The United States expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington in an escalating response to mysterious illnesses afflicting American embassy personnel in Havana.
The expelled embassy personnel must be out of the United States within seven days. By then, the American embassy in Havana will have completed its own drawdown.
The expulsions were intended to force the Cubans to operate their embassy in Washington under the same emergency conditions that the United States is now operating under in Havana.
The Trump administration decided last week to pare its staff in Havana down to a skeletal group of just 27 people who can carry out emergency services.
An official of US State Department said that the Cuban government would need to give a clear assurance that the attacks would not continue before the personnel in either embassy could return.
The expulsions represent yet another step in the administration’s gradual unwinding of the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba, a reopening welcomed by much of Latin America and Europe — but criticised by many Cuban émigrés from Florida and elsewhere.
In a briefing with reporters Tuesday morning (local time), US State Department officials said that the Cuban ambassador in Washington was informed of the expulsions.
The actions are in retaliation for a worrisome series of illnesses that began affecting American diplomats and their spouses last December. By late January, the administration had realised that the illnesses were related and may have resulted from some sort of attack, perhaps by a sonic device, toxin or virus. The United States has not announced an exact cause nor cast blame.