BY REYNOLD RASSÍ | Granma daily staff writer

THE decision to arbitrarily expel 14 Cuban diplomats from the United States – a decision based on lies and slander – is yet another provocation by the U.S. government with the aim of provoking a crisis and fomenting a confrontation between the two countries, stated Florentino Batista González, vice consul at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and the first of the group to return home Monday, May 19.

The 32-year old diplomat, accompanied by his wife Olga Leon, was received at the Jose Martí International airport by relatives and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a statement to the national press, he commented that the vicious decision to expel seven diplomats from the Cuban mission to the UN and a further seven from its Interests Section in Washington on the crude pretext that they were engaged in activities incompatible with their work, is nothing more than a fresh escalation of aggression against our country and an attempt to damage the prestige of Cuban diplomacy; a diplomacy that is dignified and honorable wherever our homeland is represented in the world.

He explained that the U.S. press merely reflected the arguments and lies of its own government and failed to investigate the truth behind the decision. Some channels have already echoed statements by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations that there was no evidence of alleged espionage activities on the part of the Cuban diplomats and that their departure was the result of a political decision by the State Department.

He condemned this as an act of revenge against the island and against the five Cuban heroes unjustly imprisoned in U.S. jails, because the diplomats had visited them, helped them with legal formalities and maintained excellent relationships with them. He added that the five compatriots were courageous men with great dignity and humane sensitivity. “The greatest memory and gift for me during my time in the United States is having got to know them. They are worth any sacrifice,” he added.

He also spoke of Cuba solidarity groups within the United States that have expressed support for the diplomatic staff and the Cuban people and mentioned how, prior to the attempt by the Miami mafia to stage counterrevolutionary demonstrations, these groups had taken to the streets surrounding the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to defend the diplomats and the Revolution.

“If only one Cuban diplomat remains in the United States and at the UN, our people will be present, internationally defending our rights and the truth, ” he concluded.

The other Cuban diplomatic personnel expelled from the United States will arrive home over the next few days.