US Expels 15 Officials from Cuban Embassy After Bizarre Attacks

FIGHTING FUND

FIGHTING FUND

U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson had earlier said that kicking out 15 Cuban diplomats would "ensure equity".

"Until the Government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm", Mr Tillerson said in a statement.

The attacks, which U.S. officials initially suggested could have been carried out with some sort of covert acoustic device, have affected at least 22 USA embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.

Diplomats have been treated for ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance problems, visual complaints, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping, a senior USA official said.

The Trump administration imposed last week's and today's reprisals despite the U.S. State Department's admitting investigators have not been able to determine who is responsible or what caused the alleged health events, which Washington describes as "attacks" without any conclusions about it.

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The moves deliver a significant blow to the rapprochement between the Washington and Havana that was launched by Barack Obama and Cuba's president Raúl Castro in 2015.

State Department officials said the expulsions were reciprocal measures - not punishment - meant to ensure that the U.S. and Cuban embassies would have "equitable staffing levels" while investigations continue into the unexplained "health attacks".

Cuba had blasted the American move as "hasty" and lamented that it was being taken without conclusive investigation results. The United States has not blamed Cuba, which has denied any involvement and has cooperated with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents dispatched there. The Cuban diplomats have been given seven days to leave.

The official maintained that despite the USA moves, Washington was not assigning "culpability" to Cuba's Communist Government.

The U.S. Department of State is investigating the attacks, which allegedly harmed the health of 22 American diplomats, and chose to maintain "equitable staffing levels" in U.S. and Cuban embassies during the investigation, Reuters reported.

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The U.S. says at least 21 American government workers in Havana have been attacked. Officials have said there was still no evidence of the source of the attack.

Last week, the Trump administration ordered more than half of the U.S. Embassy staff and family members to depart Cuba because of the mysterious ailments.

The head of North American affairs at Cuba's foreign ministry, Josefina Vidal, earlier told state television that Cuba wants to work with the United States to resolve this case.

Several Cuban-American Republican lawmakers, including U.S Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, had urged that Cuban diplomats be expelled in retaliation for the Cuban government's failure to get to the bottom of the attacks.

The Americans will not be allowed to return to Cuba until the government in Havana can ensure their well-being, said the USA official assigned to brief reporters on the expulsion.

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According to a senior federal official, the USA measure was based on the health incidents reported by US embassy officials in Havana, but stressed that it does not mean a change of policy toward the Caribbean country or assignment of responsibilities for those acts. During a speech at the UN General Assembly last month, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez warned Trump not to let the issue be "politicized".

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