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US Gives 15 Cuban Diplomats One Week to Leave Embassy in DC
January 19 2018, 01:46 | Alonzo Simpson
AP sources: US spies working under diplomatic cover in Havana among the first and most severely affected by attacks
Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, an outspoken critic of the Havana regime, has demanded that, until those responsible for the attacks are found, Washington should expel the same number of Cuban diplomats as Americans it is pulling from Havana.
Speaking to reporters in Havana, Rodriguez said Cuba was strongly protesting the expulsions and that the United States was not providing sufficient information to Cuban investigators. Most of the departing diplomats would leave Cuba by the end of the week, a United States official said.
The official would not get into what action Washington expected Havana to take, given the inscrutable nature of the attacks. This week's decision to cut Cuban diplomats in the U.S.is a direct response to that move, according to the AP.
A State Department official said the number of expulsions was selected to make sure the US and Cuban embassies have "equitable staffing levels" while investigations continued into the unexplained "health attacks". It also stressed that the latest announcements do not mean it believes the Cuban government is behind the unexplained attacks.
Though the incidents stopped for a time, they recurred as recently as late August. That person was the victim of an attack in January.
The state department said 22 of its personnel had been affected, an increase of one since Friday.
The United States is kicking out 15 of Cuba's diplomats in a row over alleged attacks on USA staff in Havana.
Now what had been hoped was a historic opening is backsliding to an era of mutual suspicion and recrimination.
Routine US visa operations in Havana have been suspended indefinitely, and US officials have urged Americans to refrain from visiting the island.
Cuban officials have said they are disappointed with the USA measures, which sent Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to Washington last week in a futile attempt to dissuade Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from employing them.
Pressed on this point, the State Department official said it was Cuba's responsibility under global law to ensure the wellbeing of US diplomatic personnel, and not on the United States to outline criteria.
That designation would prevent them ever from returning. He could not, however, explain how the Cubans could offer those assurances if it has not been determined how the injuries were caused or when it may be deemed safe for diplomats to return.
The department said symptoms include hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.
"This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations", the statement continued. "It is not for us to outline a set of criteria to ensure that environment".
As many as 50 attacks are believed to have been carried out against the diplomats, a senior U.S. official has told CNN. "We can no longer expose them to the environment down there".