Canadian diplomats leave Havana amid mystery illness

Children's shadows are cast on a Cuban national flag as they take part in a caravan tribute marking the 56th anniversary of the original street party that greeted a triumphant Castro and his rebel army in Regla Cuba Thursday Jan. 8 2015

Canada announced Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, it is removing up to half of the Canadians at its embassy in Cuba after another diplomat was found to have fallen mysteriously ill.

"In addition to revised security measures already initiated by the Canadian government, we have made a decision to reduce by up to half the number of Canadian staff posted to Havana", the release said on Wednesday.

In April 2018, Global Affairs deemed the Havana post as "unaccompanied", meaning the family members were not allowed to join diplomats in the country.

A senior Canadian government official said in a briefing for journalists that the latest case involves a diplomat who arrived at the Caribbean island in the summer and reported symptoms on December 29.

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".

The fact that a recently arrived diplomat reported symptoms underscores the likelihood that the undiagnosed ailment that has afflicted Canadian and American diplomats is still a threat.

This latest case brings to 14 the number of Canadian diplomats and family members who have come down with odd symptoms of what has been dubbed "Havana Syndrome". The official said recent confirmed cases demonstrate that these incidents are still ongoing.

While the embassy would remain open and continue to provide full consular services, some functions could be affected in the future, senior Canadian officials told journalists.

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Dr. Michael Hoffer and other doctors from the University of Miami who first treated the US diplomats - as well as specialists from the University of Pennsylvania who continued their treatment - said they have seen physical evidence of the injuries and reject the theory that this might be a case of mass hysteria.

The Cuban Government has been cooperating with a Canadian investigation into the cause of the illnesses, which has not been determined.

In Canada, the RCMP continues to lead a government-wide probe into the cause of the health symptoms, which officials conceded Wednesday still remains unknown. She said the reduction also would help "those who in the United States use this issue to attack and denigrate Cuba".

After recording over two dozen, still unexplained cases of illness, the USA embassy reduced personnel to a skeleton staff and stopped providing services to Cuban citizens who must now go to third countries for visa interviews.

Canada has a positive and constructive relationship with Cuba.

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

A Canadian official said government officials are working closely with USA officials. The Canadian official said they have no information to indicate a cause or what might or who might be behind it.

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