In the latest blow to the already shaky relationship between the United States and Cuba, the government is warning Americans against traveling to the Caribbean nation and is ordering 60% of the U.S. embassy personnel to leave the island.
The measures are being taken in the wake of a series of mysterious “sonic attacks” against the embassy in the past year, which have left at least 21 people hurt. The perpetrators and the cause of the attacks remain unknown, despite an in-depth investigation by the FBI. (Other experts have argued that the “attacks” might have been accidental, due to some faulty surveillance devices or sonic weapons.) Those affected suffered significant injuries, ranging from dizziness and hearing loss to cognitive issues.
The State Department is asking all “non-essential” personnel and their respective families to leave the island for the time being. Since only emergency staff will remain in the country, routine visa functions for Cubans seeking to travel to the United States will no longer be conducted on the island. Instead, Cuban nationals will need to apply for visas at embassies in other countries.
The department is also extending an advisory warning to American citizens who travel to Cuba because some of the incidents took place in hotels where U.S. staff were temporarily staying. No tourist has been harmed yet, so the warning is a preventative measure.
“We have no reports that private U.S. citizens have been affected, but the attacks are known to have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. “The Department does not have definitive answers on the cause or source of the attacks and is unable to recommend a means to mitigate exposure.”
The Cuban government has denied being involved in the incidents, and it’s unclear how pulling back the embassy staff and issuing the travel warning might affect its delicate relationship with the U.S.
Back in June, Trump reversed many of the Obama administration’s policies on Cuba, restoring some travel and economic restrictions that had been lifted by his predecessor as part of diplomatic re-engagement between the two countries.
“America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors,” Trump said at the time. “They are rejected officially today — rejected.”
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