Ha­vana gets a warn­ing

Boston Herald - - NEWS -

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.

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