U.S. expels 15 Cuban diplomats

FIGHTING FUND

Cuba has a week to remove 15 diplomats from the embassy in Washington, D.C.as the mysterious attacks on USA diplomats in Cuba continue, the State Department announced Tuesday.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, however, that Washington would maintain diplomatic relations even though the size of the USA mission in Havana would be reduced to a minimum.

The State Department declined to comment on an expulsion plan, except to say that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "continues to evaluate steps that the Department can take to ensure the Cuban government is accountable to its responsibility to protect diplomats".

USA officials said they were confident that the incidents were targeted attacks, pointing out that some of the affected diplomats had been staying in a hotel, where none of the hotel workers seem to have been affected.

After the departure of the Cuban diplomats, the number of personnel working in both embassies will be "roughly very close to each other", an official from the U.S. State Department told reporters.

At least 21 USA embassy employees in Cuba have been injured and reported symptoms such as hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping, the State Department said on Friday.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration continued severing diplomatic relations with Cuba when it told 15 diplomats to leave Cuba's embassy in Washington, D.C., within a week.

The steps being taken by President Trump's administration marked a further blow to his predecessor Barack Obama's policy of rapprochement between Washington and Havana, former Cold War foes.

On Friday, Washington issued a travel warning for the island and said it was reducing by about 60% its diplomatic staffing at the U.S. embassy in Havana.

US officials had previously refrained from calling it "attacks", instead using the vague language of "incidents". Though bona fide diplomats have also been affected, it wasn't until U.S. spies, working out of the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing freakish sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the U.S. realized something was wrong, several individuals familiar with the situation said. "What it does is require the Cuban government to be able to fulfill their obligations with the safety and well being and protection of foreign diplomats in their country".

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The State Department has, however, repeatedly pointed to the Vienna Convention and warned that Cuba was responsible for the safety of U.S. diplomats serving in the state.

The U.S. State Department is expected to announce the expulsion on Tuesday, the sources said on Monday.

The decision announced Tuesday is certain to deepen the rift between the two countries over what the State Department has called "specific attacks" on USA diplomats during the past 10 months.

After months of reports of diplomatic personnel in Cuba experiencing unusual symptoms like hearing loss and nausea because of mysterious attacks - possibly made by a sonic device - the US chose to pull all non-essential diplomatic personnel from Cuba and stop issuing visas to Cubans.

United States transnational news agency Association Press gave impetus yesterday to Washington's assertion that USA diplomats in Havana have suffered mysterious sensory attacks by alleging that intelligence agents have been especially targeted.

The Associated Press reported that Cuban official called the American response "irresponsible", and "hasty".

In August, the State Department said it was confident that the attacks had stopped but later said that its Havana staff is still at risk.

The State Department gave the Cubans a list of which diplomats they wanted expelled.

Also on Friday, the United States government warned against travels to Cuba.

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