Canada to return diplomat families from Cuba over health concerns

Raul Castro will retire on Thursday

The federal government announced Monday that, because of the mysterious health symptoms suffered by Canadian and American diplomats, family members will no longer be allowed to accompany officials posted to Havana.

Canadian officials said the ongoing problems are raising concerns about a new type of acquired brain injury, the cause of which remains unknown. Fifteen Canadian staff now work at the embassy, but Global Affairs Canada says the staffing level is also under review.

About 27 people from 10 diplomatic families underwent testing when some complained of dizziness, headaches and difficulty in concentrating.

While the incidents remain a mystery, State Department officials who testified said they believe Cuba has clearer information about who is behind what they classified as "attacks" on U.S. diplomats working on the communist-run island.

With Castro's term as Cuban president now set to end Wednesday and a generational shift in power expected to take place, U.S. -Cuba relations in some ways seem to have returned to the deep freeze of the Cold War era.

There have been no new cases of diplomats or their family members experiencing symptoms since last fall, but those already affected have reported the lingering symptoms can subside and later return.

Canadian medical specialists, working with American counterparts who have been studying US diplomats who suffered similar health problems are now working on the theory that they have suffered a "new type of possible acquired brain injury".

"Additional research is needed to better understand this".

The symptoms developed amid concern about possible "acoustic attacks" in 2016 and 2017, which was regarded by Cuba as an unacceptable accusation without evidence.

Several theories about sonic attacks and psychological induced illnesses have been put forth but are now ruled out.

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