US expels 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington

World Today

A worker carries cardboard inside the compound of the United States embassy in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. The United States issued an ominous warning to Americans on Friday to stay away from Cuba and ordered home more than half the U.S. diplomatic corps, acknowledging neither the Cubans nor America’s FBI can figure out who or what is responsible for months of mysterious health ailments. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Tensions are escalating between the United States and Cuba. Washington is now expelling 15 Cuban diplomats from the U.S. This is in response to the mysterious attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana.

CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports from the Cuban Embassy in Washington.

After the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba a little more than two years ago, the Cuban Embassy in Washington was the site of celebration. Now, Cubans are packing up.

Washington ordered 15 Cuban diplomats out of the country Tuesday morning, in the latest sign of escalating tensions between these two former Cold War rivals.

A U.S. State Department official said Washington gave Havana a list of the people it wants to leave this embassy, and seven days to get out.

“That decision was made due to Cuba’s inability to protect our diplomats in Havana as well as ensure equity in the impact of our respective operations,” said Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.

Since late last year, Americans in Cuba have complained of unexplained health effects including hearing loss, dizziness and cognitive impairment. The State Department said 22 people have required medical attention.

The Associated Press is reporting that some of the victims were U.S. spies.

Last week, non-essential American personnel were pulled from the U.S. mission in Cuba and the Embassy stopped processing visas. Washington also warned American travelers from visiting Cuba.

Cuba denies any role in the incidents and Washington has stopped short of blaming Havana directly for the so-called sonic attacks.

Havana called Washington’s order a “hasty” and “unwarranted act.”

“The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations strongly protests and denounces this unfounded and unacceptable decision, as well the pretext being used to justify it,” Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Minister said.

The foreign minister went on to accuse the U.S. of politicizing the matter – and warned that already-shaky relations between Havana and Washington could be strained further.