The Trump Administration has ordered 15 Cuban diplomats to leave the United States within seven days after an ongoing series of mysterious attacks against US personnel in Havana.
The State Department made the announcement Tuesday morning, informing the Cuban government immediately after the Trump administration withdrew most U.S. government personnel from Cuba.
The decision to expel the Cuban diplomats coincides with the revelation that a number of Americans have been injured by the attacks, which come in the form of sonic attacks. It has caused hearing loss and other cognitive issues over the last year. The number affected is now at 22, the Washington Examiner reports.
“This move does not signal a change of policy or a determination of responsibility for the attacks on U.S. government personnel in Cuba,” a State Department official told reporters Tuesday morning. “We are maintaining diplomatic relations with Havana. The decision on expulsions was taken due to Cuba’s inability to protect our diplomats in Havana, as well as to ensure equity in the impact on our respective operations.”
On Friday, the State Department slashed their personnel in Havana down to “emergency levels” and warned against Americans traveling in the country. So far, intelligence officials have been unable to determine “who or what” is causing the attacks, some of which take place in hotels that tourists frequent.
“We have no way of advising American citizens on how they could mitigate such attacks, [and so] we felt that we must warn them not to travel to Cuba,” the State Department official said Friday.
The Castro regime has offered to help investigate the attacks, but has denied responsibility and criticized the withdrawal of American personnel.
“We consider that the decision announced by the Department of State is hasty and that it will affect the bilateral relations, specifically, the cooperation in matters of mutual interest and the exchanges on different fields between both countries,” Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, the top Cuban diplomat for U.S. affairs said Friday.
Sen. Marco Rubio, by contrast, faulted Tillerson’s team for not punishing Cuba more directly on Friday.
“[I]t is weak, unacceptable and outrageous for the U.S. State Department to allow Raul Castro to keep as many of his operatives in the U.S. as he wants,” the Florida Republican said Friday. “Anyone who has interacted Cuba, been to Cuba or has anything to do with Cuba understands that very little happens in Havana that the Cuban government doesn’t know about, especially Americans working for the State Department.”
Last year, secret agents in Havana allegedly targeted at least 16 American diplomats with a “mysterious weapon” that used sound waves to damage their hearing and cause other sickness symptoms. The State Department has not confirmed the attack, but after the Associated Press reported that some American diplomats were injured, the agency said in August there had been a series of “incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms.”
Intelligence analysts were dumbfounded by the incident, admitting that it remained unclear what could have caused mild traumatic brain injuries and possible damage to the central nervous system.
Apparently, the Trump administration has had enough.