The decision announced Tuesday is certain to deepen the rift between the two countries over what the State Department has called “specific attacks” on US diplomats during the past 10 months. The United States has not blamed Cuba, which has denied any involvement and cooperated with FBI agents dispatched there.
“We are not assigning culpability,” said a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity under administration guidelines for briefing the media. The expulsions, the official said, aim to “underscore to the Cubans that they must take more actions to protect our people on the ground.”
The expelled Cubans, a list of whom were presented to the Cuban ambassador Tuesday morning, will have seven days to leave the country.
Last week, the State Department said it would pull more than half its personnel out of the US embassy in Havana, and they are expected to have departed by the end of the week.
Neither the FBI nor a separate Cuba investigation has been able to determine what and who is causing the maladies that have befallen at least 22 Americans stationed at the embassy, with symptoms ranging from hearing loss to cognitive disorders. They are believed to have been “targeted” either in their residences within compounds owned by the Cuban government, or in hotels.
The most recent incident occurred in late August, but some victims are still being diagnosed. Only Monday, the State Department confirmed an additional victim, who is believed to have been attacked in January.