Withdraws most diplomats from Cuba over mysterious attack
HAVANA TIMES – The United States today announced the withdrawal of most of its personnel from the embassy in Cuba following the mysterious attacks that affected the health of 21 Americans and urged its citizens not to travel to the island until it is clear what happens.
Such a decision by the Trump administration had been proposed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and other Cuban-American congress people.
According to senior State Department officials, orders have been given to remove most of the workers from the embassy and their families. The United States will leave in Cuba the minimum necessary personnel to take care of emergencies and to assist the US citizens in the Caribbean country.
What will now happen for the tens of thousands of Cubans who seek US visas each year was not stated.
In addition, the office headed by Rex Tillerson issued a travel alert asking US citizens not to travel to the island to avoid risks until it is discovered what happened and who is behind it. The State Department now claims that the attacks have taken place at the residencies of US diplomatic staff and hotels frequented by US citizens.
In recent months, 21 US diplomats have allegedly suffered from mysterious health problems that the US administration initially called incidents and now calls “attacks.”
Among other symptoms, the personnel have suffered from hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches, fatigue, cognitive problems and difficulty sleeping. There is an ongoing investigation, but at the moment it is unknown who is behind the attacks and what is the source that causes the health problems.
Cuba has assured that it has nothing to do with the illnesses. The United States does not rule out, according to sources, that there is a third country behind these events.
The step taken today is not a break or a change in existing diplomatic ties with the island, with which the United States resumed relations in 2015 after more than 50 years with them broken. However it is a significant action that could have greater repercussions.
“We maintain relations with Cuba,” said a senior State Department official, who indicated that the Cuban government is cooperating in the ongoing investigations to find out what has happened. Nevertheless, he indicated that the government of Raul Castro is under obligation, under the Vienna Convention, to protect the diplomatic personnel.
The announcement comes after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met behind closed doors Monday in Washington at the request of the Cuban foreign minister.
Tillerson had already said before that meeting that the United States was considering closing its embassy in Havana because of these mysterious events. The total closure does not occur, at least for the time being. The US embassy on the island, however, will stop processing regular visas.
The Cuban Foreign Minister assured last week before the UN General Assembly that the government of Raul Castro has “no evidence” on the causes of these health problems and asked Washington not to politicize the incident.
In May, two Cuban diplomats were expelled from Washington in response to these incidents, although that measure was not known until August.
Today’s action could be a sign that relations between the two countries will most likely worsen before they get back on the rapprochement track that took place under Barack Obama.