The State Department has notified the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs that two of their diplomats connected to the United Nations Permanent Mission have engaged in actions that are harmful to the United States’ national security.
Both members were ordered to leave the country immediately, sparking outrage among the communist government just days before the annual U.N. General Assembly.
“The Department of State today notified the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the United States requires the imminent departure of two members of Cuba’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations for abusing their privileges of residence,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in statement.
“This is due to their attempts to conduct influence operations against the United States,” she said.
The State Department did not give further details concerning the actual offenses, nor did it release the names of the diplomats who’ve been ousted.
Relations between Cuba and the United States have been strained after numerous U.S. officials underwent sonic attacks while stationed on the island’s U.S. embassy.
Moreover, Cuba has been vocal about its support for Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro, ignoring the plight of the starving and wretched people.
Havana was furious with the removal.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez claimed the administration’s action were “unjustified,” saying on Twitter: “The imputation that they might have carried out actions incompatible with their diplomatic status is a vulgar slander.”
“The expulsion … has the aim of provoking a diplomatic spiral that would lead to the closure of bilateral embassies, further tightening of the (U.S.) blockade and creation of tensions between both countries,” he said.
Ortagus added that in addition to the expulsion, movements of other members of the Cuban delegation would “essentially” be limited to the island of Manhattan, preventing further national security threats.
“We take any and all attempts against the national security of the United States seriously, and will continue to investigate any additional personnel who may be manipulating their privileges of residence,” she stated.
Under the 1947 U.N. “headquarters agreement,” the United States is generally required to allow access to the United Nations for foreign diplomats. But Washington says it can deny visas for “security, terrorism, and foreign policy” reasons, though this provision is only invoked on a limited basis.
Over the decades, Washington and Havana, old Cold War foes, have engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats.
The Trump administration expelled 15 Cuban diplomats in September 2017 after sharply drawing down U.S. embassy staff in Havana over a mysterious affliction that Washington said had affected American personnel there.