U.S. cuts diplo­matic staff in Cuba

Staff, fam­i­lies at Ha­vana em­bassy suf­fer­ing hear­ing loss, headaches, fa­tigue

Waterloo Region Record - - WORLD - Alexan­der Panetta

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 and cognitive prob­lems.

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 United States is also warn­ing Amer­i­cans to stay away from Cuba.

The United States 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 co-op­er­ate 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 Ot­tawa.

While sev­eral Cana­dian diplo­mats and their fam­i­lies also suf­fered in­juries ear­lier this year, there have been no re­peat in­ci­dents since the spring.

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