US Embassy in Havana permanently sticking with skeleton staff after attacks

US Embassy in Havana permanently sticking with skeleton staff after attacks
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The State Department announced Friday that the U.S. Embassy in Cuba will be staffed at its lowest possible levels following a spate of mysterious attacks that left some diplomats with minor brain damage.

The decision will make permanent, starting Monday, staffing cuts the Trump administration made at the Havana embassy last fall.

The embassy was operating under “ordered departure status,” a temporary status the State Department uses under “extraordinary circumstances when the embassy or consulate is no longer confident of the security of its personnel and families.”

Under the new staffing rules, diplomats in Cuba will no longer be allowed to bring their families along with them. 

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American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba reported symptoms, including dizziness, nausea and loss of hearing, going back as far as 2016. Ultimately, 24 American diplomats — out of a staff of 50 — were treated for similar symptoms.

The reports set off an investigation of so-called sonic attacks, but the cause of the symptoms has not yet been identified.

According to a report by Univision and ProPublica, most diplomats and their families requested to stay in Cuba, despite the purported attacks.

A group of 35 diplomats and spouses wrote the State Department in September, asking to stay.

“We understand that there may be unknown risks. We ask that the Department give us the opportunity to decide for ourselves whether to stay or leave,” read their letter.

The symptoms have been tied to high-pitch noises heard in the diplomats' homes starting in 2016.

The Cuban government has denied any involvement with the attacks.

The State Department said it still has no “definitive answers” regarding the source of the attacks, but will continue investigating.

“The health, safety, and well-being of U.S. government personnel and family members are of the greatest concern for Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson and were a key factor in the decision to reduce the number of personnel assigned to Havana,” read a release by the department.