After mysterious “attacks”, the United States repatriates half of its diplomatic personnel to Cuba

After mysterious “attacks”, the United States repatriates half of its diplomatic personnel to Cuba

The mystery of the “attacks” on the health of American diplomats in Cuba has still not been elucidated, but the United States recalled Friday “more than half” of the staff of their embassy, ​​at the risk of further weakening their relations with Havana.

After mysterious

The mystery of the “attacks” on the health of American diplomats in Cuba has still not been elucidated, but the United States recalled Friday “more than half” of the staff of their embassy, ​​at the risk of further weakening their relations with Havana.

Among the other measures announced by the State Department, three days after a meeting in Washington between the heads of American and Cuban diplomacy, Rex Tillerson and Bruno Rodriguez: the granting of routine American visas to Cuba is “suspended for a indefinite period ”and the on-site trips of US government officials will be limited, for the time being, to the needs of the investigation into this troubling affair.

Finally, the United States also called on its nationals to avoid going to this very touristy Caribbean island because of the risks associated with these “attacks”, which have so far affected 21 embassy employees in diplomatic residences. American but also in “hotels frequented by American citizens”.

Five Canadian families are also affected.

“As long as the Cuban government cannot ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be limited to essential personnel in order to minimize the number of diplomats exposed” to possible future “attacks”, explained Mr. Tillerson in a statement. communicated.

Non-essential staff, as well as all families of employees, are repatriated.

Proof that the enigma is far from being solved, the embarrassment is obvious when it comes to qualifying these “attacks”. The State Department previously spoke of “incidents” having caused several “symptoms” without specifying which ones, and Rex Tillerson had once referred to “attacks on the physical integrity” of diplomats.

The idea of ​​“acoustic attacks” or by “acoustic harassment”, used in particular by a union of the American diplomacy, has not been officially confirmed and the American administration is held on Friday to denounce “precise attacks ”,“ Targeted ”but of“ an unknown nature ”.

– ‘Significant injuries’ –

“These employees suffered significant injuries as a result of these attacks”, including hearing loss, dizziness, headaches as well as cognitive problems, balance or sleep, said a senior official in the department. ‘State. Some had to be repatriated for treatment in the United States.

However, the investigation has yet to identify the cause or perpetrators of these “attacks” and will continue “aggressively,” Tillerson promised.

The Secretary of State therefore did not go so far as to close the embassy – one of the options he said he was studying – and took care to confirm in his press release the maintenance of diplomatic relations with Cuba, presenting the reminder of diplomats as a preventive measure to protect them.

But his decision may still not please the Cubans, who had called not to “politicize” this affair. Havana has always denied any role in these incidents and its Minister of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed this week that the Cuban government “strictly fulfills its obligations under the Vienna Convention” which governs the protection of diplomatic personnel.

The United States has once again taken care not to blame the Cuban authorities directly as being able to be at the origin of this affair and underlines that they cooperate with the American investigators.

But Washington holds Havana responsible for the security of its diplomats. As such, two Cuban diplomats were discreetly expelled from the United States in the spring in retaliation.

This mysterious case was not revealed until later, in early August, but the first “physical symptoms” were reported in late 2016.

The climate was already tense between the United States and Cuba. The two countries, longtime enemies, only restored diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than half a century of rupture.

But the situation had deteriorated again with the election of Republican Donald Trump to the White House, which hardened the tone against Havana, dealing a blow to the rapprochement initiated by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

The perpetrators of the “attacks,” whoever they are, are clearly trying to undermine the normalization process between the United States and Cuba, “Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said on Friday.

(With AFP)