U.S. CITIZENS TOLD TO STAY OUT OF CUBA
Diplomats ordered home after mysterious ‘attacks’
WASHINGTON — The United States delivered an ominous warning to Americans yesterday to stay away from Cuba and ordered home more than half its U.S. diplomatic corps, acknowledging neither the Cubans nor America’s FBI can figure out who or what is responsible for months of mysterious health ailments.
No longer tiptoeing around the issue, the Trump administration shifted to calling the episodes “attacks” rather than “incidents.”
The U.S. actions are sure to rattle already delicate ties between the longtime adversaries who only recently began putting their hostility behind them. The U.S. Embassy in Cuba will lose about 60 percent of its American staff and will stop processing visas for prospective Cuban travelers to the United States indefinitely, officials said. Approximately 50 Americans had been working at the embassy.
President Trump said that in Cuba “they did some very bad things” that harmed U.S. diplomats, but he didn’t say who he might mean by “they.”
Though officials initially suspected some futuristic “sonic attack,” the picture is muddy. The FBI and other agencies that searched homes and hotels where incidents occurred found no devices.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who reviewed options for a response with Trump, said, “Until the government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel in order to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm.”
In yesterday’s travel warning, the State Department confirmed earlier reporting by The Associated Press that U.S. personnel first encountered unexplained physical effects in Cuban hotels. At least 21 diplomats and family members have been affected. The department said symptoms include hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping.
The U.S. travel warning said, “Because our personnel’s safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba.”