuba “could stop the attacks on our diplomats.” The State Department, for its part, has not accused Cuba of being behind the mysterious incidents that investigators say started last November.
The State Department said it withdrew all non-emergency staff from the U.S. Embassy in Havana embassy because Cuba failed to keep American personnel safe. The State Department also expelled 15 officials from the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. to “ensure equity.”
The most recent State Department travel warning for Cuba doesn’t say U.S. visitors have been harmed by the unexplained incidents, but warned “attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens.” The U.S. has placed limits on staying at the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri, which are both linked to the mysterious incidents.
Investigators have not yet determined who or what is behind the incidents, and the Cuban government has repeatedly denied involvement in alleged sonic weapon attacks. In the weeks leading up to the diplomatic withdrawal announcements, high-ranking Cuban officials met with State Department leaders to ask for cooperation in the investigation of the incidents.
“Minister Bruno reiterated to Secretary Tillerson how important it was for the U.S. authorities to cooperate, in an effective way, with the Cuban authorities in order to clarify these incidents, which are unprecedented in Cuba,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry said about a Sept. 26 meeting between Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Rodriguez changed his tone after the U.S. expelled Cuban diplomats. At a Oct. 6 press conference, he accused the U.S. of not sharing information vital to the investigation and expressed skepticism over whether the attacks even happened.
“So far, according to the information available and the data supplied by the United States, there were no evidence of the occurrence of the alleged incidents or the causes and the origin of the health disorders reported by the U.S. diplomats and their relatives,” Rodriguez said.
Other high-ranking Cuban officials and state-controlled media outlets have also recently accused the U.S. of using the attacks to discredit the Cuban government.