Published: Sat, March 03, 2018

U.S. makes Cuba embassy cuts permanent after 'health attacks'

U.S. makes Cuba embassy cuts permanent after 'health attacks'

The statement said the department still does not have "definitive answers" on the source or cause of the attacks and that an investigation continues.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had ordered most staff except for emergency personnel to leave the embassy in September. "On Monday, March 5, a new permanent staffing plan will take effect".

The United States is making permanent its decision previous year to withdraw 60 per cent of its diplomats from Cuba because of what the State Department calls "health attacks" affecting American diplomats.

The embassy would now operate as an unaccompanied post, it said, meaning diplomats would not be permitted to move there with family members.

"Perhaps the biggest losers will be the hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Cuban Americans, who travel back and forth to see family, celebrate milestones, and attend to sick relatives, since we are unable to properly process visas and facilitate travel", said Williams.

The mysterious case has sent U.S. -Cuba relations plummeting from what had been a high point when the two countries, estranged for a half-century, restored full diplomatic ties under President Barack Obama in 2015.

Cuba's communist government has denied that it had anything to do with any attack on USA personnel. The United States has not accused Cuba of such action but has said Havana holds responsibility nonetheless, arguing that such incidents could not have occurred on the small, communist-run island without the knowledge of Cuban officials.

Though the U.S. government has not blamed the Cuban government for such attacks, Secretary Rex Tillerson said that he holds Cuba to be responsible for allowing continuing the health attacks.

In late 2016, U.S. Embassy personnel began seeking medical care for hearing loss and ear-ringing that they linked to weird noises or vibrations - initially leading investigators to suspect "sonic attacks".

Relations already suffered when President Donald Trump announced changes in United States policy towards Cuba in June previous year, which included a hardening of the embargo and putting greater limitations on the trips of United States citizens to the island. "Various descriptions were given: "a high-pitched beam of sound"; an "incapacitating sound"; a "baffling sensation" akin to driving with the windows partially open in a vehicle; or just an intense pressure in one ear", said Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, the State Department's medical director, at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere in January.

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