The State Department confirmed Monday that Cuba has cut off electricity to the U.S. diplomatic Interests Section in Havana as part of what it termed "bullying tactics" by the Cubans. The U.S. mission near the seafront of the Cuban capital has been a focal point of tensions between the United States and the Fidel Castro government.
Officials here say Cuban authorities cut power to the U.S. mission in the early morning hours of June 5 and have refused to restore service since then despite appeals from both American and Swiss diplomats, who technically represent U.S. interests in Cuba.
The State Department went public with its complaint Monday, saying the power shut-off is only the latest in a series of bullying tactics by Cuban authorities that has also included periodic water cuts to the U.S. facility.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the Interests Section was the only building in the downtown Havana neighborhood that is without power, and that the mission was continuing to function with power from its own generators:
"This is the same kind of harassment that the Cuban people have had to live with on a daily basis," said Sean McCormack. "Work at the Interests Section continues unabated, including interviews of refugees and direct outreach to the Cuban people. I would just say that the bullying tactics of the Castro regime aren't going to work."
McCormack said he believed Cuban authorities had cut the power to try to punish the mission over its efforts to provide Cubans with information about human rights and other issues.
The building on Havana's seaside Malecon Boulevard has long been a focus of tensions between the United States and Cuba's communist government.
Cuban authorities have been angered by an electric signboard on the mission's façade that runs messages promoting democracy and human rights.
Havana officials earlier this year set up a wall of huge flags, nominally honoring Cuban terrorism victims, that obscures the sign.
The Castro government arrested and jailed more than 70 leading dissidents in 2003, accusing them of subversion and other charges for allegedly having links with the U.S. mission.
The Miami Herald newspaper said Monday it had obtained a cable from the Interests Section detailing a series of largely unreported nuisance attacks against U.S. diplomats posted in Cuba, including car vandalism and window-smashing at their homes.
Spokesman McCormack said here there were no plans for the United States to respond in kind for the power cut with action against the Cuban mission in Washington.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed after Cuba's 1959 revolution. The interests sections were set up in the 1970's in the respective capitals to handle consular matters and other routine activities.