losangelesnewstoday.com May 21, 2018

United States expels 15 Cuban diplomats over following mysterious 'sonic attacks'

05 October 2017, 12:29 | Violet Powell

US Boots 15 Cuban Diplomats out of Washington

Tillerson kicks out 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington over mystery attacks on Havana embassy which have left 22 Americans ill

The Cuban government said Thursday that the United States' decision to expel 15 Cuban diplomats from the country's embassy in Washington was "reckless" and "hasty", warning of increasingly strained relations between the two countries.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the decision was made because Cuba failed to protect diplomats on its soil - without directly blaming Cuba for the attacks on Americans in Havana.

US officials say the Trump administration plans to ask Cuba to withdraw 60 percent of its diplomats from Washington in response to last week's USA move to cut its own embassy staff in Havana by a similar amount.

Cuba has said that the USA withdrawal of its diplomatic personnel is a "hasty decision" that will affect bilateral relations.

In Friday's travel warning urging Americans not to visit Cuba, the State Department confirmed earlier reporting by the AP that U.S. personnel first encountered unexplained physical effects in Cuban hotels.

The statement was referring to the baffling sonic attacks that had staffers at the us embassy in Cuba suffering from headaches, hearing loss, memory issues and other symptoms.

The U.S. decision was communicated to Cuban Ambassador Jose Ramon Cabanas on Tuesday, and the diplomats were given seven days to leave, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Enmanuel Carrasco, center, smiles holding his newly issued US visa as he leaves the USA embassy in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017.

The expulsion, however, will leave the Cuban embassy in Washington - which has fewer than 25 workers - with just a handful of employees and is certain to affect the mission's ability to function.

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"The United States is using the confusion and uncertainty surrounding these events as justification to take a big step backwards in US-Cuban relations", he said.

We are, of course, closely monitoring and are in touch with USA, as well as Cuban authorities, and will act accordingly if anything warrants a change in our plans.

Two years ago, Castro and former President Barack Obama restored diplomatic ties, ordered embassies re-opened and eased travel and commerce restrictions. But the Cubans have said they will continue to cooperate in what is already an atypical willingness to allow Federal Bureau of Investigation agents into Cuba to investigate. Cuban officials have seven days to remove their personnel from USA soil.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The State Department isn't blaming Cuba for the attacks, nor is the US breaking diplomatic ties. The U.S. has said the FBI is leading the investigation.

In recent weeks the USA state department had said there were 21 individuals "medically confirmed" to be affected by attacks that harmed their hearing, cognition, balance and vision, some with diagnoses as serious as brain injury.

"I commend the U.S. State Department for expelling a number of Cuban operatives from the U.S.", Rubio, an influential voice on Trump's Cuba policy, said in a statement. "This is to ensure that there is an equitable impact to our embassies' ability to operate, and to underscore to the Cubans that they must take more action to protect our people on the ground", the official said.

In numerous more recent cases, victims didn't hear noises and weren't aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later.

According to the White House, a spate of attacks over the past year that has damaged the health of 22 Americans, in addition to several Canadian diplomats. So we need to keep probing and figuring out what on earth has been going on.

During the summer, at least 21 employees at the US Embassy in Havana were said to be targeted in specific attacks.

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