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US Pulls Some Staff Out of Cuba After Bizarre Health Episodes

30 September 2017

On Friday, approximately 60 percent of non-essential staff at the USA embassy in Havana were ordered to leave.

On September 29, the department ordered non-emergency personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and their family members, to leave Cuba.

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

"The decision to reduce our diplomatic presence in Havana was made to ensure the safety of our personnel", Tillerson said in a statement released Friday. He emphasized that the moves were meant to ensure the health and safety of embassy personnel, not to punish Cuba.

The State Department is warning Americans to not travel to Cuba as the source of "significant injuries" to more than 20 United States diplomats remains unresolved.

The 21 victims were reportedly targeted multiple times and there were almost 50 attacks in total, one State Department official told CNN.

Cuba and the United States resumed diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than 50 years of enmity, although the White House still imposes economic sanctions against Havana.

The United States does not eliminate the possibility of a third country being involved in sonic attacks against USA diplomats in Cuba, the official added.

On Tuesday, Tillerson met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to discuss the incidents.

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The U.S. cases involve diplomats and their families, some who have permanent hearing loss or concussions.

West New York Mayor Felix Roque is from Cuba and presides over the largest Cuban population in New Jersey.

USA officials had previously refrained from calling them "attacks", instead using the vague language of "incidents".

According to Alzugaray, this new step by the Trump administration constitutes a "negative element" that will affect not only the future development of ties between Cuba and the United States but will disturb relations between Latin America and Washington.

Experts have theorized that the attacks have been carried out by a machine that sends high-powered sound waves at a person, vibrating brain tissue and parts of the ear. The top USA diplomat has called them "health attacks".

The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the attacks and alleged it is conducting its own investigation into the incidents.

Officials told the Associated Press that diplomats began reporting these injuries in the fall of 2016.

Numerous embassy personnel stricken were living in Havana hotels that are government run - hence the travel warning to tourists who would be staying in those same hotels. Senior U.S. officials said that amounts to roughly 60 percent of the U.S. diplomatic staff there.

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. Cuba's embassy has not commented either.

US Pulls Some Staff Out of Cuba After Bizarre Health Episodes