The US State Department is expected to order nearly two-thirds of Cuba's diplomats to leave the United States.
The announcement will come in the wake of a mysterious sonic attack that harmed US diplomats in Cuba.
Relations between US and Cuba have been strained for decades. In 1959, after the Cuban revolution, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially recognized the new Cuban government. However, this was followed by a steady deterioration of ties between the two countries. Concerned about Cuba’s policies that included nationalization of the industries (including ones owned by Americans) US began to impose trade restrictions on Cuba. As Cuba began to grow closer to USSR during the Cold War, US cut all ties with the nation and in 1961 shut down its embassy in Havana.
Post Cold War, the relations did not get better. US President George W Bush referred to Cuba as an outpost for “tyranny” and supported tightening the embargo on the nation. The ties, however, improved after the intervention of Pope Francis during the administration of President Barack Obama. This has been referred to as the “Cuban Thaw”. Obama eased some of the economic sanctions and travel restrictions for Americans visiting Cuba and vice versa. In 2015, Obama announced that beginning of formal diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Embassies were opened in Havana and Washington respectively. President Obama and Raul Castro, who replaced his brother in 2008, took extraordinary steps to formalize bilateral relations.
The current US President, Donald Trump has been critical of Cuba and of the policies that were enforced by his predecessor. In June 2017, he announced he would roll back on some of these policies.
In September, reports emerged that there had been an alleged sonic attack on US personnel in Cuba. The attack affected 21 American diplomats and family members. After the incident took place, US authorities began discussing the possibility of shutting down its embassy in Havana. Additionally, the US also sent a travel warning to American tourists seeking to visit the region.
The US also withdrew nearly 60% of its personnel in the wake of the attack. Those who remain will be able to carry out only the “core consular and diplomatic functions.” Cuba’s Foreign Ministry Official in charge of US affairs, Josefina Vidal said, “We consider the decision announced today by the US government through the state department is hasty and will affect bilateral relations.”
In addition, the US State Department is also expected to downsize the Cuba’s diplomatic staff in the US. Media reports have noted that nearly two-thirds of Cuba's diplomatic personnel will be ordered to leave the United States.
Cuba has invited FBI officials to enter its region to investigate the attacks.
Our assessment is that the attacks on US personnel in Havana was more targeted to strike the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba. Over the years, Washington and Havana have pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. It is disappointing that the rapprochement between Washington and Havana had to end after the yeoman efforts of President Obama and Raul Castro. We believe that the ties will improve and there will be deeper engagements between Cuba and the US in the near future.