Cuba's Foreign Ministry has denounced the United States' expulsion of 15 of its diplomats from the island nation's embassy in Washington "due to Cuba's failure to take appropriate steps" "to protect its diplomats in Havana, over alleged "health attacks" against embassy staff.
"Cuba strongly protests and denounces this unfounded and unacceptable decision, as well as the pretext used to justify it," Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said during a press conference in Havana.
In August, the state department said that 22 U.S. embassy staff and five Canadians in Havana experienced unusual audio disturbances. According to a statement, this measure "will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations." The diplomats were given seven days to leave the U.S. capital.
Rodriguez said there was no evidence of the alleged incidents, nor of their causes or origin, adding that no suspects had been identified.
In addition, Rodriguez said Cuba has always complied with its responsibilities as part of the Vienna Convention for diplomatic relations. "The Cuban government has never perpetrated nor will it ever perpetrate attacks of any kind against U.S. diplomats or against its relatives," Rodriguez said.
The diplomat said the U.S. acted without evidence, and the decision will mean a regression in bilateral relations now and in the future, "provoking an unwanted escalation of the conflict between both nations."
He said he had urged U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to make rash decisions without evidence.
Rodriguez said Cuba had implemented additional security measures to protect U.S. officials after the allegations, by reinforcing security measures, opening new channels of communication, and creating a committee of experts, doctors, police, scientists to investigate.
He said the reports were being handled by the highest level of the Cuban government and an investigation was underway.
Last week, the United States government announced it would remove about 60 percent of government staff from its embassy in Cuba and issue a travel advisory for U.S. citizens. The remaining 40 percent of employees who will remain in Havana are "emergency personnel" only.
According to the website The Hill, an official confirmed the expulsions will ensure “equitable staffing levels” while still allowing the embassies to operate, but didn't confirm if the percentage of Cubans expelled will match the U.S. staff that remains in Cuba.
The Miami Herald said, that according to their sources, the 15 expelled diplomats represent two-thirds of the embassy staff in Washington.