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Trump administration expels two Cuban diplomats

The State Department said the two Cuban nationals allegedly tried to conduct "influence operations in the United States."
Image: Cuban Permanent Mission to the United Nations
A plaque outside the Permanent Residence of Cuba to the United Nations in New York on July 30, 2017.Bill Tompkins / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday said it will expel two members of Cuba's U.N. mission in New York for allegedly trying to conduct "influence operations" in the United States.

The State Department said it had notified Cuba's foreign ministry that it was requiring the "imminent departure" of the two Cuban nationals, who are accused of abusing their diplomatic privileges.

"This is due to their attempts to conduct influence operations against the United States," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

"We take any and all attempts against the National Security of the United States seriously, and will continue to investigate any additional personnel who may be manipulating their privileges of residence," she said.

The State Department also said it will limit travel within the United States for other officials in Cuba's U.N. mission in New York, essentially restricting them to the island of Manhattan.

The administration announced the expulsions only days before an annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.

After decades of hostility stemming from the Cold War, former President Barack Obama sought to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba, easing limits on trade and travel and restoring full diplomatic ties. But President Donald Trump has scrapped the detente and cancelled Obama's measures. The White House has sharply criticized Cuba over its staunch support for Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

In October 2017, the Trump administration expelled 15 Cuba diplomats over what it said was Cuba's failure to protect American staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana from a mysterious affliction that caused a range of symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, balance and visual problems.

In its announcement on Thursday, the State Department made no mention of the health attacks.

The Cuban mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.