Havana gets a warning
With the mystery of what felled 21 American diplomats serving in Cuba still unsolved, yesterday the State Department did the only responsible thing it could do — pull out more than half of the remaining embassy staff.
And State issued an official travel warning to U.S. tourists thinking of visiting the island.
The cause of the illnesses that have plagued embassy personnel remains unknown — even after an investigation by FBI agents sent to examine the living quarters of those affected. Some kind of sonic bombardment or perhaps a surveillance effort gone awry is suspected. But the effects — hearing loss, balance problems, headaches, fatigue and cognitive issues — are very real indeed. And the attacks have continued to occur as recently as August.
Many of the embassy personnel stricken were living in Havana hotels that are government run — hence the travel warning to tourists who would be staying in those same hotels.
So henceforth the U.S. embassy, which only reopened in 2015 after a 50-year closure, will handle only emergency matters, such as serving the needs of U.S. citizens traveling there. Cuban citizens looking for visas for U.S. travel will be processed by the embassies of other nations.
Still the State Department did not administer the ultimate punishment — tossing out Cuba’s diplomats serving in the U.S. (although two assistant secretaries were sent home earlier). But then it’s likely State is holding off on that as its next bargaining chip.
Surely if the Cuban government can’t help resolve this ongoing health danger to U.S. diplomats, their own diplomatic personnel ought not be welcomed among the civilized confines of Embassy Row.