WASHINGTON — The Latest on attacks on U.S. officials in Cuba (all times local):
Cuba says it allowed U.S. investigative agencies to work on the ground in its country for the first time in more than 50 years as part of the investigation into attacks on American diplomats.
Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is detailing its efforts to help in a lengthy statement responding to the Trump administration’s decision to expel 15 Cuban diplomats.
The ministry says U.S. “specialized agencies” visited Havana three times: in June, August and September. The U.S. has said the FBI is leading the investigation.
Cuba says during the second and third visits, it let the U.S. import special equipment and granted access to all facilities. The statement also says new, faster communications channels have been opened between the U.S. Embassy in Havana and Cuba’s Diplomatic Security Department.
Cuba’s foreign minister says Washington’s response to mysterious attacks on its diplomats has been “irresponsible” and “hasty.”
Bruno Rodriguez says at a press conference in Havana that his government fulfills all its obligations toward foreign envoys.
He spoke Tuesday after the U.S. government expelled 15 of Cuba’s diplomats to protest its failure to protect Americans from the unexplained attacks.
Last Friday, Washington issued a travel warning for the island and said it was reducing by about 60 percent its diplomatic staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
Rodriguez criticized what he called “unilateral, unfounded decisions” by Washington.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is working to “ensure equity” between the United States and Cuba by kicking out 15 of its diplomats.
Tillerson is defending his decision to order Havana to withdraw the diplomats. He says the decision was made “due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats.” He’s referring to unexplained attacks in Havana that have harmed at least 22 American government workers and their family members.
Tillerson says the U.S. is maintaining diplomatic relations and will cooperate with Cuba while the investigation continues. But he says his decision to withdraw 60 percent of U.S. diplomats from the embassy in Havana will remain in effect until Cuba can ensure that American diplomats there are safe.
He says that move is needed to “minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm.”
The United States has given Cuba a list of 15 of its diplomats that must leave the U.S. within seven days.
A State Department official says the U.S. is “expelling” the Cuban diplomats. But the U.S. isn’t declaring them “persona non grata,” a designation that would prevent them from ever returning.
The official says the U.S. isn’t blaming Cuba for attacks on Americans in Havana and is maintaining diplomatic relations. But the official says the decision was taken because Cuba has failed to protect American diplomats on its soil.
The official also says that the American diplomats the U.S. is withdrawing from its embassy in Havana will be out of Cuba by the end of this week. The official briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.
Officials say the United States has confirmed another victim of the mysterious attacks plaguing U.S. personnel in Cuba, raising the total to 22 Americans.
The Trump administration previously had spoken of 21 medically confirmed cases.
The U.S. officials say the additional case will be announced later Tuesday.
It’s unclear when the latest victim was attacked.
The officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
U.S. officials say the Trump administration plans to ask Cuba to withdraw 60 percent of its diplomats from Washington in response to last week’s U.S. move to cut its own embassy staff in Havana by a similar amount.
Only days ago, the United States and Cuba maintained dozens of diplomats in newly re-opened embassies in Havana and Washington. The embassies were powerful symbols of a warming relationship.
But now both countries are poised to cut their embassies by more than half following uncanny, unexplained attacks threatening delicate ties between the Cold War rivals. It’s been less than three years since the U.S. and Cuba renewed diplomatic relations.
The U.S. says at least 21 American government workers in Havana have been attacked. Some have symptoms involving hearing, cognition, balance and vision.