Trump admin set to expel 60 percent of Cuban diplomats

People gather outside the Cuban embassy in Washington, DC. (File photo)

The administration of US President Donald Trump is reportedly preparing to expel nearly two-thirds of embassy staff in Cuba, days after cutting down the number of US diplomats in the Caribbean country due to mysterious health “attacks.”

Washington was going to officially relay the request to Havana on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported citing government officials.

The new development follows the US government’s decision on Friday to halve its staff at the American embassy in Cuba, an issue that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed on health concerns for diplomatic staffers posted to Havana.

At least 21 US embassy staff have fallen ill over the past few months as a result of what Tillerson said were attacks of an unknown nature.

Those affected have exhibited physical symptoms including dizziness, headache, fatigue, hearing loss, difficulty sleeping and cognitive issues.

‘No punishment’

The unnamed US officials said the move was in no way a punishment for Havana and the Trump administration only wanted to ensure both countries have a similar number of diplomats in their capitals.

The US will formally ask Cuba to pull the diplomats but will not forcefully expel them unless the Cuban government turns down the request, according to government sources.

The move would further undermine a short-lived thaw between the two sides which was achieved under former US President Barack Obama in 2015 which seemingly ended a half-century of hostility.

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Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for the Americas, has firmly denied her country’s involvement in the attacks and has warned that the “hasty” drawdown would “affect bilateral relations.”

"Cuba has never perpetrated nor will it ever perpetrate actions of this nature, and has never permitted nor will it ever permit any third-party use of its territory for this purpose," she said at a meeting on law enforcement cooperation in Washington last week.

US spies among first ‘victims’

Meanwhile, a separate report by the AP on Monday revealed that American spies in Cuba were among the first victims of the alleged attacks.

The intelligence agents, who were working under diplomatic cover, first reported hearing strange noises that caused even stranger physical issues, individuals familiar with the situation told the news agency.

Apparently, the bizarre incidents began shortly after Trump won the 2016 presidential election.

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