Published: Wed, October 04, 2017
Global | By Shelia Dennis

State Dept. Expels 15 Cuban Officials From DC Embassy

State Dept. Expels 15 Cuban Officials From DC Embassy

A US doctor who evaluated American and Canadian diplomats working in Havana diagnosed them with conditions as serious as mild traumatic brain injury, and with likely damage to the central nervous system. Yet U.S. officials said the goal wasn't to punish the communist-run island, but to ensure both countries have a similar number of diplomats in each other's capitals.

Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said he would protest the order - which he branded "unjustified. unfounded and unacceptable" - but did not immediately threaten further tit-for-tat action.

Last week U.S. officials said: "We don't know the means, the methods or how the attacks are being carried out".

There was no immediate response from the Cuban government, which has denied any role in the incidents that have sickened at least 22 United States diplomats and family members stationed in Cuba.

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 US embassy employees working in Cuba.

Tillerson said the U.S. would "maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks".

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The reductions are just the latest step in the rapidly unraveling US-Cuban relations that were restored in 2015 by former President Barack Obama.

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

Washington has given Cuba a list of 15 of its diplomats who must leave the United States within seven days although they are not being declared "persona non grata". The United States has not blamed Cuba, which has denied any involvement and has cooperated with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents dispatched there.

The expelled Cuban personnel have to leave the United States within seven days, said the official, who remained anonymous, adding that the action taken by the USA government does not signal any change in bilateral diplomatic relations. He could not, however, explain how the Cubans could offer those assurances if it has not been determined how the injuries were caused or when it may be deemed safe for diplomats to return. The statement also says new, faster communications channels have been opened between the U.S. Embassy in Havana and Cuba's Diplomatic Security Department.

The US request marks yet another major setback for relations between the US and Cuba, two countries that only recently renewed diplomatic relations after a half-century of hostility.

A state department official said that the move did not signal a change of policy towards Cuba.

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Canadians in Cuba have also been hurst, with a source close to that country's embassy telling AFP that more than five families were affected, including several children.

The Trump administration on Tuesday has ordered the expulsion of 15 diplomats from Cuba´s embassy in Washington, a week after the Caribbean island " s government urged Washington not to make any hasty decisions.

Washington should also consider putting Cuba back on a terror blacklist, Rubio said.

The Cuban Government, however, is unlikely to see it that way.

Webster Hare cited a September speech at the UN General Assembly in which Trump said the United States "has stood against the corrupt and destabilising regime in Cuba".

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