Relations between the United States and its neighbor Cuba are hanging by a thread. On Tuesday, the Department of State notified the Cuban Government of its decision to remove 15 diplomats from the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an official press statement that “the decision was made due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention.”
The order to remove these 15 Cuban diplomats will ensure equity in staffing. The United States requested more than half its diplomats and their families (non-emergency embassy staff) to return from the island on September 29. This followed a strange series of “acoustic” attacks on US and Canadian diplomats that have been happening since late 2016.
These unusual incidents have led to a variety of severe medical symptoms. As reported by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), “US diplomats experienced serious damage to their health as a result of these attacks. Diagnoses include mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss, with such additional symptoms as loss of balance, severe headaches, cognitive disruption and brain swelling.”
The mystery surrounding these attacks
The State Department said they still don’t have a definitive explanation on the source or motivations of these attacks. However they are now confident that U.S. officials were indeed targeted in Cuba.
The Cuban Government has denied being behind any events that targeted U.S. diplomats or embassy staff. The Cubans are also investigating this issue. They encouraged United States officials and the FBI to investigate those incidents together.
One of the theories that US investigators are looking at is that this could have been an “acoustic attack” caused by sonic devices.
The U.S. is not blaming Cuba
Despite these attacks happening on Cuban soil, the investigators don’t believe that the Cuban government is directly involved. Instead, they are looking at other countries that have diplomatic compounds in Cuba, like Russia, Syria, and North Korea.
Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was clear; diplomatic relationships with Cuba must go on. “We continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks.” Mr. Tilerson said in the official press statement.