Should President Trump close the US Embassy in Cuba?

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When the president Asset presented his new policy on Cuba in June that would overturn the president Obama“Unilateral deal” with the country, the rhetoric of the speech sounded more intransigent than the travel and business restrictions it actually offered.

More importantly, full diplomatic relations would continue, both with the United States Embassy in Cuba and the Cuban Embassy in the United States remains open and functional.

Now the Trump administration is considering shutting down the US embassy in Cuba in response to mysterious and harmful attacks on US diplomats there.

“We have it being evaluated,” the secretary of state said Rex Tillerson said on CBS ‘Face the Nation of the potential embassy closure. “This is a very serious problem in terms of the harm that some people have suffered. We brought some of these people home. It’s under review.

At least 21 State Department diplomatic staff have suffered from unexplained health conditions over the past year, including permanent hearing loss, brain swelling, mild brain damage, blood disorders, loss of heart. balance and speech problems. Others complained of nausea, headaches and ringing in the ears.

American diplomats working at the embassy of Havana started reporting symptoms in November 2016, but the United States did not officially recognize the attacks until last month, several weeks before the most recent incident on August 21.

The cause has yet to be identified, but initial suspicions believed the culprit was a series of sonic attacks carried out by the Cuban government, although some of them occurred inside private homes donated to American diplomats – and several Canadian diplomats – by the government. .

But the Cuban government’s response to the question, as reported by the Associated Press this weekend, challenged the theory that the government was behind the attacks.

Raul Castro reportedly met with US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis recently and credibly denied any involvement, going so far as to allow the FBI to investigate the Havana incidents. Law enforcement has found no evidence of sonic devices responsible for the attacks.

Five Republican senators, including Cuban-American hardline Marco Rubio, on Friday urged Tillerson to close the embassy and expel all Cuban diplomats from the United States.

“Cuba’s failure to fulfill its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot remain unchallenged,” the senators wrote in a letter to Tillerson. Two Cuban diplomats were already deported in May following the incidents, although the public did not hear of their deportation until August.

Even though the State Department is considering shutting down the embassy, ​​it has been careful not to involve Castro or the Cuban government in the incidents – a potential sign that investigators probably don’t believe the attacks were ordered by the most. high authorities.

“There are a lot of people with political interests who would point the finger at Cuba, but there is no evidence,” Mark Feierstein, who helped restore Cuban-American relations on the Council of Europe, told The Daily Beast. Obama’s national security.

Feierstein pointed to the “dominant theory” among US officials that a third party collaborated with rogue elements of the Cuban security forces. Indeed, it has been reported that the nature of the technology used in the attacks was too sophisticated to have been created by the Cuban government alone.

“If they closed the embassy, ​​it would not be based on the conclusion that the Cubans were responsible for the attacks,” Feierstein said, adding that he imagined such a decision would be presented as an “interim measure” to protect the people. American diplomats. while continuing to work with the Cuban authorities.

Foreign policy experts say it’s not in America’s best interests to shut down our embassy in Cuba.

“It would make communication between the two countries very, very difficult,” said John Caulfield, who served as head of mission in the US interests section in Havana from 2011 to 2014.

“We have had diplomats in Cuba since 1977, and Cuba has had diplomats in the United States since then,” he added, noting that this diplomatic presence predated Barack Obama’s July 2015 opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC, a re- establishing long-standing ties between the two countries.

The United States opened its embassy in Havana a month later to increase travel and business between the two countries.

Caulfield said it would be extremely unusual for the United States to close its embassy in Cuba and would signal that we have no interest in maintaining a relationship with the country.

“However, we are facing an unprecedented situation,” said Caulfield. “It is very difficult for our country to assign people to diplomatic posts where actions or events in this country result in permanent damage to health.”

Caulfield also argued that the possibility of rogue actors targeting Americans in Cuba without senior management permission is “grossly exaggerated.”

“Diplomats are used to government surveillance, but what is different is that these incidents cause physical harm to people,” he said.

Fulton armstrong, a former CIA official who served in Havana many years before America reopened an embassy there, said the administration’s plans to shut down the U.S. embassy says a lot about the people who serve it.

“It’s pretty sad that a letter from five senators could threaten to overturn a policy that has enjoyed bipartisan support,” Armstrong said.

The State Department declined to say whether or not it would close the embassy.

“Embassy staff continue to undergo medical tests, which we will continue to monitor, ”department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told The Daily Beast in an emailed statement.

“The health, safety and well-being of our staff is our greatest concern. Cuba has a responsibility to protect our diplomats and we will continue to compel the Cuban Government to assume this responsibility. We maintain an open line of communication with our colleagues as we continue to investigate the cause of incidents. “

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