U.S.

Canada to Cut Its Cuban Embassy Staff By Almost Half After Another Diplomat Falls Ill

Canada has announced a plan to cut the staff at its embassy in Cuba by nearly half after another diplomat has fallen ill with a sickness that has left many stumped as to its origin. 

The latest confirmed case is the 14th to have been documented by Canadian officials since early 2017. Twenty-seven Americans working at the United States' embassy in Havana also experienced similar symptoms in the same time frame, prompting the U.S. to permanently reduce its embassy staff by 60% in 2018.

In a statement released Wednesday, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said "up to half the number of Canadian staff posted to Havana," would be removed. Families of Canadian diplomats were sent home in April 2018.

According to the Associated Press, Canada currently has approximately 16 positions at the embassy and will reduce the staff to around eight people. 

Canada will retain its embassy in Hanava, headed by an ambassador, and provide full consular services to Canadians. However, GAC said that additional programs could be "adjusted in the coming weeks."

The diplomat impacted in the most recent case reported his symptoms on Dec. 29. He had arrived in Havana in summer 2018, the AP reports.

Canadian Flag The Canadian flag flies over the Lake Louise ski lodge in the Canadian Rockies November 29, 2017 in Lake Louise, Alberta. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

The illness has remained a mystery for many, with reports indicating that individuals experiencing symptoms could potentially be under a sonic attack. Symptoms of the illness have varied, but often include hearing loss, balance issues, headaches, nausea, swelling of the brain, damage to the nervous system and, in some cases, signs of a concussion. 

In 2017, the AP reported that victims accounts varied. Some reported hearing a high, chirping noise, some said it was a grinding noise and others heard nothing at all. Cuban, Canadian and American officials have expressed confusion at how individuals could be targeted in such a specific manner, and many scientists and doctors have stated that a sonic attack—a theory floated by many—is unlikely.

In 2018, the Associated Press released a recording of the chirping sound described by some patients. Earlier this month, two scientists said they believed the sound belonged to the Indies short-tailed cricket.

"The calling song of the Indies short-tailed cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus) matches, in nuanced detail, the AP recording in duration, pulse repetition rate, power spectrum, pulse rate stability, and oscillations per pulse," a report from Alexander Stubbs and Fernando Montealegre-Zapata reads. The scientists found that when they played the sound of the crickets indoors "on a high-fidelity loudspeaker" that the pulses of the crickets and the recording matched.

However, the study does indicate that even though the sound allegedly came from the crickets, it does not mean the patients were not attacked in some way.

In response to the study, a State Department spokesperson told CNN that an investigation "involving medical, scientific, and technical experts across the US government and academia" was underway.

"The safety and security of US personnel, their families, and US citizens abroad is and has always been the Department of State's top priority," the spokesperson said.

Canadian officials have stated that Cuba is cooperating with their ongoing investigation.

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