US expels 15 Cuban diplomats

World Today

FILE – In a Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 file photo, staff stand within the United States embassy facility in Havana, Cuba. The terrifying attacks in Cuba overwhelmingly hit U.S. intelligence operatives in Havana, not ordinary diplomats, when they began within days of President Donald Trump’s election, The Associated Press has learned. To date, the Trump administration largely described the victims as U.S. Embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community,” suggesting it was bona fide diplomats who were hit. That spies, working under diplomatic cover, comprised the majority of the early victims adds an entirely new element of mystery to what’s harmed at least 21 Americans over the last year. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)

The United States has given Cuba a list of 15 of its diplomats that must leave the U.S. within seven days.

A State Department official says the U.S. is “expelling” the Cuban diplomats. But the U.S. isn’t declaring them “persona non grata,” a designation that would prevent them from ever returning.

The official says the U.S. isn’t blaming Cuba for attacks on Americans in Havana and is maintaining diplomatic relations. But the official says the decision was taken because Cuba has failed to protect American diplomats on its soil.

The official also says that the American diplomats the U.S. is withdrawing from its embassy in Havana will be out of Cuba by the end of this week. The official briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is working to “ensure equity” between the United States and Cuba by kicking out 15 of its diplomats.

Tillerson is defending his decision to order Havana to withdraw the diplomats. He says the decision was made “due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats.” He’s referring to unexplained attacks in Havana that have harmed at least 22 American government workers and their family members.

Tillerson says the U.S. is maintaining diplomatic relations and will cooperate with Cuba while the investigation continues. 

He says that move is needed to “minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm.”

Story by the Associated Press.