Mystery Illness Leads Canada to Pull Half of Cuba Embassy Staff

(Bloomberg) -- Canada will remove up to half its diplomats from Havana after another employee showed signs of contracting a mysterious illness.

The new case of “unusual health symptoms” brings the total number of Canadian embassy staff members and their family affected to 14, the foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. U.S. diplomats in Cuba have also developed a similar illness and reduced their staff in the country.

“We have had close cooperation with the Cuban authorities since the health concerns of our employees posted in Havana first surfaced in the spring of 2017,” the department said.

The symptoms include dizziness, headaches and trouble concentrating. There is no evidence that other Canadians traveling to Cuba are at risk, the government said.

“Canada will continue to have an embassy in Havana, Cuba, headed by an ambassador,” the department said. “Full consular services will be available to Canadians in Cuba. However, some other programs may be adjusted in the coming weeks.”

The decision means as many as eight people will be removed, according to a Canadian government official briefing reporters Wednesday on condition they not be named.

Canada is Cuba’s third largest trade partner, with about C$934 million ($707 million) in merchandise goods exchanged in 2017. The figures, compiled by Statistics Canada, don’t include money spent by Canadians who vacation on the island.

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