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U.S. makes Cuba embassy staff cuts permanent following mystery illnesses

WATCH ABOVE: Canada has no clue what made Cuba diplomats sick

The United States is making permanent its decision last year to withdraw 60 per cent of its diplomats from Cuba because of what the State Department calls “health attacks” affecting American diplomats.

READ MORE: Eight Canadians sickened in mysterious Cuba incidents, RCMP leading investigation

The U.S. State Department in October ordered non-essential personnel and all family members to leave Havana. That decision came amid unexplained illnesses that harmed at least 24 Americans.

In Canada, the RCMP is leading an investigation into what caused similar mysterious symptoms among Canadian diplomats and their families in Cuba over the past year. Eight Canadians stationed in Cuba are confirmed to have fallen ill, and three diplomatic families opted to return to Canada last summer over the situation.

By law, the State Department can only order diplomats to leave temporarily for six months before either sending them back or making the reductions permanent. The six months expire Sunday. So the State Department is setting a new, permanent staffing plan that maintains the lower staffing level.

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Family members accompanying diplomats will remain prohibited.

The State Department says the U.S. still lacks “definitive answers on the source or cause of the attacks.”

The level of staffing at the Canadian embassy in Havana has not changed in light of the mysterious circumstances.

— With files from Global News reporter Amanda Connolly

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