AP sources: US cuts staff in Cuba, citing health attacks

WASHINGTON The United States is warning Americans against visiting Cuba and ordering more than half of its Havana embassy personnel to leave the island, senior officials said Friday in a dramatic response to what they described as targeted “specific attacks” affecting the health of U.S. diplomats.

The decision deals a blow to already delicate ties between the U.S. and Cuba, longtime adversaries who only recently began putting their hostility behind them. The embassy in Havana will lose roughly 60 percent of its U.S. staff, and will stop processing visas in Cuba indefinitely, the American officials said. Roughly 50 Americans are currently working at the embassy in Havana.

In a new travel warning to be issued Friday, the U.S. will say some of the mysterious attacks have occurred in Cuban hotels, and that while American tourists aren’t known to have been hurt, they could be exposed if they travel to Cuba. Tourism is a critical component of Cuba’s economy that has grown in recent years as the U.S. relaxed restrictions.

For now, the United States is not ordering any Cuban diplomats to leave Washington, another move that the administration had considered, officials said. Several U.S. lawmakers have called on the administration to expel all Cuban diplomats. In May, Washington asked two to leave, but emphasized it was to protest Havana’s failure to protect diplomats on its soil, not an accusation of blame.

Almost a year after diplomats began describing unexplained health problems, U.S investigators still don’t know what or who is behind the attacks, which have harmed at least 21 diplomats and their families, some with injuries as serious as traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss. Other symptoms have included fatigue, visual and balance problems, difficulty sleeping and dizziness.

Although the State Department has called them “incidents” and generally avoided deeming them attacks, officials …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

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