U.S. cuts diplo­matic staff in Cuba over in­juries; Canada not fol­low­ing suit

Medicine Hat News - - NATION-WORLD - The Cana­dian Press

WASH­ING­TON In a move that casts doubt on the state of a his­toric de­tente be­tween two long­time ri­vals, the United States has or­dered a sud­den re­duc­tion in its diplo­matic staff in Cuba, cut­ting the ma­jor­ity of its pres­ence at the Ha­vana em­bassy in the wake of bizarre in­juries to em­ploy­ees.

An­nounc­ing the move Fri­day, Amer­i­can of­fi­cials linked it to 21 in­juries from what they have be­gun de­scrib­ing as sonic ‘’at­tacks,’’ with symp­toms in­clud­ing ear com­plaints, hear­ing loss, dizzi­ness, headache, fa­tigue, cog­ni­tive prob­lems and dif­fi­culty sleep­ing.

It’s un­clear what caused the prob­lems and the FBI has been work­ing with the Cuban gov­ern­ment to de­ter­mine who or what is re­spon­si­ble and whether the harm was in­ten­tional or the re­sult of de­fec­tive spy­ing equip­ment.

The U.S. is main­tain­ing diplo­matic ties with Cuba, re-es­tab­lished un­der former pres­i­dent Barack Obama. But in ad­di­tion to with­draw­ing about 60 per cent of its diplo­matic staff, it is also lim­it­ing visas for Cuban vis­i­tors. Re­main­ing in the em­bassy will be the core staff nec­es­sary to han­dle emer­gen­cies.

‘’The health, safety, and well-be­ing of our em­bassy com­mu­nity is our great­est con­cern. We will con­tinue to ag­gres­sively in­ves­ti­gate these at­tacks un­til the mat­ter is re­solved,’’ Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said.

‘’The de­ci­sion to re­duce our diplo­matic pres­ence in Ha­vana was made to en­sure the safety of our per­son­nel. We main­tain diplo­matic re­la­tions with Cuba, and our work in Cuba con­tin­ues to be guided by the na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy in­ter­ests of the United States.

‘’Cuba has told us it will con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate these at­tacks and we will con­tinue to co­op­er­ate with them in this ef­fort.’’

Canada is not fol­low­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s move.

‘’We do not have any rea­son to be­lieve Cana­dian tourists and other vis­i­tors could be af­fected,’’ said a state­ment from the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.

‘’Canada cur­rently has no plans to change its travel ad­vice and ad­vi­sory for Cuba or re­move its staff from Cuba.’’

While sev­eral Cana­dian di­plo­mats and their fam­i­lies also suf­fered in­juries ear­lier this year, there have been no re­peat in­ci­dents since the spring. The north­ern neigh­bour has long had nor­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions with Cuba, un­like the U.S. whose re­la­tion­ship was marked by decades of po­lit­i­cal es­trange­ment, mass mi­gra­tion and on­go­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions that have opened a sliver in re­cent years.

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