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The Latest: Americans advised to stay away from Cuba

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he walks to Marine One as he departs the White House, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Washington. Trump is en route to Bedminster, N.J.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
September 29, 2017 - 6:06 PM

WASHINGTON - The Latest on the U.S. policy on Cuba (all times local):

9 p.m.

The United States is warning Americans to stay away from Cuba and has ordered more than half the U.S. diplomatic corps to come home.

The actions follow months of mysterious health ailments afflicting U.S. diplomats in Havana.

The Trump administration has shifted to calling the episodes "attacks" rather than "incidents."

The U.S. actions are sure to rattle already delicate ties between the longtime adversaries. The U.S. Embassy in Cuba will lose roughly 60 per cent of its American staff and will stop processing visas for prospective Cuban travellers to the United States indefinitely. Roughly 50 Americans had been working at the embassy.

President Donald Trump says "they did some very bad things" that harmed U.S. diplomats in Cuba, but he isn't saying who means by "they."


5:30 p.m.

A House Democrat is deriding the State Department's decision to withdraw the bulk of its diplomatic staff from Cuba as a "dramatic overreaction."

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts says the move is the latest example of a White House "with a stunning ignorance on how to best conduct foreign policy."

He says keeping American diplomats safe is always the top priority for the United States. McGovern says he supports catching and punishing whoever is responsible for a series of mysterious "sonic" attacks that have left U.S. diplomats with hearing loss and speech problems.

But McGovern says the drawdown will make it harder for Cuban and American families to travel back and forth. He's warning against a return to "the failed Cold War isolationist policies that divided families for 50 years."


4:30 p.m.

Sen. Marco Rubio says it's "an insult" that the Trump administration is withdrawing more than half of the U.S. diplomats in Havana without ordering Cuban diplomats to leave the U.S.

The Florida Republican is a vocal critic of Cuba's government. He tells the Associated Press the Trump administration's steps to date are not a good start.

The U.S. ordered most staff to leave amid a string of unexplained health "attacks" that have harmed 21 Americans.

Rubio says if the U.S. can't keep diplomats safe, it should remove all of them.

He says it doesn't make sense that the U.S. has been forced to withdraw staff while Cuba gets to maintain its full roster of diplomats. He says Cuba's envoys travel freely throughout the U.S. spreading "propaganda" and "misinformation."


3:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says some "very bad things" happened to American diplomats who were harmed by unexplained health "attacks" in Cuba.

Trump is offering his first public comments on the attacks that have harmed at least 21 American diplomats and their families. He responded to a shouted question before departing the White House, hours after the State Department announced it is pulling more than half its diplomats out of Havana.

Trump says there was a "big problem" in Cuba. He says "they did some very bad things." But he's not specifying who he believes is responsible.

The United States has avoided directly accusing Cuba of perpetrating the attacks. Investigators have also considered whether a third country or a rogue faction of Cuba's security forces might be to blame.


3:40 p.m.

A Canadian government official says Canada has no plans to follow the U.S. lead and remove embassy staff or warn Canadians against travel to Cuba.

The official says Canada doesn't have a reason to believe there is a risk posed to its diplomats or Canadian visitors to Cuba. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

Between March and May, between five and 10 Canadian households in Cuba were hit with symptoms including nausea, headaches and nosebleeds. There have been no attacks on Canadians since.

The Canadians tested some of their staff in Havana and recalled others home temporarily.

Cuba has no obvious grievances with Canada. The two countries have close ties.

— Rob Gillies in Toronto


2:50 p.m.

Cuba says the U.S .decision to reduce staffing at its Havana embassy, to stop issuing visas and to warn Americans against Cuba travel is "precipitous" and will damage bilateral co-operation.

Cuba's head of U.S. affairs is Josefina Vidal. Vidal says Friday's announcement "will particularly affect co-operation in the mutual interest of both countries and the diverse exchanges taking place between Cuba and the U.S."

Since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015, Cuba and the U.S. have been working together in areas including law-enforcement co-operation against drug-trafficking and human smuggling.

Vidal says Cuba wants to continue co-operation with the U.S. to "clear up these incidents."


2 p.m.

Sen. Bob Menendez says he told you so. The New Jersey Democrat is praising the Trump administration's decision to withdraw diplomatic staff from the U.S. embassy in Havana, after the Cuban government failed to ensure it could protect them.

Menendez is the son of Cuban immigrants. He says that "Cuba remains as repressive today as ever" and the U.S. shouldn't let Havana's "disregard for basic human security" affect Americans serving abroad.

Menendez has been a leading voice against efforts to improve relations with Cuba. He praised President Donald Trump's rollback of President Barack Obama's plan to re-establish diplomatic relations.

The senator says the U.S. should never have been in a position where it had to trust Cuba's "authoritarian and deceitful regime."


1:25 p.m.

A senator says the State Department's decision to withdraw large numbers of its staff from the U.S. embassy in Havana demonstrates just how "untrustworthy and malicious" the Cuban government is.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas also is criticizing former President Barack Obama for seeking to normalize ties between the two former Cold War rivals. The United States and Cuba reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after a half-century of estrangement.

Cotton says it was "foolish of Obama to open his arms to such a brutal, Marxist regime."

U.S. diplomats in Havana have suffered hearing loss and speech problems in a series of mysterious "sonic" attacks.

Cotton says the Trump administration should expel accredited Cuban diplomats from the United States.


12:30 p.m.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. embassy in Havana will keep only emergency personnel working there until Cuba can ensure the U.S. that its diplomats are safe.

Tillerson says in a statement that the decision to pull out roughly 60 per cent of the embassy staff was "to ensure the safety of our personnel."

He says the U.S. continues to have diplomatic relations with Cuba that advance U.S. interests and national security. Tillerson says the U.S. will continue co-operating with Cuba on the investigation.

The secretary says the U.S. has no reports that private American citizens were affected by the attacks. But he says that because the U.S. doesn't know the cause or source of the attacks, it can't advise people on how to protect themselves.


12:20 p.m.

The United States has issued an official travel warning that urges American citizens not to visit Cuba.

The State Department's warning says numerous workers at the U.S. Embassy in Havana have been targeted in "specific attacks." The warning says attacks occurred in residences and hotels that Americans frequently visit. The State Department says it believes U.S. citizens may be at risk if they visit, even if they aren't diplomats.

The travel warning says that symptoms experienced by those affected by the attacks include hearing loss, cognitive issues, trouble sleeping, fatigue, headache, dizziness and ear complaints.

The U.S. is also warning citizens that the government will have limited ability to help them if they travel to Cuba. That's because the U.S. is withdrawing most of its diplomats in Cuba in response to the attacks.


9:31 a.m.

Senior U.S. officials say the United States is pulling roughly 60 per cent of its staff out of Cuba and warning American travellers not to visit due to "specific attacks" that have harmed U.S. diplomats.

The officials say the U.S. is ordering all nonessential staff in the embassy in Havana to leave, along with all family members. Only "emergency personnel" will remain.

The U.S. is also warning American citizens they could be harmed if they travel to Cuba. A State Department travel warning will note that attacks on diplomats have occurred in hotels.

The officials say the U.S. is halting visa processing in Cuba indefinitely. They say the steps will remain until Cuba can assure the U.S. its diplomats are safe.

The officials weren't authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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