WASHINGTON – Two diplomats serving at the Cuban permanent mission to the United Nations have been ordered to leave the United States for undermining US national security, the State Department said Thursday.
“After 2 members of Cuba’s UN mission engaged in activities harmful to U.S. national security, we asked them to leave the U.S.,” department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Twitter.
She also announced that the remaining members of the Cuban mission would be confined to the New York City borough of Manhattan, where UN headquarters is located.
“Members of Cuba’s UN mission are also restricted to stay in Manhattan,” Ortagus tweeted. “We take any & all attempts against the National Security of the U.S. seriously.”
The spokeswoman did not identify the diplomats ordered to leave and provided no specifics regarding the actions that prompted their expulsion.
Reaction from Havana to the move was not long in coming.
“I reject categorically the unjustified expulsion of 2 officials of Cuba’s Permanent Mission at the UN and the hardening of restriction of movement of diplomats and their families,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter.
He called the accusations against the Cuban diplomats “vulgar slander.”
The State Department acted with the intention to “provoke a diplomatic escalation that leads to the closing of the bilateral embassies, to make the blockade (US economic embargo) even harsher and to create tensions between the countries,” Rodriguez wrote in a subsequent tweet.
Personnel at Cuba’s UN mission and its embassy in Washington, like their counterparts at the US Embassy in Havana, already face limits on travel within the respective nations.
The Cuban UN mission currently comprises 16 people.
Since taking office in January 2017, President Donald Trump has undone much of predecessor Barack Obama’s policy of rapprochement with Cuba.
The Republican has intensified economic, diplomatic and political pressure on Havana with measures such as barring US cruise ships from making stops in Cuba, restricting travel and remittances and disrupting fuel imports to the island.