The U.S. State Department has announced the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats from the island nation’s embassy in Washington “due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps” to protect its diplomats in Havana, over alleged “health attacks” against embassy staff.
In August, the department said that 22 U.S. embassy staff and five Canadians in Havana experienced unusual audio disturbances.
“The Cuban government has never perpetrated nor will it ever perpetrate attacks of any kind against diplomats,” said the Cuban government in a statement at the moment.
According to the state department, this measure “will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations.” The diplomats were given seven days to leave the U.S. capital.
Last week, the United States government announced it would remove about 60 percent of government staff from its embassy in Cuba and issue a travel advisory for U.S. citizens. The remaining 40 percent of employees who will remain in Havana are “emergency personnel” only.
According to the Hill, an official confirmed the expulsions will ensure “equitable staffing levels” while still allowing the embassies to operate, but didn’t confirm if the percentage of Cubans expelled will match the U.S. staff that remains in Cuba.
The Miami Herald said, that according to their sources, the 15 expelled diplomats represent two-thirds of the embassy staff in Washington.
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez is expected to speak on this decision this afternoon.
Rodriguez had met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss the reported attacks and said that Cuba had implemented additional security measures to protect U.S. officials.
He said the reports were being handled by the highest level of the Cuban government and an investigation was underway.