U.S. spies in Havana hit by weird health attacks

Wayne CurryOct 05, 2017

The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats after pulling more than half of its own embassy staff out of Havana last week, drawing an angry protest from the Cuban government.

The United States announced on Friday that it was sharply reducing its diplomatic presence in Cuba, as it warned US citizens not to visit the Communist-ruled island because of attacks that have caused hearing loss, dizziness and fatigue in USA embassy personnel.

The FBI did not find any devices in the diplomats' homes or hotels where they were staying and are still investigating who was behind the attacks and the type of weapon that was used, two senior USA officials have said.

Since the start of the illnesses, the administration of President Donald Trumphas stopped issuing visas to Cuban citizens hoping to visit the United States and issued a travel warning to USA citizens visiting Cuba.

In what's shaping up to be one of the strangest diplomatic incidents in recent history, the US State Department has acknowledged at least 22 members of the US diplomatic mission to Cuba have experienced symptoms that include "hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance problems, visual difficulties, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and sleeping difficulties".

The only blame the statement placed on Cuba was by noting that "the Government of Cuba is responsible for taking all appropriate steps to prevent attacks on our diplomatic personnel and USA citizens in Cuba", implying that Cuba has failed to fulfill this responsibility.

The State Department delivered a diplomatic note Tuesday to the Cuban embassy in Washington ordering 15 listed Cubans to leave the United States within seven days.

A US investigation into the matter is still ongoing.

"The United States is using the confusion and uncertainty surrounding these events as justification to take a big step backwards in US-Cuban relations", he said.

JIMENEZ: This is going to complicate and slow down any of our bilateral cooperation just simply based on the fact that there will be an insufficient number of people at the - at the Cuban Embassy here in D.C.to do very basic things like process visas or meet with US businesspeople interested in doing business on the island.

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Diplomatic ties between the two countries will remain intact.

At first, Cuba's communist government was judicious in its public comments about the matter, letting Washington do the talking.

"The majority of Cuban Americans support the improvement of relations with Havana", he said.

KELEMEN: And she says this will have a chilling effect on U.S. -Cuba relations.

According to Rodriguez, no evidence of any "acoustic attacks" on U.S. diplomats has ever been presented.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a USA state department official told reporters during a conference call that the department had communicated the demand to Cuban Ambassador Joe Ramon Cabanas. The State Department said that it would need assurances that the attacks would not continue before allowing the Cuban diplomats back.

The Cuban government has so far denied any responsibility for the attacks. Obviously Cuba remains the main suspect since the attacks occurred on the island, but Canadian diplomats have also been attacked.

Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 U.S. victims in an astonishing global mystery still unfolding in Cuba.

At the news conference Tuesday, Rodríguez Parilla said Cuban investigators had no evidence that any attacks had taken place and that the United States needed to allow the Cubans access to affected diplomats and the doctors in the United States that have treated them.

The US State Department was expected to announce the decision as soon as Tuesday, said US media citing the anonymous officials who were familiar with the plan.

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