Cubans, Americans in Havana bewildered by diplomatic spat

The Cuban national flag is seen raised over their embassy in Washington DC

The Trump administration ordered the expulsion of 15 officials from Cuba's embassy in Washington over the government's failure to protect 22 USA citizens who were subjected to a series of unexplained health attacks in recent months.

"I think the conversations have focused on the Cuban government's responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of diplomatic personnel that they host in their country, " the officials said.

The FBI did not find any devices in the diplomats' homes or hotels where they were staying and are still investigating who was behind the attacks and the type of weapon that was used, two senior United States officials have said.

In Friday's travel warning urging Americans not to visit Cuba, the State Department confirmed earlier reporting by the AP that USA personnel first encountered unexplained physical effects in Cuban hotels.

According to the New York Times, the symptoms of United States diplomats and their families included hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance and vision problems, headaches, fatigue, cognitive problems and difficulty sleeping.

The US State Department said on Tuesday that it had chose to send home 15 Cuban diplomats, noting that the diplomats have been given seven days to leave the United States.

The remaining personnel will carry out core diplomatic and consular functions, including providing emergency assistance to USA citizens in Cuba.

The investigation started in February, and intelligence experts told one of the congressional intelligence committees that ultrasound, infrared, or even Xray machines could have been used in the attacks, but they also said they were not sure about that information.

The State Department has not disclosed the size of its mission in Cuba.

"The more we escalate tensions with Cuba, the harder it will be to solve this mystery", said Daniel Erikson, a Latin America specialist in the Obama White House and now a managing director of Blue Star Strategies, a consulting firm.

At the same time, Washington stopped short of severing diplomatic ties with the island, restored in summer 2015.

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Cuba's Embassy in Washington did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The State Department also expelled two Cuban diplomats in May over the incidents.

Newsweek and the New York Times report that the USA has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the attacks, and is considering further retaliatory steps.

CNN reported in August that the attacks, which began in November and ended this spring, left some embassy personnel with mild traumatic brain injury; two might have permanent hearing loss. Cuba has vociferously denied any responsibility for the attacks and even allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to come investigate.

The State Department hasn't blamed the Cuban government for the attacks but says Cuba should be responsible for taking steps to prevent them.

Havana has pledged to continue to investigate and the USA will assist in the effort, Tillerson said.

The federal official, who said that there are 21 USA diplomats who had health problems, reiterated today that the reasons for those events are still unknown.

According to a senior federal official, the US measure was based on the health incidents reported by USA embassy officials in Havana, but stressed that it does not mean a change of policy toward the Caribbean country or assignment of responsibilities for those acts.

According to the White House, a spate of attacks over the past year that has damaged the health of 22 Americans, in addition to several Canadian diplomats.

For those staying and new arrivals, the United States has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress.

Remember the diplomatic triumph that was the decision of Barack Obama and John Kerry to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, despite the communist dictatorship agreeing to absolutely nothing in the realm of human rights improvements or more responsible global behavior?

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