Politics, Latin America
U.S.-Cuba relations are once more in turmoil.
As the State Department announced Friday it was cutting its embassy staff in Cuba down to emergency levels — following the recent, mysterious sonic wave attacks on U.S. personnel — a budding consensus of sorts seems to be developing: the reaction out of Washington could have been worse. As it is, it’s also fully unclear if Havana had a hand in the recent events. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated, “We maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. Cuba has told us it will continue to investigate these attacks and we will continue to cooperate with them in this effort.”
Senator Marco Rubio, a longtime foe of warming relations with the Castros, is chastising the Trump administration for not taking a harder line, calling it “shameful,” on Twitter, that American embassy personnel are being withdrawn but “Castro gets to keep as many as he wants.”
But many experts on the region disagree. Tillerson’s cautious response is meeting with plaudits.
“Very measured, yes,” Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official in the Clinton administration and Washington director of the Council of the Americas, tells me. “US diplomats have been recently attacked in country so it’s only prudent to reduce their number until the source and severity of the attacks can be fully determined. Meanwhile the embassy remains open. So, a balanced approach I’d say.”
“I am hopeful this won’t affect bilateral relations too much,” says another former official in both the State Department and the Department of Defense (and worked on Latin America) in the Trump and Obama administrations. He supports the detente initiated under Obama, but agrees that Friday’s move by Tillerson is appropriate.