Services at the U.S. Embassy have been practically frozen since September 2017. Photo: Archive

On February 21, a bicameral delegation of U.S. Congress people called to normalize services at the U.S. embassy in Havana, following unilateral measures by the State Department and the expulsion of 17 members of staff from the Cuban Embassy in Washington.
Speaking before the press in Havana, Democrat Senator for Vermont Patrick Leahy, leading a Congressional delegation that arrived on the island February 17, to meet with Cuban authorities, stressed the need for all staff to return to the Cuban Embassy in Washington and U.S. Embassy in Havana, as soon as possible; and expressed his regret after certain cooperation programs between the two countries were put on hold.
Since September 2017, operations at the U.S. embassy in Havana have reduced, with consular service practically paralyzed after the majority of staff were withdrawn in the wake of alleged “sonic attacks” against embassy personnel. However, following months of investigations by Cuban and U.S. authorities no evidence of the supposed incident, or clues as to the origin of the health issues suffered by certain members of staff, has been found.
The impact of the State Department’s decision was one of the issues addressed by the Congressional delegation, which also included Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden from Oregon and Gary Peters from Michigan, and House Representatives James McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and Susan Davis (D-California).
Senator Wyden noted that the group held long work sessions with Cuban authorities charged with investigating the alleged incidents, stressing the need for collaboration between both parties in order to resolve the matter.
Leahy meanwhile, noted that that Cuba has reiterated its willingness to work alongside the U.S. to get to the bottom of the case.
Ever since the incidents were reported, Cuban authorities have shown their willingness to collaborate and even allowed the FBI to undertaken investigations on the ground in Cuba.
Meanwhile, McGovern expressed his concern over the rate at which investigations are advancing, noting that the longer the issue remains unresolved the longer both people in Cuba and the United States will continue to suffer; going on to described Washington’s decision to withdraw some of its diplomatic personnel from the Embassy in Havana and expel others from the Cuban mission in Washington, as a mistake.
In this sense, he also criticized the travel warnings issued by the State Department which claims that U.S. citizens could be at risk, even though Cuba is one of the safest tourist destinations in the world.
McGovern noted that the delegation met with youth from the U.S. studying at the University of Havana, all of whom assured that they felt safe, as well as business people, and Embassy staff, who also stated that they felt safe.
Likewise, Senator Leahy recalled that he has travelled alone to dangerous places in different parts of the world and even war zones, but that he is visiting Cuba with his spouse and 13 year old granddaughter, whom he assured he would never put at risk.
The Congressional delegation also held work meetings with Carlos Fernández de Cossío, director general for the United States at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, according to an official press release by Minrex.
“Regarding the health issues reported by U.S. diplomats in Havana, Cossío stressed that, as has already been categorically stated, Cuba has not attacked or allowed an attack to be perpetrated against any diplomat from any other country, including the United States,” according to the document.
Cossío also explained that Cuba understands the obligation of all states to protect its diplomats in the fulfillment of their functions, but noted that Cuba is “a safe, stable and healthy country, for Cubans and foreigners, including diplomats; that the country has the measures, resources and willingness to continue protecting the security of its citizens and that of foreigners residing in the country, especially the diplomatic community.”