By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration plans to compensate victims of Havana Syndrome, the abnormal health incidents affecting U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers around the world, with payouts ranging from 100,000 to 200,000 dollars, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The proposed rule, which is expected to be released in the coming days, comes after the US Congress passed the Havana Act last year that authorizes the State Department, CIA and other US government agencies to pay payments to staff and their families who have been affected. by this syndrome during the assignment.
Around 200 US diplomats, government officials and their family members overseas are believed to have been stricken with the mysterious illness – with symptoms including headaches, nausea, blackouts and dizziness.
It was first reported among US officials in Havana, the Cuban capital, in 2016, but over the years it has been reported in dozens of places around the world, including Russia and China, as well as in Europe and Latin America.
Despite years of investigation, the United States government has so far been unable to determine the cause or whether an adversary like Russia or China is responsible.
A CIA investigation whose findings were released earlier this year said the agency had found no evidence of state actor involvement in the nearly 1,000 cases it examined, but did said it was continuing to investigate two dozen unexplained cases.
The State Department’s draft rule is expected to remain open for comment for 30 days, before becoming a final rule in a process coordinated with the Office of Management and Budget, people familiar with the matter said.
The rule is expected to include eligibility criteria, sources said, adding that exact payout amounts were still being finalized.
The State Department declined to comment on the payments, but said Havana law requires the agency to publish implementing regulations. “We will have more details to provide about this process soon,” a department spokesperson said.
Victims and lawmakers have complained that US agencies have not taken the disease seriously enough.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November appointed veteran diplomat Jonathan Moore to lead the agency’s task force on the issue. He swore to leave no stone unturned to stop these events as quickly as possible.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Leslie Adler)