By Bill Varner | Bloomberg
United Nations, May 13 (Bloomberg)—The U.S. is expelling 14 Cuban diplomats assigned to the United Nations and a Washington office in retaliation for Fidel Castro’s crackdown on dissidents, a U.S. official said.
The U.S. mission to the UN sent a letter to the Cuban mission yesterday telling seven diplomats to leave for engaging in “activities deemed harmful’’ to the U.S., according to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified. In Washington, seven diplomats in the Cuban Interests Section in Switzerland’s embassy have been told to leave, the official said.
The U.S. official didn’t identify the diplomats. Armando Amieva Dalboys, a spokesman for Cuba’s mission to the UN, had no comment. Cubans work in the Swiss Embassy in Washington because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Cuba.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said April 28 that the U.S. was weighing possible measures against Cuba for its crackdown. Powell didn’t specify what steps may be taken against the country he described as an “aberration’’ in the Western Hemisphere.
“We’re reviewing all of our policies and our approach toward Cuba in light of what I think is a deteriorating human rights situation within Cuba,’’ Powell told reporters.
At least 75 opposition members who were arrested last month have been tried and sentenced, with some receiving prison terms of 25 years, the State Department says.
In addition, three men who attempted to hijack a ferry to the U.S. on April 2 were executed.
New Restrictions Considered
The UN directory says the Cuban mission has a staff of 37.
The U.S. is considering new restrictions on U.S.-based Cuban diplomats as it completes a review of its policy with the communist country, other U.S. unnamed officials said, Agence France-Presse reported today.
The results of the review are likely to be released May 20, the anniversary of Cuban independence, AFP said.
The Bush administration has said it may consider suspending a migration agreement with Cuba that was negotiated eight years ago and cutting off an estimated $1 billion a year that Cuban- Americans send to family members on the island, the Washington Post reported last week. An additional option is a ban on direct flights to Cuba, the New York Times has reported.
The condemnation occurs as U.S. food sales to Cuba increase under a law that was implemented in December 2001.
Castro’s government accused the dissidents of acting against the state and collaborating with a foreign power. Cuba says the U.S. is fomenting opposition.
Powell said the actions prove Cuba’s isolation.
Cuba an `Aberration’
“I hope the whole world will now see this regime for what it is, a regime that is one of the last of its kind on the face of the earth, and really is an aberration in the Western Hemisphere,’’ Powell said.
Castro’s policies have left the nation “economically mismanaged,’’ Otto Reich, U.S. special envoy to Cuba, said during a conference of the Council of Americas, a trade-promotion group. Cuba is the only nation in the hemisphere that has seen a decline in the last 40 years in food consumption, as measured by calories per person, he said.