What is Havana Syndrome? Why does the United States compensate its embassy staff?

Havana is the capital of Cuba. It’s the place that has inspired several songs and more (like Camila Cabello’s Havana). But the place has inspired more than songs; it also inspired the name of a mysterious illness primarily affecting American diplomats and intelligence officials – Havana Syndrome.

In 2021, the Biden government signed into law the Havana Law, to promise certain victims compensation for their suffering and medical expenses. Fast forward to August 2022, the New York Times reported that the CIA has begun to compensate victims of the mysterious disease.

Who is compensated? Earlier this year, reports indicated that the Biden administration had decided on a six-figure sum (about $140,000 or $187,000) to pay victims of Havana Syndrome. But not all government officials who reported the illness were eligible for compensation. Only those who doctors found had suffered a debilitating brain injury and trauma were eligible. The terms of which are still unclear.

What is Havana Syndrome? Now this is where it gets trickier. There is no conclusive evidence that the disease even exists, what causes it, and more. It is just a name given after several US diplomats and other intelligence officers stationed in Havana, the Cuban capital, began reporting episodes of the mysterious disease specifically tearing their circles apart in 2016.

Later, the same disease was reported among officials stationed outside Cuba and in countries such as China.

What are the symptoms? The victims suffered from headaches, migraines, dizziness, nausea, depression, forgetfulness, etc. For some, the symptoms became so severe that they had to be medically evacuated. They were then sent from one health facility to another in the United States to try to figure out what exactly had happened.

What causes Havana syndrome? When the first cases were reported in 2016, conspiracy theories began circulating that enemy spies such as Russian government agents or Cuban agents had targeted US officials using high-energy sources or microwave weapons. However, so far this theory has not been found to be conclusive.

There is still a big question mark when it comes to Havana Syndrome:

Is it even real?

Yes, some reports say it could be the result of people redefining “mundane ambiguous symptoms under a new label or showing anxiety-generated health issues.” So while the symptoms described by the victims are not fake, they also may not be the result of spies firing a mysterious energy gun. But again, nothing has been proven.

Mass hysteria or high stress work or just mere rumors of spies with energy guns leading to mania? We do not know.

Still, the Biden government’s idea of ​​compensation is also weighty because it has to decide which victims get the money and which don’t.