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USA pulls out staff from Cuba after mysterious attacks on diplomats

30 Septembre 2017

Equally unclear is who is behind the attacks.

U.S. Diplomats in Havana have suffered hearing loss and speech problems in a series of mysterious sonic attacks.

Nearly a year after diplomats began describing unexplained health problems, U.S investigators still don't know what or who is behind the attacks, which have harmed at least 21 diplomats and their families.

For now, the United States is not ordering any Cuban diplomats to leave Washington, another move that the administration had considered, officials said.

Tillerson considered closing the embassy but was persuaded to leave it open by the growing belief of US officials that Cuba is not responsible for the health problems, The New York Times reported Friday.

Senior State Department officials said embassy employees had been "targeted" for "specific attacks" that are ongoing, a significant change from previous characterizations of what happened as simply "incidents". Cuban President Raúl Castro has steadfastly denied any Cuban involvement in the incidents. A Canadian diplomat was also affected, and this has deepened the mystery as relations between Canada and Cuba have been warm.

Those reports, however, did not surface until August when authorities began to suspect the use of an advanced covert sonic device. The U.S. and Cuba re-opened embassies in Havana and Washington in 2015 after Castro and Obama reached a historic agreement to resume diplomatic relations after a half-century of enmity.

The U.S. will also halt all official delegations to Cuba and limit short-term travel to only what is crucial.

Authorities are baffled as to the cause of the injuries. However, the investigation did not allow yet to identify the cause and the perpetrators of these "attacks". "With such a serious incident it would seem inappropriate to take a politically motivated step", Alzugaray said.

Hundreds of Cuban citizens won't be able to issue visas to visit the U.S. Image credit Reuters
Hundreds of Cuban citizens won’t be able to get visas to visit the U.S. Image credit Reuters

But Sullivan acknowledged that with so much unknown, even that assumption is less than certain, and added, "As a USA government official, I don't know that".

The United States is crafting a plan for a drawdown of staff from the American embassy in Havana in response to still-unexplained incidents that have harmed the health of some US diplomats there, USA and congressional officials said on Thursday. "We've brought some of those people home".

Aides said he made the decision on the flight from Washington, after considering options that included temporarily closing the embassy.

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

Cuba has ensured the cooperate and investigate these attacks, the Department said.

How are others reacting to the travel advisory?

But officials said Friday the USA now believes "specific attacks" targeted the diplomats in Cuba. The also warning American citizens they could be harmed if they travel to Cuba.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to discuss the incidents.

The Trump administration has already reversed crucial pieces of what President Trump has called a "terrible and misguided deal" with Cuba that was struck during the Obama administration by reinstating travel and commercial restrictions on Cuba.

USA pulls out staff from Cuba after mysterious attacks on diplomats