Canadian diplomats leave Havana amid mystery illness

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The government of Canada announced on Wednesday that it will pull back half of its embassy staff in Havana after confirming that another Canadian diplomat is suffering from "unusual health symptoms".

According to the foreign Ministry of Canada, from the beginning of 2017 confirmed 14 cases of a mysterious disease among the Embassy staff and their families. Twenty-seven Americans working at the United States' embassy in Havana also experienced similar symptoms in the same time frame, prompting the U.S.to permanently reduce its embassy staff by 60% in 2018.

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

Cuba is a favorite tourist destination for Canadians and the Canadian government said there is no evidence of any related ailments among Canadian travelers.

That would bring the number of Canadian diplomats in Cuba to eight, down from 16, officials said.

The US embassy in Cuba had previously cut staffing after its own diplomats suffered mysterious illnesses, which some US officials initially thought were the result of "sonic weapons" that emitted a powerful beam of energy causing neurological problems, reports CNN.

Josefina Vidal, Cuba's ambassador in Canada, issued a statement saying her Government considered the move "incomprehensible", but "Cuba remains committed to keeping the good state of bilateral relations".

Medical testing after the reappearance of unusual symptoms in November saw a 14th Canadian affected.

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Media reports at the time said some of the U.S. diplomats suffered permanent hearing loss and possible brain injuries due to a sonic weapon.

The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the incidents. She said the reduction also would help "those who in the United States use this issue to attack and denigrate Cuba".

"Over all, we have a multifaceted relationship with Cuba, which is very positive and continues", another official said.

Confirmation of a new case in November prompted a visit by high-level Canadian delegation to assess the situation in Havana and meet with Cuban officials.

Canada has discounted the idea of a "sonic attack" being the cause - a theory previously put forward by the U.S. state department past year.

In this April 17, 2018 file photo, a man walks beside Canada's embassy in Havana, Cuba.

Vidal noted that Cuban officials have been closely cooperating with their Canadian counterparts, providing all available evidence and their best experts to determine the root cause of the illness.

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.

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