The Cuban Embassy in the United States is seen in Washington D.C., the United States, on Oct. 3, 2017. The U.S. government Tuesday announced it has asked for the departure of 15 Cuban diplomats from the Cuban embassy in Washington in response to mysterious "attacks" that led to the recall of some U.S. embassy staff in Havana. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that the U.S. decision to expel 15 diplomats from the island's mission in Washington is "unfounded and unacceptable."
In a press conference at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and broadcasted live on national TV, Rodriguez said that the measure announced by the U.S. government, without conclusive investigative results or evidence on the incidents affecting its officials in Cuba, is "arbitrary and directed to political objectives."
The U.S. decision is a "political reprisal," using the pretext that the Cuban government did not take all the appropriate measures to prevent the alleged incidents suffered since November 2016 by U.S. officials on the island, he said.
The Trump administration expelled 15 diplomats from the Cuban Embassy in Washington on Tuesday, as a response to unexplained illnesses afflicting 22 American staff from its embassy in Havana.
Last week, the U.S. government decided to reduce its personnel staff in Havana to a minimum group of 27 people, to carry out possible emergency services for Americans on the Caribbean island.
The decision of the U.S. State Department was meant to compel Cuba to operate its embassy in Washington under the same emergency conditions as the United States operated its in Havana.
So far, 22 Americans working at the embassy in Havana have been confirmed to be suffering from physical debilitations.
The foreign minister regretted that the measure has been "rushed," since the investigation has not been concluded and so far, neither Cuban nor American experts have found evidence to indicate who is responsible for the alleged incidents. ' "This new measure by the Trump administration will not affect only the diplomatic ties, especially the cooperation on issues of mutual interest, and exchanges of various kinds, but also hundreds of thousands of Cubans living on both sides of the Florida Straits," Rodriguez said.
He emphasized that Cuba has no responsibility in the alleged attacks, nor does it own or is familiar with the technology that has been speculated to have caused the damage to the American diplomats.
Cuba's top diplomat ratified that the island's government has never allowed, nor will, the use of its national territory for acts against any state or its representatives.
He said that since the alleged attacks became known, protection measures were reinforced for U.S. diplomats, their families and residences.
New communication channels have been set up and a committee of experts made up of police, medical and scientific authorities has been created for a comprehensive analysis of the facts.
"However, the data provided continued to lack descriptions or details that would ease the characterization of the facts or the identification of possible perpetrators, if there were any," Rodriguez said.
The minister said that highly qualified Cuban experts have not been allowed to visit the residences where the attacks allegedly took place, nor have Cuban doctors and scientists been allowed access to the affected personnel or the staff treating them in the United States.
Rodriguez reiterated Cuba's willingness to continue the investigations into these events "under any conditions," and called for more active and efficient cooperation by U.S. authorities.
Last week U.S. Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, who favors the relations with the island, said that the "punitive measures would only play into the hands of the attackers."
"Whoever is doing this obviously is trying to disrupt the normalization process between the United States and Cuba, someone or some government is trying to reverse that process," said Leahy.
In 2015 Cuba and the United States restored their diplomatic relations that were broken off 54 years ago due to ideological differences, but the current U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to roll back what he called a "terrible and misguided deal" with Havana.