WASHINGTON – The United States said on Friday it would continue to maintain a minimum level of staff at its embassy in Cuba due to alleged health attacks affecting diplomatic personnel.
The State Department said in a statement that a September 2017 order requiring the departure of non-emergency US government employees would expire on Sunday and that a “new permanent staffing plan” would take effect on Monday.
“The embassy will continue to operate with the minimum personnel necessary to perform core diplomatic and consular functions, similar to the level of emergency staffing maintained during ordered departure,” the statement added.
“The embassy will operate as an unaccompanied post, defined as a post at which no family members are permitted to reside,” the department said.
On Sept. 29, 2017, the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to the US Embassy in Havana, saying the move was necessary because 21 diplomatic employees had “suffered a variety of injuries from attacks of an unknown nature.”
“The affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms, including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping,” it said then.
The US also expelled 17 Cuban diplomats from Washington and advised American citizens not to travel to the Communist-ruled island even though a joint investigation – including the participation of the FBI on the ground in Havana – found no evidence the illnesses resulted from any hostile acts.
“We still do not have definitive answers on the source or cause of the attacks, and an investigation into the attacks is ongoing,” the State Department said Friday.
Bilateral relations have soured because Washington accuses the Cuban government of knowing who perpetrated the alleged attacks between November 2016 and August 2017 and doing nothing in response.
Cuba’s government denies the allegations.
The State Department said for months that acoustic attacks had caused the injuries.
But on Jan. 9 the agency said investigators also were looking into other potential causes, including the possibility of a viral attack.
The State Department also said in late January that since issuing the travel warning 19 Americans who visited the island as tourists had reported suffering the same symptoms experienced by the US diplomats.