U.S. Expels Cuban Diplomats for Threatening National Security

Two members of Cuba's UN mission ordered to leave US
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of State announced on Thursday it had expelled two diplomats representing Cuba at the United Nations for activities that were harmful to American national security, including “influence operations.”

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus described the two individuals as “abusing their privileges of residence.”

The Cuban communist regime called the move a “vulgar calumny” orchestrated by the “reactionary, anti-Cuban” Trump administration. Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs debuted a “report” attacking the United States for its trade sanctions on the regime on Friday, in anticipation for next week’s U.N. General Assembly general debate.

“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,” Ortagus said in a statement. “This is due to their attempts to conduct influence operations against the United States.”

Ortagus did not name the individuals expelled from the country, but did say that all Cuban regime operatives at the U.N. mission “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,” her statement concluded.

The Cuban regime has for decades abused the few diplomatic ties it is allowed in the United States for espionage and anti-American activities. In perhaps the most prominent modern example of Cuban spies threatening national security, a group of agents known as the “Cuban five” infiltrated the Cuban exile community in Miami and gave Havana intelligence that allowed the Castro regime to kill four Americans. The men – Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales – were flying legal rescue missions in international waters when Castro agents shot their planes down; the “Cuban five”‘s intelligence gave the Cuban military the information necessary to find the planes.

Despite being a gross violation of international law, the Cuban government suffered no consequences for the murders. President Barack Obama freed the “Cuban five” to a hero’s welcome in Havana in 2014. Gael García Bernal is currently starring in a film glorifying the work the spies did to kill the Americans.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX) issued an outraged tweet in response to the expulsion.

“I categorically reject the unjustified expulsion of two officials at the Permanent Mission of Cuba at the U.N. and the hardening of restrictions of movement on diplomats and families,” Foreign Ministry Bruno Rodríguez said on Twitter. “The implication that they committed acts incompatible with their diplomatic status is a vulgar calumny.”

Rodríguez held a press conference Friday where he claimed he found out about the expulsion through a U.S. diplomatic tweet. He claimed the move triggered “absolute and energetic rejection from our people, our ministry, and our government.”

“It is totally unjustified and illegitimate to strongarm our diplomats,” he complained.

Rodríguez went on to call the Trump administration “a reactionary, anti-Cuban group that has hijacked American foreign policy on Cuba and Latin America” and accused Trump of lashing out at Cuba for “electoral interests” – implying that strengthening national security defenses would help Trump win the 2020 election.

The Permanent Mission to the U.N. representing Cuba put out its own statement denying any wrongdoing, then admitting that American officials had notified it that the two individuals in question were caught engaging in damaging acts to U.S. national security on September 12, about a week before any statements on Twitter to that effect.

“The note said that, unless Cuba lent information to justify [their behavior] otherwise, they [the U.S.] would ask for the necessary planning to occur for the departure of the two officials and their families within 48 hours, before the end of the day on September 20,” the statement read.

The mission claims to have responded with their explanation for the officials’ behavior, “but the U.S. side, in flagrant violation of the basic principles of diplomatic protocol, decided to respond in a tweet.”

The expulsions are acts of “vengeance and impotence,” the mission concluded.

The diplomatic scuffle comes on the eve of a week of debate at the U.N. General Assembly, where most of the world’s heads of state are invited to take the floor and talk about whatever they want. America grants dictators and international criminals who hold head of state status immunity to attend the event, resulting in leaders like Miguel Díaz-Canel – who is not the head of state of Cuba, but nonetheless holds the title of “president” – addressing the assembly last year to bash America for “imperialism.”

Following a speech in which President Donald Trump urged the world to reconsider socialism, Díaz-Canel contended that the world’s horrors were “the consequence of capitalism, especially imperialism and neoliberalism, of the egoism and exclusion that accompany this system, and of an economic, political, social, and cultural paradigm that privileges that accumulation of wealth in few hands at the cost of exploitation and misery of the masses.”

While in New York, Díaz-Canel enjoyed a star-studded welcome organized by Robert Do Niro and concluded the trip with a night of salsa dancing.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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