Cubans Demonstrate Against Diplomat Expulsions

July 7, 2008 - 8:12 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The Castro government says as many as 5,000 Cubans gathered in Havana Saturday to protest the recent expulsion of four Cuban diplomats from the United States.

The demonstration came one day after the Cuban government officially denounced the expulsions, calling them "fallacious and shameful."

Radio Havana, the official voice of Fidel Castro's communist government, said Cuban government leaders rejected U.S. charges of espionage against the diplomats.

On Friday, the Cuban Foreign Ministry issued an official statement saying that two of the Cubans expelled for "intelligence activities" - Oscar Redondo and Gustavo Machin - were doing "absolutely legal" political and diplomatic work in compliance with U.S. law. The two were stationed at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which serves in place of an official embassy.

According to Radio Havana, two Cuban United Nations diplomats, Francisco Gonzalez and Carlos Augusto Suarez, were also told to leave.

On Nov. 4, all four diplomats were given ten days to leave America. This is the first time since 2000 that the U.S. has expelled Cuban diplomats.

The Foreign Ministry statement blasted the United States, saying it "lacks the moral authority to accuse Cuban diplomats," given the fact that the U.S. has the "largest and most sophisticated intelligence system in the world."

Cuba claims it has evidence of subversive work being carried out at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, where - it says - Americans constantly spy on Cuba. Cuba reportedly plans to "respond" to the expulsion of its citizens from the U.S., "using political and diplomatic means."

U.S. officials said the diplomats were expelled in retaliation for an espionage operation that penetrated America's military establishment at the Pentagon for almost a decade.

''In response to unacceptable activities, the United States decided to take strong action,'' said Charles Barclay, a State Department spokesman. Ana Belen Montes, a U.S. intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty last month to espionage charges and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Investigators said she had been spying for Cuba from the time she began working at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1985 until her arrest in September.

The Defense Intelligence Agency provides analyses of foreign countries' military capabilities and troop strengths for the Pentagon.