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U.S. appoints new top official at Havana embassy as tensions flare
October 26, 2017 / 10:57 PM / 24 days ago

U.S. appoints new top official at Havana embassy as tensions flare

HAVANA (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it had designated career diplomat Lawrence Gumbiner as the new chief of its Cuba embassy that has been at the center of a diplomatic crisis due to allegations of mysterious health attacks on its personnel.

A car with tourists drives past the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The previous charge d‘affaires, Scott Hamilton, left Cuba earlier this month after Washington ordered the evacuation of all non-essential staff and all relatives, in order to remain with his family.

Gumbiner will arrive at a time of heightened tensions between the old Cold War foes.

While the United States has not formally accused Cuba of carrying out what it says are attacks that have caused hearing loss and cognitive issues in its diplomats, U.S. President Donald Trump said last week Havana was responsible. [nS0N1MD016]

In an interview with Reuters, Cuban government officials accused him this week of slandering their country. [nL2N1MZ2CH]

The tensions over the attacks, some of which involved high-pitched sounds, came after Trump said in June he wanted to partially roll back the historic detente between the United States and Cuba, ordering tighter restrictions on travel and trade with the island. These have yet to be unveiled. [L3N1JD40J]

Gumbiner, a lawyer, has served for the past three years as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, according to the website of the U.S. embassy in Havana.

Before that, he was deputy permanent representative at the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States. He has previously held embassy positions in Bogota, Tel Aviv and San Jose.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Sandra Maler

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