U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana has no
By Frances Robles and Pablo Bachelet
WASHINGTON - The Cuban government has cut off electricity to the U.S.
diplomatic mission in Havana as part of a sharp increase in harassments
that include holding up visas for American diplomats waiting to take up
posts there and restricting gasoline supplies, the State Department said
The electricity to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana -- not quite an
embassy because Cuba and the United States do not have formal diplomatic
relations -- was cut off at 3 a.m. on June 5, said Ashley Morris, a
State Department spokeswoman
Although electricity in Cuba is notoriously unreliable, Morris said no
other buildings around the Interests Section on Havana's seaside Malecón
boulevard have been affected, so U.S. officials believe the cutoff is
Asked if the Cuban government had given any reason for the cutoff,
Morris said, ``you'll have to ask the Cubans. We'd like to know as
The latest Cuban harassments were first reported in today's El Nuevo
U.S. officials also confirmed that diplomatic personnel in Havana have
started destroying some documents that are not essential, but called
that a standard procedure when power to a diplomatic facility is cut.
Morris said the Interests Section continues to ''operate under normal
procedures'' by using its own generators. However, officials said access
to gasoline has been restricted and the mission has been unable to
import any equipment, including vehicles and computers.
Water is still supplied to the main Interests Section building but is
sporadically available in the mission's annex, where visa applications
Harassment of U.S. diplomats in Havana is nothing new.
A 2002 cable from the U.S. Interests Section, obtained by The Miami
Herald, detailed a campaign of nuisance attacks that even left human
feces at the homes of diplomats posted in Cuba.
The three-page cable said alarms were set off in the middle of the night
outside diplomats' homes, keeping them and their families from getting
any rest. Phones would ring all night and ``cell phones ring every half
hour for no apparent reason.''
U.S. diplomats who regularly met with Cuban dissidents were specially
targeted, the cable said. Their car tires were slashed, windows smashed,
insides ''pilfered'' and radios set to pro-Castro stations.
Their homes sometimes were broken into, leaving doors and windows open
and 'leaving not-so-subtle `messages' . . . including unwelcome calling
cards like urine and feces.'' The State Department at the time called
the campaign ''a psychological operation'' to which spouses and children
were not immune.
''In one example that demonstrates how regime officials actually listen
to the daily activities of the staff, presumably through electronic
bugs, shortly after one family discussed the susceptibility of their
daughter to mosquito bites, they returned home to find all of their
windows open and the house full of mosquitoes,'' the report said.
Former U.S. Interests Section chief Wayne Smith, now a critic of U.S.
policies on Cuba, says that kind of campaign is triggered by provocation
- like the electronic billboard that the U.S. mission hung on the side
of its building earlier this year to show anti-Castro messages.
``If they are doing it for a short period of time, that's one thing. If
they cut off the water and electricity indefinitely, it goes on for
several days, that's when you get into very serious stuff. That's when
the United States will begin to think of withdrawing.''
Smith said cutting off the lights was ''foolish'' and
''counterproductive'' because it would play into the hands of
conservative Bush administration officials who he believes would like
nothing more than to abandon the Havana post.
During Smith's tenure in Havana, a group of former political prisoners
stormed the Interests Section demanding to know when they would be
allowed to travel to the United States. With the Mariel boatlift in full
swing and tensions high in Havana, a bus load of pro-government thugs
showed up to beat the former prisoners.
Source: The Miami Herald
June 12, 2006