US embassy staff in Colombia suffer from ‘Havana syndrome’ before Blinken’s visit

At least five American families associated with the embassy in Colombia have contracted symptoms of the mysterious “Havana syndrome,” a potentially brain-damaging disease that was first detected in American diplomats in Cuba in 2016, just days before the Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken. scheduled to visit.

The Wall Street Journal reported that staff at the US complex in Bogotá were first alerted to “an unexplained health incident” in an email in mid-September, which was later followed by an internal warning of “additional anomalous health incidents. “in early October.

At least five families related to the embassy, ​​which is one of the largest and most important American diplomatic outposts in the world, have shown symptoms associated with the mysterious affliction, including headaches, nausea and possible brain damage.

The Colombia cases are just the latest of dozens of Havana syndrome cases experienced by US diplomats and intelligence officials since 2016, first in Cuba, then in China, Germany, Australia, Taiwan and the US capital.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a high-ranking former US diplomat as saying that, as in other cases around the world, some of the Americans affected at the embassy in Colombia work in intelligence.

“Globally, this has leaned toward the intelligence community,” the former diplomat told the newspaper.

The cause of the illnesses has not been fully diagnosed and the identity of the assailant, if any, has not been revealed.

Suspicion of microwave attacks

The Bogotá outbreak comes just days before US Secretary of State Blinken visits the complex on October 20.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden signed legislation providing financial compensation to members of the State Department and the CIA who suffer brain injuries for what officials suspect may be targeted microwave attacks.

On Tuesday, Colombian President Iván Duque said his government was aware of the Havana Syndrome cases at the United States embassy in Bogotá, but was leaving the investigation to Washington “because it involves its own personnel,” he said. to journalists in New York during an official visit to the United States.

After the first recorded incident of the Havana Syndrome in 2016, the Cuban government investigated the matter, but has repeatedly dismissed statements from the United States on the matter as disinformation.

( Jowhar with AFP)

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