Cuban Diplomats Expelled from DC Embassy

The Trump administration has ordered the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats after pulling more than half of its own embassy staff out of Havana last week, further escalating tensions between the United States and Cuba.

USA secretary of state Rex Tillerson had earlier said that kicking out 15 Cuban diplomats would "ensure equity".

"This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations", the statement continued.

"We have underscored repeatedly to the Cuban government its responsibility for the safety, wellbeing, security and protection of our diplomatic staff under the Vienna Convention in Havana", the state department official said.

The attacks, initially described as emanating from some sort of acoustic device, have affected at least 22 USA embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.

The department said symptoms include hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.

The steps taken by President Donald Trump's administration mark another blow to his predecessor Barack Obama's policy of rapprochement between Washington and Havana, former Cold War foes. The US will formally ask Cuba to pull the diplomats, but won't expel them forcefully unless Havana refuses, the officials said.

USA officials had previously refrained from calling it "attacks", instead using the vague language of "incidents".

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We will also continue with our own investigation, added the State Department representative, who stressed that such decisions do not represent a determination of guilt. "What it does is require the Cuban government to be able to fulfill their obligations with the safety and well being and protection of foreign diplomats in their country".

The Cuban diplomats being expelled will not be deemed "persona non grata", officials said, a designation that would prevent them from ever returning to USA soil.

The official maintained that despite the U.S. moves, Washington was not assigning "culpability" to Cuba's Communist Government.

The U.S. Department of State ordered 15 Cuban officials from the embassy in Washington, D.C., to leave the country.

Last week, the State Department removed most of its staff from the US embassy in Havana, unable to guarantee residents' safety.

Before full diplomatic relations were restored in 2015, Cuba had about two-dozen accredited staffers at what was then called the Cuban interests section, according to a State Department list. Officials have said there was still no evidence of the source of the attack.

Cuba, the United States and Canada have investigated the attacks, but the probes have not yielded any answers about how they were carried out or who was responsible.

Several Cuban-American Republican lawmakers, including US Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, had urged that Cuban diplomats be kicked out in retaliation for the Cuban government's failure to get to the bottom of the attacks.

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