Friday, 20 October, 2017

The US-Cuba Diplomatic Relationship Might Be Headed For A Breakup

Rex Tillerson meets Cuban Foreign Minister over illness of US diplomats US to withdraw embassy staff from Cuba
Christy Curtis | 30 September, 2017, 00:25

The embassy in Havana will lose roughly 60 percent of its US staff, and will stop processing visas in Cuba indefinitely, the American officials said. Further, the US will stop issuing visas within the country, "effective immediately". The northern neighbour has long had normal diplomatic relations with Cuba, unlike the USA whose relationship was marked by decades of political estrangement, mass migration and ongoing economic sanctions that have opened a sliver in recent years.

Since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015, Cuba and the US have been working together in areas including law-enforcement cooperation against drug-trafficking and human smuggling. "We must be careful that our response does not play into the hands of the perpetrators of these attacks, who are clearly seeking to disrupt the process of normalizing relations between our two countries".

The partial evacuation, while depicted as safety measure, may send message of US displeasure over Cuba's handling of the matter and deliver another blow to former President Barack Obama's policies of engagement with Cuba.

"Shameful", tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants. There is an ongoing investigation, but at the moment it is unknown who is behind the attacks and what is the source that causes the health problems.

The step taken today is not a break or a change in existing diplomatic ties with the island, with which the United States resumed relations in 2015 after more than 50 years with them broken.

One source said the State Department had to overcome strong "bureaucratic" resistance among supporters of Obama's rapprochement to take the dramatic step of reducing staff at the US embassy in Havana to emergency personnel only.

The partial evacuation is set to deliver another blow to former US President Barack Obama's policies of engagement with Cold War foe Cuba. After a review, the State Department has chose to pull all of its nonessential personnel (that is, more than half) from Cuba.

Cotton says it was "foolish of Obama to open his arms to such a brutal, Marxist regime". "We sent them articles stating that diplomats are getting attacked by this sonic whatever it is".

Cotton says the Trump administration should expel accredited Cuban diplomats from the United States.

On Friday afternoon, the Department of State posted on its website that "over the past several months, numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks" suffering "significant injuries".

The department said that the staff drawdown was necessary to ensure their safety.

During a speech at the UN General Assembly last month, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez took the opportunity to emphasize that Havana did not know what was harming U.S. diplomats. Tillerson says the USA will continue cooperating with Cuba on the investigation.

A USA official earlier told reporters that for the foreseeable future, any bilateral meetings between US and Cuban officials would take place on American soil, not Cuban. But he says that because the USA doesn't know the cause or source of the attacks, it can't advise people on how to protect themselves.

The State Department's actions will not only include scaling back by 60 percent its embassy staff and a halt on processing all visas in Cuba, but will also see a travel warning issued to Americans about visiting the island, according to the Associated Press.

US officials say 21 USA diplomats and family members have been afflicted by health problems of unknown origin, including hearing loss, dizziness and nausea. The U.S. citizen's services department, CNN noted, was already closed while repairs were being made following Hurricane Irma.

While U.S. officials said Cuba is still cooperating with the investigation, they stressed that the probe has produced little usable information that could help protect Americans staying there.

The US embassy in Havana was reopened in 2016 and it appears that the US will not close it.

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