U.S. makes downgrade of embassy in Havana permanent

U.S. makes downgrade of embassy in Havana permanent HAVANA, march 24th The Trump administration Friday ordered a permanent reduction in U.S. personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, the most significant step yet in reversing former President Obama’s efforts to restore full diplomatic ties with Cuba.

In response to a string of mysterious ailments reported by two dozen American officials or their relatives stationed in Havana, the State Department last year ordered a temporary transfer out of Cuba of most key personnel and their families.

Friday’s order makes the staff reduction permanent by declaring Havana an “unaccompanied post,” meaning no families are permitted, and by assigning only “the minimum personnel necessary to perform core diplomatic and consular functions.” The statement did not give a number, but it’s believed to be fewer than 30, the same size as the skeleton staff that has been working in the mission since the first departures were ordered.

The cause of the ailments, whose symptoms included hearing loss and were said to be related to strange high-pitched sounds or changes in pressure, remains unknown.

Engage Cuba, a private U.S. organization that advocates for more travel, trade and cultural exchanges with the island, said the decision was “deeply disappointing” and would be celebrated by Russia and China, eager to take advantage of Cuba’s upcoming historic leadership change while “the United States remains on the sidelines.”

Next month, Raul Castro will step down as president and Cuba will be governed by a person not named Castro for the first time in 58 years. Under Obama, the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic, political and some economic ties in 2015, ending a half-century of Cold War-era hostilities.
But President Trump has vowed to reverse the rapprochement.