Staffing cuts permanent following ‘health attacks’ in Cuba

  • In this Oct. 3, 2017 photo, tourists ride a classic convertible car on the Malecon beside the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba. The United States said Friday it was making permanent its decision last year to withdraw 60 percent of its diplomats from Cuba, citing the need to protect American personnel from what the State Department called “health attacks” that remain unexplained. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan) Desmond Boylan

Associated Press
Friday, March 02, 2018

Citing mysterious “health attacks” in Havana, the United States said Friday it was making permanent its withdrawal of 60 percent of its diplomats from Cuba as investigations continue.

Last October, the State Department ordered non-essential embassy personnel and the families of staff to leave Havana, arguing the U.S. could not protect them from unexplained illnesses that have harmed at least 24 Americans. By law, the department can order diplomats to leave for only six months before either sending them back or making reductions permanent.

The six months expire Sunday. So the department said it was setting in place a new, permanent staffing plan that maintains a lower level of roughly two-dozen people — “the minimum personnel necessary to perform core diplomatic and consular functions.” The department also said that the embassy in Havana would operate as an “unaccompanied post,” meaning diplomats posted there will not be allowed to have spouses or children live with them in the country.

Cuba has repeatedly denied either involvement in or knowledge of any attacks.