Following pressure from Rubio, the State Department expelled a number of Cuban operatives from the U.S. after American diplomats were forced to leave Cuba as a result of the Havana attacks. Rubio has also pushed back on the idea that the Cuban government, which tightly controls and monitors the island, denies knowing anything about the attacks that injured at least 24 American diplomatic personnel.
Key excerpts of Rubio’s remarks are roughly transcribed below.
RUBIO: There’s been a lot of reporting on it in the last couple of days that has confused it. One of our goals here today is going to be to make things abundantly clear. We have at least 24 Americans and/or spouses and dependents who have been injured, suffered brain injury that are consistent with concussions and things like that during their time stationed in Havana over about a 12 month period.
Now the method that was used to attack them is not yet clear. That is mysterious. But the fact that they have been injured is not mysterious. There is every reason to believe that they were the subject of an attack of some sort, and of a sophisticated one because we can’t even figure out how it is that 24 people came to suffer these sorts of injuries all within a condensed period of time.
What I am saying is that, two things. First of all, no matter what, there is no way can you conduct sophisticated attacks targeting American government officials in Havana without the Cuban government at least knowing about it. And number two, you can’t have people in Havana if you cannot guarantee their safety. We cannot tell people who we stationed there, ‘here are the things you need to do in order to protect yourself’ because we don’t know what they ‘re protecting themselves against.
And, of course, the big part of this hearing is to see how the State Department handled this. There was this opening to Cuba under Obama and we want to get to the bottom of what did they do when they started finding out? Did they respond quickly enough? Did they provide assistance to these Americans, access to doctors, and the like? Or was it not handled appropriately. So that is a key part of the hearing today.
The fact that we can’t figure out how these people were injured, tells you – at least allows you to conclude – that if we wanted to harm people this way, we wouldn’t be able to do it ourselves. But my whole point is, at the end of the day, you can’t do this at this level of sophistication -- especially in the places where these attacks were happening against the people it was happening to. I mean, if you’re an American government official, you are so closely monitored when you are in Havana that the idea that someone could attack you in a sophisticated way, or in any way for that matter, and the Cubans not at least know about it, is absurd for anyone who knows about Cuba. It’s one of the most tightly controlled cities in the world.
The public deserves to know. These are 24 Americans in the service of our country, stationed abroad, who have been injured. And the American people deserve to know; How did it happen? Who did it? And more importantly, how did the State Department respond? Did they respond accordingly? People deserve to know that, and the only way to do that is in a public forum. That’s why we have these hearings.