Noviembre 29, 2020

State Dept. to pull staff from Havana embassy over mystery illnesses

29 Setiembre 2017, 11:22 | Bibiana Flor

State Dept. to pull staff from Havana embassy over mystery illnesses

State Dept. to pull staff from Havana embassy over mystery illnesses

The United States has ordered a sudden reduction in its diplomatic staff in Cuba, cutting the majority of its presence at the Havana embassy to leave only emergency personnel in the wake of freakish injuries to employees. The officials said they know of no other guests or hotel employees who were affected, but concern that others might be hurt prompted them to issue a broader warning advising against travel to Cuba.

During a speech at the UN General Assembly last month, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez took the opportunity to emphasize that Havana did not know what was harming U.S. diplomats.

Those affected have exhibited physical symptoms including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping, he added.

The move comes after at least 21 American diplomats suffered injuries, including brain trauma and permanent hearing loss, in suspected "sonic attacks".

The memo pointed out, that although Cuba was cooperating in allowing United States investigators to find the origin of the attacks, Minister Parilla did not give any assurances the Cuban government was doing enough to protect USA diplomats while in Cuba.

Officials did not provide any information related to Cuba's potential involvement in the attacks but emphasized Cuba's responsibility to protect American diplomats.

U.S. officials had previously told reporters they believed some kind of inaudible sound weapon was used on American staff either inside or outside their residences in Havana.

The Trump administration ordered all "nonemergency" US government employees and their families to leave the country.

The visa component of the order will continue indefinitely, and Havana will see an embassy staff reduction of approximately 60%.

Friday's news comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Cuba.

The Cuban embassy in Washington remained in place, however, despite criticism from Sen. A State Department travel warning will note that attacks on diplomats have occurred in hotels.

"We continue to believe that Cuba is a safe destination for our travelers, and we will be running our tours until our assessment changes", said Greg Geronemus, CEO of SmarTours.

Since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015, Cuba and the USA have been working together in areas including law-enforcement cooperation against drug-trafficking and human smuggling.

Officials in President Donald Trump's administration stressed the United States was maintaining diplomatic ties with Cuba. Cuba said afterward it had investigated but so far found no origin or cause for the health disorders. "We've brought some of those people home".

The meeting did nothing to re-assure that the Cuban officials were doing enough to protect US diplomats in the country.

"Consistent with US law, our operations in Cuba will continue", Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said. Can Cuba be trusted or do you suspect another country may be involved?

Americans have been warned against travelling to Cuba following a series of 'sonic attacks'.

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