Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently announced that he would expel two-thirds of Cuba’s diplomats stationed at their embassy in Washington, D.C.
This move comes after the U.S. scaled down the number of diplomats stationed in Havana as a result U.S. diplomats being injured by sonic attacks there.
Starting 10 months ago, a mysterious sonar device began either purposefully or inadvertently targeting American and Canadian diplomats. Published reports confirmed by the State Department puts the number of victims at 22 Americans and an unknown number Canadians.
The diplomats from both countries have experienced symptoms that include permanent hearing loss, visual problems, dizziness, and balance and other neurological issues. They were all posted in Havana and living in housing provided by the Cuban government, as is standard practice.
Even though the State Department has not accused the Cuban government of the attacks, it is the Cuban government that is responsible for the security of our diplomats.
The Cubans claim to be innocent, yet have stubbornly refused to either cooperate with the U.S. government or guarantee American diplomats’ safety. Both terms are direct violations of Cuba’s obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
While the Cubans may not have directed the attacks, their claims to innocence fall on deaf ears. It is unlikely that Cuba’s totalitarian regime would be unaware of a foreign actor or subversive element in the Cuban government carrying out a long-term attack on high-priority countries such as the U.S. and Canada.
U.S. government officials and their families posted in Havana and abroad are routinely victims of the Cuban government’s harassment.
Surveillance of all forms is commonplace, as well as various forms of physical and physiological abuse, including threatening attempts to run their cars off the road, poisoning of pets, and in one case, replacing mouthwash with urine.
There have also been numerous reports of the Cuban government inspecting diplomatic pouches, a practice that violates the Vienna Convention. Clearly, Cuba’s well-earned reputation for harassing U.S. personnel makes its innocence hard to believe.
Still, Latin American countries have consistently scolded the U.S. and urged it to unilaterally change its policy toward Cuba. In spite of Cuba’s military dictatorship, its long history of repression, and its destabilizing role in the region, they say the U.S. must be the one to alter its ways.
This flawed logic led the Obama administration to prematurely normalize relations with Havana.
Following the announcement of President Barack Obama’s détente, The Heritage Foundation warned that the Cuban government will continue to be a danger to the U.S. and any change in policy must require a change in behavior from the Cuban government. Instead, the Obama administration asked for nothing and gave up everything.
With diplomatic recognition comes a higher level of responsibility. The thugs governing Havana have proven they deserve neither. If Latin America as a region wants to be taken seriously, it must not tolerate an attack on the U.S. and Canada’s diplomats.
The democracies of Latin America cannot stand idly by. An unknown attack on one country’s diplomats puts the rest of the region’s officials in danger.
Latin America must stand in solidarity with the U.S. and Canada and strongly urge the Cuban government to cooperate on the investigation.