Cuba Protests Expulsion of 15 Diplomats from USA

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The Trump administration is expected to oust two-thirds of Cuba's embassy staff from Washington, D.C. after a string of sonic attacks against American diplomats in Cuba, according to several sources.

On Tuesday the Trump administration expelled 15 Cuban diplomats after recalling more than half of its own embassy staff from Havana last week.

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

It wasn't until USA spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing weird sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.

Over the past several months US personnel in Cuba reported a variety of symptoms, including hearing loss, dizziness, cognitive issues and trouble sleeping.

The official said the expulsion, which amounts to about 60 percent of the employees at the embassy, does not signal a change in policy or a determination of responsibility for the attacks, and added that the us was maintaining diplomatic relations with Havana.

Enmanuel Carrasco, center, smiles holding his newly issued US visa as he leaves the USA embassy in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Now both countries are poised to cut their embassy staffs by more than half. And it is meant to ensure "equitable impact" - the United States removed all but "essential" personnel from Cuba last week.

Only 27 people now work at the Havana embassy.

The administration kicked out two diplomats in May due to the illnesses, but officials made a decision to add more as the list of those affected continues to grow.

Last Friday, the U.S. administration announced that it was withdrawing 60% of employees of its embassy in Havana and suspending the issuance of United States visas in Cuba indefinitely.

Tillerson and other officials insisted the expulsions did not reduce US diplomatic relations with Havana, which were restored only in 2015 after more than half a century, and USA officials took pains to not accuse Cuba of causing the illnesses. Cuban officials say they're disappointed in the USA retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.

Following Trump's decisions on this issue, several voices described the U.S. State Department's measures as excessive and alerted how unsafe it would be for the normalization process of bilateral relations.

Those moves had followed the US's decision in August to expel two Cuban diplomats. "This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations", Mr Tillerson said in a statement on Tuesday.

The argument is the lack of involvement of the Cuban government in the investigation of the odd illnesses that have affected the American personnel inside the island.

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

The attacks have reportedly occurred at hotels as well as US citizen's homes. At issue is a condition at the embassy causing permanent hearing loss and possible brain damage to embassy personnel.

U.S. officials emphasized that they were not accusing Cuba of either culpability or complicity in the attacks but of failing to stop whatever is happening to Americans working in the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

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Cuba-US relations are at a low ebb once again, nearly completely erasing all the goodwill built up over the Obama presidency in a matter of months.