The United States will remove most diplomatic staff from its embassy in Cuba as part of a major withdrawal of personnel following mysterious ‘sonic’ attacks, it was reported on Thursday.
The Trump administration decided to undertake preparations for a large-scale withdrawal after Washington did not come away convinced that the Cuban government was doing everything it could to protect American diplomats in Havana, CBS News reported.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met this week with his Cuban counterpart, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at the State Department in Washington.
The meeting apparently did little to sway the administration from its original plan to call back most of its diplomatic staff after 21 reported incidents of diplomats and their families experiencing symptoms ranging from headaches, nausea, hearing loss, balance issues, and cognitive impairment.
The Cuban government apparently asked for the meeting between Tillerson and Rodriguez.
A statement released by the Cuban government about the meeting includes a denial that the attacks even took place.
The United States will remove most diplomatic staff from its embassy in Cuba as part of a major withdrawal of personnel following mysterious ‘sonic’ attacks, it was reported on Thursday. The US Embassy in Havana is seen in the above stock image
‘The Cuban government has never perpetrated nor will it ever perpetrate attacks of any kind against diplomats,’ it read.
‘The Cuban government has never permitted nor will it ever permit the use of its territory by third parties for this purpose.
‘There is no evidence so far of the cause or the origin of the health disorders reported by the US diplomats.’
On the same day of the Tillerson-Rodriguez meeting, sources familiar with the investigation said that the Trump administration does not believe Cuba is responsible for the attacks against US embassy staff.
‘No one believes that the Cubans are responsible,’ a source familiar with the investigation told McClatchy on Tuesday.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington on Tuesday.The meeting apparently did little to sway the administration from its original plan to call back most of its diplomatic staff
‘All of the evidence points that they’re not.’
There is no word yet as to who the Americans believe is responsible for the attacks.
Cuba urged the United States last week to cooperate with its investigation into the incidents that the US says have harmed its diplomats in Havana and not to politicize the matter, days after Washington said it was considering closing its Cuban embassy.
In an address to the United Nations General Assembly, Rodriguez said the top level of the government in Havana had ordered an investigation into the mysterious matter, which threatens the fragile detente between the old Cold War foes.
However, a Cuban government source told Reuters that the United States had provided no evidence of the harm, including hearing loss, dizziness and nausea, that it says US diplomats and their relatives based in Havana have suffered.
Cuban doctors had also not been allowed to examine anyone, the source said. A spokesman for the US embassy in Havana declined to comment.
‘The investigation to clarify this issue continues, and in order to be able to arrive to a conclusion, it will be crucial to count on the cooperation of the US authorities,’ Rodriguez told the UN.
‘It would be unfortunate if a matter of this nature is politicized,’ said Rodriguez.
Cuba has denied any involvement in the affair.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was among five Republican senators that a week ago called for President Donald Trump to retaliate against Cuba by expelling its diplomats and possibly shuttering the US embassy in Havana.
Rubio helped forge Trump’s new Cuba policy, rolling back parts of the detente achieved under Democratic former President Barack Obama and taking a harder line on the Communist-run island.
Cuba’s state-run media this week said the only party interested in a deterioration in relations were a small group of Republicans led by Rubio.
The US government in August first officially confirmed they were investigating the incidents it said began in late 2016.
Several Canadians were also affected, a Canadian official said, further deepening the mystery.
Some of those had returned home for testing and treatment, the US official said, while others had been tested in Cuba, where the embassy has a full-time medical officer.
Investigations by Cuba, the United States and Canada have yet to come up with any answers.
Experts agree it is hard to see how any attacks could have been carried out or what the motivation could be.
Theories abound, from surveillance technology gone awry to a sophisticated acoustic weapon in the hands of Cuban-American exiles or third-party state actors such as Russia, Iran or North Korea, but most flounder.
Audiologists for example have raised doubt over the possibility of whether any sonic weapon exists that can be used covertly to bring about the range of symptoms mentioned by diplomats.