US /

Tillerson: Diplomat Injuries in Cuba May Lead to Big US Move

Secretary of state says US Embassy there may be shuttered due to mystery 'incidents'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2017 2:15 PM CDT
Tillerson: Diplomat Injuries May Shut Down US Embassy in Cuba
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks as he and Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hold a press conference after their meeting on Libya in London on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

No one knows what's injuring US diplomats in Havana, not even (ostensibly) Raul Castro. And so Rex Tillerson said on Sunday's Face the Nation that the US government is considering closing the US Embassy there in response to this "serious issue," per the AP. "We have it under evaluation," the secretary of state noted. There have been 21 US diplomats and relatives with confirmed health issues so far, including concussions, hearing loss, and headaches, and the US says more cases may emerge as the probe continues. Those affected have reported feeling vibrations or hearing sounds before their symptoms began, while others didn't notice anything at all initially. The AP notes closing the embassy would be a "devastating blow" to the "warming relationship" between the US and Cuba, jump-started in 2014 by then-President Obama and Castro after a 50-year deep freeze.

Reuters reports the US, Cuba, and Canada have all been trying to figure out exactly what the "incidents," as the US State Department calls them, are (Tillerson himself has used the term "health attacks") and who's behind them, but to no avail. Cuba has denied involvement and said it, too, wants answers. Other perpetrator possibilities the US is considering: a different state entity or members of Cuba's security forces acting on their own. Besides asking for the embassy to be shut down, some US lawmakers, including Sens. Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, want further repercussions, such as booting Cuban diplomats from the US completely; the Washington Post notes two Cuban diplomats have already been kicked out of the embassy in DC. "Cuba's neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged," Cotton said in a Friday letter to Tillerson from five GOP senators. (More Cuba stories.)

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