HAVANA – Cuba said on Tuesday that the US decision to expel 15 Cuban diplomats after sharply reducing the staff of Washington’s embassy in response to purported “acoustic attacks” on American personnel in Havana was both unfounded and politically motivated.
“The External Relations Ministry energetically protests and denounces this unfounded and unacceptable decision, as well as the pretext used to justify it by affirming that Cuba’s government did not adopt all appropriate measures to prevent the attacks,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at a press conference.
He criticized the US State Department for rushing to judgment in the absence of “conclusive investigative results.”
“The State Department has continued leaking ill-intentioned information for political motives,” Rodriguez said.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that the 15 diplomats were being expelled “due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention.”
Cuban official sources told EFE that the expulsions will leave only eight diplomats at the embassy in Washington.
Tillerson said that the US “will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks.”
Last Friday, the State Department ordered the withdrawal of most of its personnel from Cuba on grounds that it could not guarantee their safety.
Washington has raised to 22 the number of US personnel in Cuba who have experienced symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping.
Rodriguez said that, in response to repeated requests, Cuba allowed Washington to send US intelligence and law enforcement personnel to Havana on three separate occasions since June to investigate the mysterious illnesses.
“We gave them total cooperation, including the possibility of importing equipment, as a token of good will and of the great interest in the Cuban government in concluding the investigation,” the foreign minister said.
The preliminary findings of the US experts, according to Rodriguez, were that “evidence of the occurrence of the alleged incidents does not exist.”
He said that Cuban authorities will need “real-time” notification of incidents so they can act in a timely manner to protect US diplomats and their families.