US Withdraws Diplomats from Cuba in Response to Health Attacks
The United States government has ordered the removal of non-essential staff from its Embassy in Havana, Cuba in response to attacks on the Embassy’s personnel. At least 21 US diplomats in Cuba have reported health problems including nausea, hearing loss, and brain trauma.
These health incidents, which are regarded as purposeful attacks on US diplomats, began in the latter half of 2016 as unexplained health problems began to occur among the personnel of the US Embassy in Havana. These incidents have resurfaced in the past month, which has instigated the response on behalf of the United States government.
It is unclear how the attacks have been carried out and for what purpose, but several reports have suggested that ultrasonic waves were used to cause harm to the targeted individuals.
Many of the details surrounding the attacks are still uncertain. The United States has not blamed the Cuban government for the attacks and has acknowledged that the identity of the perpetuators of the attacks are unknown. President Raul Castro has reassured the United States that the Cuban government is not involved.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated, “Until the government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel in order to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm”. Additionally, the United States has stopped visa processing in Cuba indefinitely.
These attacks, and the subsequent response of the United States, have brought the relations between Cuba and the United States into attention. The US Embassy in Havana reopened in 2015 after decades of severed relations, as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba. Although President Trump has criticized and reversed some of the new policies allowing for stronger relations with Cuba, he has allowed for the US Embassy in Havana to continue to function.
Despite all efforts to maintain relations between Cuba and the United States during this incident, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry Chief for US Affairs Josefina Vidal stated, “We consider the decision announced today by the US Government through the State Department is hasty and will affect bilateral relations”.