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US expels two Cuban diplomats to UN

THE US has expelled two Cuban diplomats from the UN Permanent Mission and has imposed movement restrictions on those remaining to the island of Manhattan.

But Cuba says the imputation that its diplomatic corps performed acts incompatible with their diplomatic status is vulgar slander.

Department of State spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, in a statement dated September 19, 2019, said Washington had informed Havana about the “required departure of Cuban diplomats from Cuba’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations”.

“The Department of State today [last Thursday] 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. This is due to their attempts to conduct influence operations against the United States,” stated Ortagus. “In addition to the required departures, travel within the United States by all members of Cuba’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations will now essentially be restricted to the island of Manhattan. 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.”

According to the State Department, the United States seeks a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people.

It says the US pursues limited engagement with Cuba that advances “our national interests and empowers the Cuban people while restricting economic practices that disproportionately benefit the Cuban government or its military, intelligence, or security agencies at the expense of the Cuban people.
It claims the US government seeks to promote human rights and democracy, encourages the development of telecommunications and the internet in Cuba, supports the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector and civil society, and engages in areas that advance the interests of the United States and the Cuban people.

On bilateral economic relations, Washington says although economic sanctions remain in place, the US is the largest provider of food and agricultural products to Cuba, with exports of those goods valued at $291 million in 2017 and $240 million from January to October in 2018 (latest data available).
It says the US is also a significant supplier of humanitarian goods to Cuba, including medicines and medical products.

“Remittances from the United States, estimated at $3.5 billion for 2017, play an important role in Cuba’s state-controlled economy,” the State Department adds. “Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited, and US federal regulations restrict travel to Cuba to licensed travelers engaged in certain specified activities. Anyone physically present in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations. Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) if their travel is authorised under a general license.”

Reacting to the expulsion, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez expressed Cuba’s firm rejection of the slanderous accusation and unjustified measure, which he said is part of the aggressive escalation of recent months against the Island.

“I categorically reject the unjustified expulsion of two officials of the Permanent Mission of Cuba at the UN and the tightening of the movement restriction to diplomats and families,” he said. “The imputation that they performed acts incompatible with their diplomatic status is vulgar slander.”

Rodríguez warned that the expulsion of the two diplomats and the increase in the restriction of movement to the rest have the objective of provoking a diplomatic escalation that leads to the closing of bilateral embassies, hardening even more the blockade and create tensions between both countries.
The expulsion of Cuban diplomats takes place as UN General Assembly, which brings together Heads of State and foreign ministers from around the world, is underway.

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