Canada to halve staff at Cuba embassy after another diplomat falls ill

A big hit with Americans Havana’s historic colonial buildings. Cuba

A big hit with Americans Havana’s historic colonial buildings. , Image courtesy of Market One Media

The government of Canada announced on Wednesday that it will pull back half of its embassy staff in Havana after confirming that another Canadian diplomat is suffering from "unusual health symptoms".

Nearly 14 diplomatic staff have suffered from the unusual health symptoms in Havana. Twenty-seven Americans working at the United States' embassy in Havana also experienced similar symptoms in the same time frame, prompting the U.S.to permanently reduce its embassy staff by 60% in 2018.

"We have had close cooperation with the Cuban authorities since the health concerns of our employees posted in Havana first surfaced in the spring of 2017", the department said.

At that time, the Canadian government said that it had chose to allow embassy employees in Cuba to leave for Canada if they wished.

Unlike the USA government, which calls the incidents "attacks" and has blamed the Cuban government for failing to protect its diplomats, the Canadian government said in the statement that it maintains "a positive and constructive relationship" with Cuba.

United States staff have also been affected by the illness, which causes dizziness, nausea and difficulty concentrating.

However, Canada will still have an embassy in Havana headed by an ambassador and full consular services will be available to Canadians in Cuba.

The November incident was the first new Canadian case reported in months, leading to the decision to evacuate much of the remaining staff. Spouses and dependents left past year.

A senior Canadian government official said in the briefing that Cuba has been cooperating from the beginning and said Cuban officials are as frustrated as Canadian officials.

Vidal said there was no "evidence that might reveal any brain damage, or that may explain the varied symptoms reported, or that may indicate that these symptoms had occurred due to the stay of the affected diplomats in Cuba".

Canada is also among Cuba's top 10 trading partners, with Canada-Cuba trade totalling $US790 million ($1.08 billion) in 2017.

She said the decision will "not help find answers to the health symptoms reported by Canadian diplomats, and which will have an impact on the relations".

Canada has discounted the idea of a "sonic attack" being the cause - a theory previously put forward by the U.S. state department past year.

Canada has confirmed 14 cases of unexplained health problems since early 2017.

Ottawa is cutting the number of Canadian diplomats posted to the Canadian embassy in Havana, where Canadian diplomats and their families have experienced odd ailments since early 2017. The U.S. has not said what caused the incidents, although initial speculation centered on some type of sonic attack.

Global Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday that a 14th person has exhibited symptoms consistent with the others who have fallen ill.

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