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Cuba: diplomat expulsions, gas crisis part of US offensive

Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez speaks during a press conference, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Rodríguez says the U.S. expulsion of two Cuban diplomats and energy shortages across the island are part of a Trump administration offensive that will fail to force concessions by his government. (Ismael Francisco / AP)
Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez speaks during a press conference, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Rodríguez says the U.S. expulsion of two Cuban diplomats and energy shortages across the island are part of a Trump administration offensive that will fail to force concessions by his government. (Ismael Francisco / AP)
By Michael Weissenstein Associated Press

HAVANA – Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Friday that the U.S. expulsion of two Cuban diplomats and energy shortages across the island are part of a Trump administration offensive that will fail to force concessions by his government.

Rodriguez told reporters that Cuba was weighing its response to the expulsion of two diplomats posted to Cuba’s permanent mission to the United Nations. He also said energy shortages and long gas lines in Cuba are due to a Trump administration campaign of pressuring Cuba’s energy suppliers across the world not to send petroleum products to the island.

During his annual press conference enumerating the effects of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, Rodriguez said the Trump administration was waging a campaign to pressure Cuba’s fuel suppliers and shippers in South America, Europe and North Africa.

“These actions include direct threats, persecution of transport companies, pressure against governments where tankers are flagged or registered and actions against insurance companies, he said. “This is an escalation seeking to dissuade and intimidate, and to create additional difficulties for the Cuban people.”

Fuel shortages are leading to hours-long lines at gas station around Cuba this week, along with cutbacks of public services and activities throughout Cuba’s centrally planned state-run economy.

Rodriguez said Cuba would not drop its support for the Venezuelan government, the stated goal of the Trump policy.

“They will not force any concession from our people,” he said. “They will not force any political concession from our government. They have failed for 60 years and they’ll keep failing.”

Adding to tensions, the U.S. announced Thursday that it was expelling two Cuban diplomats and restricting travel of members of Cuba’s permanent U.N. mission as leaders gather from around the world for the annual U.N. General Assembly.

The Cuban diplomats who are being expelled are attached to the U.N. mission and tried to “conduct influence operations against the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said. She provided no details on the allegations and the diplomats’ names weren’t released.

All members of the Cuban mission are being restricted to the island of Manhattan.

“Cuba will deliver an appropriate, timely response to these actions by the U.S. government,” Rodriguez said Friday, without offering details. “They are totally unjustified and illegitimate actions aimed at escalating bilateral tensions, provoking the closure of embassies and the rupture of diplomatic relations.”

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