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Published On: Thu, Oct 5th, 2017

US expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from embassy in Washington

nsnbc : Following recent, alleged “mysterious and specific sonic attacks” that several U.S. diplomats suffered in Cuba, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the Cuban embassy in Washington.

Cuban embassy_Washington D.C., USAThe United States’ response to the mysterious illness, allegedly linked to sonic attacks, afflicting U.S. Embassy personnel in the Cuban capital Havana escalated last week after Washington pulled most of its embassy staff out of Cuba. The response came after over 20 diplomatic staff reported health problems in Cuba, even though the Cuban authorities deny any involvement in the reported attacks.

After ordering about 60 percent if its embassy staff to return back to the U.S. in response to the “mysterious attacks” on diplomats, now Cuban diplomats were ordered out of Washington. The expulsions were intended to force the Cubans to operate their embassy in Washington under the same emergency conditions that the United States is now operating under in Havana.

In a statement, a State Department official has said that the Cuban government would need to give a clear assurance that the attacks would not continue before the personnel in either embassy could return. At the time the attacks came to light, diplomatic staff were said to have suffered conditions ranging from mild brain trauma and hearing loss to dizziness and nausea. Similar symptoms are also reported by at least two Canadians. Last week, officials said that the U.S. is halting visa processing in Cuba indefinitely, adding that the steps will remain until Cuba can assure the U.S. its diplomats are safe.

The FBI, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Cuban authorities are still investigating the nature of the attacks – however, there is still no explanation into the cause of the incidents that began late in 2016. When the attacks were first reported, President Raul Castro gave his personal assurance to the then-U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Havana that Cuba was not behind the attacks.

The U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana in 2015. The subsequent year, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. However, President Donald Trump, in June announced a partial roll-back of his predecessor’s Cuba policies, however, he did not order the closure of the U.S. embassy in Havana.

Washington’s decision to withdraw embassy officials from Cuba dealt a blow to already delicate bilateral relations. In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, State Department officials said that the Cuban ambassador in Washington was informed of the expulsions in a 9 a.m. phone call.  Officials further revealed that the expelled embassy personnel have been told to be out of the United States within seven days. By then, the American embassy in Havana will have completed its own drawdown.

In a press statement, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said the United States was expelling 15 Cuban diplomats “due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention.” Tillerson added that “this order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations.” State Department officials emphasized that they are not accusing the Cuban government of complicity in the attacks Tillerson said, “We continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks.”

Trump administration officials have stressed that their action did not amount to a change in United States policy toward Cuba or an end to diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana.However, the practical effect will be a stark turnaround in the relationship.

F/AK – nsnbc 05.10.2017

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