Canada reduces staff in Cuba after another diplomat suffers ‘unusual health symptoms’

Canada reduces staff in Cuba after another diplomat suffers ‘unusual health symptoms’

Canada reduces staff in Cuba after another diplomat suffers ‘unusual health symptoms’

The Canadian government has reduced the number of its diplomatic staff in Havana by half after yet another person mysteriously fell ill since the last confirmed case in November, Global Affairs Canada said in a press release.

This latest case brings to 14 the number of Canadian diplomats and family members who have come down with unusual symptoms of what media have dubbed the "Havana Syndrome", including nausea, dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds, loss of balance, hearing and vision complications, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.

Canada has also shared information with the University of Pennsylvania, which has taken the lead in examining US diplomatic personnel and family members at the request of the State Department, officials said.

Cuban officials have offered their full cooperation in investigating the mysterious illness since the first cases surfaced in 2017, officials said.

Canadian public broadcaster CBC said just eight officials would be left at the embassy.

"A further reduction in the (Canadian embassy) footprint is deemed to be the appropriate response", an official told reporters, according to Reuters.

The Cuban ambassador to Canada, Josefina Vidal, said in a statement that Havana considered the country's decision "incomprehensible" given it would not help solve the mystery of the health incidents and would hurt bilateral relations.

Canadian authorities say they are getting good co-operation from the Cuban government, which is also frustrated by the incidents. There is also no evidence to indicate that the symptoms described by the diplomats developed during their stay in Cuba, Vidal said, noting that the move "fuels speculation and contrasts with the exchange held by both parties on the matter".

The remaining diplomats will deliver only essential consular services, following a downsizing in April that determined that diplomats posted to Cuba would not be accompanied by families and dependents due to the ongoing uncertainty.

"Canada has a positive and constructive relationship with Cuba", the agency said.

More than a million Canadians visit the island each year.

While most of the affected Canadian diplomats and their family members have been able to resume their normal activities, many are still struggling with the symptoms.

Canadian officials say they are co-operating fully with their American counterparts but refused to say whether the fact the Cubans and Americans aren't getting along is having an effect on the search for the mysterious cause.

The US withdrew most of its non-essential diplomatic staff in September 2017 but Canada did not.

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

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