The United States has ordered 15 Cuban officials to leave the Cuban embassy in Washington. The move came just days after the United States announced it would significantly reduce its embassy staff in Havana, leaving only emergency personnel to carry out core diplomatic and consular functions. As a result, the United States issued a Travel Warning for U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba.
The U.S. actions were in response to mysterious attacks which targeted numerous U.S. embassy employees over a ten-month period. The attacks began last year and continued into August. Twenty-two persons have been medically confirmed to have experienced physical harm from the attacks; their symptoms include hearing loss, dizziness, balance problems, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping.
The Cuban government has denied any involvement. It has been investigating the attacks and has been cooperating with the United States in its own investigation. Both investigations continue. However, the source, methods and means of the attacks remain unknown. The United States decided to draw down the U.S. embassy personnel in Havana to limit the number of diplomats who could be exposed to harm.
Referring to the expulsion of the Cuban officials from the United States, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a press statement, “The decision was made due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention.” In addition, he said, “This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations.”
But the safety, well-being and security of its diplomatic personnel are the most important considerations of the U.S. government. Until the government of Cuba can assure that it can and will protect our diplomats, as it is required to do under the Vienna Convention, U.S. non-emergency embassy personnel will not return to Havana.