Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez criticized the Trump administration for ordering Cuba to withdraw 15 officials from its recently reopened embassy in Washington, D.C. State Department officials said the diplomats have seven days to leave the country.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly protests and condemns this unfounded and unacceptable decision, as well as the pretext used to justify it,” Rodriguez said during a news conference on Tuesday. “It is the second time that the U.S. government reacts in a hasty, inappropriate and unthinking way without having any evidence.”
The State Department announced the expulsion Tuesday morning in response to a string of unexplained attacks that harmed at least 22 Americans stationed in Havana with symptoms such as dizziness, hearing loss and brain injuries. The attacks also prompted the State Department to announce that it will withdraw all non-emergency staff from the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
“The decision was made due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. “This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations.”
Rodriguez said there is no evidence tying Cuba to the mysterious attacks on U.S. diplomats and that the decision to expel Cuban diplomats has an “eminently political character.”
“Cuba has never perpetrated, nor will it ever perpetrate, attacks of any sort against diplomatic officials or their relatives,” Rodriguez said.
Investigators have not yet determined who or what is behind the attacks, which officials say may have started last November. Rodriguez accused the U.S. of not cooperating in the investigation and pushed back against suggestions that Cuba allowed a third-party nation to commit the attacks.
“Neither has [Cuba] ever allowed, nor will it ever allow, its territory to be used by third parties with that purpose,” he said.