New cases of Havana syndrome at US embassy in Colombia

Country’s president says his intelligence agencies are investigating ahead of visit by US secretary of state

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 13 October 2021 13:41
Comments

Pentagon Asks Personnel to Report Symptoms of ‘Havana Syndrome’

Leer en Español

The US State Department has confirmed new cases of “Havana syndrome” at the American embassy in Bogota, Colombia, a week before secretary of state Anthony Blinken is scheduled to visit the South American country.

A spokesperson for the state department, Ned Price, said it and US officials in Bogota were investigating a series of illnesses that were first reported by Bogota embassy staff in September.

As The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, staff at the embassy were first told about “unexplained health incidents” in an email in mid-September. It remains unclear exactly how many people have been affected.

A second email sent by US ambassador Philip Goldberg on 1 October confirmed that there were as an investigation into “additional Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI)” and vowed to take it “seriously, with objectivity and with sensitivity”, it was reported.

A US diplomat was reported as saying that families at first believed it was altitude sickness, and that a child was among those taken ill. The US embassy in Bogota is among the biggest operated by the US government, and located approximately 8,600 feet above sea level.

Signs of Havana syndrome include drowsiness, sickness, and fatigue. The illness was first reported by US officials stationed in Havana, Cuba, in 2016, and have since been reported at US embassies around the world.

According to the diplomat who spoke with The WSJ, although previous incidents targeted CIA employees, “Havana syndrome” could happen to anybody because the “technologies that are directed toward a place where people live.”

“If it’s a microwave or some other kind of advanced technology, it would affect other people,” he added.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the state department told The Independent that Mr Blinken had reached out to employees and families affected by the illness, and that it was being taken seriously.

"As part of the National Security Council-led interagency response effort and in coordination with our partners across the US Government, we are vigorously investigating reports of AHIs wherever they are reported,” the deaprtment said,

“ The interagency is actively working to identify the cause of these incidents and whether they may be attributed to a foreign actor, and is focused on providing care for those affected.”

Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, told The New York Times on Tuesday that he was aware of the reports of “Havana syndrome” among US staffers and said that his country’s intelligence officials were also investigating.

It comes after US President Joe Biden last week signed a law that provides increased funding and medical care for US government employees who fall ill with “Havana syndrome”.

He vowed to find "the cause and who is responsible" for the attacks amid reports of US embassy staff in Berlin, Germany, falling ill with symptoms associated with “Havana syndrome”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in