Published: Wed, October 04, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

US kicks out 15 Cuban diplomats following mysterious attacks

US kicks out 15 Cuban diplomats following mysterious attacks

A senior State Department official has argued that this move means that Cuba's embassy in Washington was now reduced by a similar percentage as the U.S. mission in Havana.

A State Department official said the number of expulsions was selected to make sure the USA and Cuban embassies have "equitable staffing levels" while investigations continued into the unexplained "health attacks". The United States has not blamed Cuba, which has denied any involvement and has cooperated with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents dispatched there.

USA citizens are being urged not to travel to Cuba because of the sonic threat. The expulsions, the official said, aim to "underscore to the Cubans that they must take more actions to protect our people on the ground".

The Cuban diplomats have been given seven days to leave. While the move is described as an "expulsion", the USA isn't declaring them "persona non grata" - a designation that would prevent them from ever returning, according to a State Department official.

The news agency said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with President Donald Trump about the plan on Monday.

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"By these politically motivated and thoughtless actions, the USA government is responsible for the current and possibly future deterioration of bilateral relations", he said. "No one should be fooled by the Castro regime's claim it knows nothing about how these harmful attacks are occurring or who perpetrated them".

Canada, which has a diplomat who also experienced odd health symptoms, did not recall diplomats from Cuba or issue a travel warning. The secretary of state clarified that he meant to "maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba", even amid the seemingly tense investigation.

Now what had been hoped was a historic opening is backsliding to an era of mutual suspicion and recrimination.

"This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations", the statement continued.

Some fear these expulsions could harm diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba.

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The attacks, which United States officials initially suggested could have come from some sort of covert acoustic device, have affected at least 22 United States embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.

"Our position. does not presume Cuban culpability", the official said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said it's "ridiculous" to think the Cuban government didn't know about the attacks that caused hearing loss, dizziness, and fatigue among USA embassy employees working in Cuba. Additionally, US diplomatic personnel will not be sent to Havana until the Cuban government provides guarantees for their safety and security, a State Department official told reporters on Tuesday. "It is not for us to outline a set of criteria to ensure that environment". It wasn't immediately clear when the most recently discovered victim was attacked.

The US diplomats leaving the island spent the weekend holding garage sales where they sold everything from American craft beer to plastic Christmas trees.

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