5 senators push for Cuba embassy closure, expulsion of diplomats

5 senators push for Cuba embassy closure, expulsion of diplomats
A group of hard-line Republican senators are urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to demand Cuba take action against alleged attacks on American diplomats or shut down the US embassy in Havana.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and four other GOP senators sent a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Friday, calling on the State Department to “immediately declare all accredited Cuban diplomats in the United States persona non grata and, if Cuba does not take tangible action, to close the US Embassy in Havana.”

All the signatories, Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), John Cornyn (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On Friday, the State Department announced the US and Cuba held a Law Enforcement Dialogue in Washington, DC, where the two countries discussed the incidents affecting diplomatic personnel at the US Embassy in Havana.

The letter comes after claims that US government personnel were targeted by what they call “acoustic’ attacks.” The senators claim the attacks “have caused permanent hearing damage and other significant injuries” to the diplomats.

Cuban president Raul Castro has denied any responsibility for the diplomats’ ill health and invited the FBI to Havana to conduct their own investigation, according to AP.

“The safety of US diplomatic personnel and their families posted overseas remains one of our high priorities and a shared responsibility of those nations that host US diplomatic facilities,” the senators wrote. “Cuba's neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged.”

When asked about the report during a department press briefing Thursday, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert could not confirm if the diplomats in question had been subjected to a “health attack,” as Tillerson previously stated.

Nauert said 21 people have been affected by what she referred to as “incidents,” adding that diplomats are currently being medically evaluated and treated. She said an investigation is being conducted with the cooperation of the Cuban government.

“Look, the reality is we don’t know who or what has caused this, and that’s why the investigation is underway,” Nauert said, according to the State Department. “It is an aggressive investigation that continues, and we will continue doing this until we find out who or what is responsible for this.”

On Thursday, the AP reported of US diplomats have been hearing “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping” sounds, which were confined to certain parts of their rooms with “laser-like specificity.”

Also in August, a US doctor reportedly diagnosed certain American and Canadian diplomats stationed in Havana with mild traumatic brain injury and likely damage to the central nervous system, according to CBS News, citing exclusively obtained medical records.

In July, senators Cotton and Rubio also requested Tillerson not to recertify the Iran nuclear deal, saying that the agreement would not be in the national security interests of the US.