Thu | Dec 12, 2019

Cuba accuses US diplomat of supporting illegal actions

Published:Thursday | November 21, 2019 | 12:22 AM
In this March 22, 2016 file photo, Jose Daniel Ferrer (left); Juana Mora Cedeno (centre), and Antonio Rodiles, listen during their meeting with President Barack Obama at the US Embassy, in Havana, Cuba. (AP) The Associated Press
In this March 22, 2016 file photo, Jose Daniel Ferrer (left); Juana Mora Cedeno (centre), and Antonio Rodiles, listen during their meeting with President Barack Obama at the US Embassy, in Havana, Cuba. (AP) The Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba on Wednesday accused the top US diplomat in the country of working closely with José Daniel Ferrer, the detained head of one of the country’s largest opposition groups.

The accusations against charge d’affaires Mara Tekach were a break from Cuba’s normal language on US relations, which had remained measured despite an escalating Trump administration campaign to cut off revenue and oil to Cuba.

Tekach and the US Embassy in Cuba have tried to foment division among Cubans, “identifying areas of the economy where they can direct coercive measures, and trying to slander and discredit the performance of the Cuban government and Cuban revolution,” a Cuban government statement said.

The US Embassy in Cuba reopened in 2015 during President Barack Obama’s normalisation of relations with the island. It has been operating with a skeleton staff since the withdrawal of most personnel in 2017 due to concerns about mysterious health symptoms whose cause has still not been publicly determined.

Ferrer was detained last month on charges that remained unclear until this week. The US, opposition groups and human rights organisations demanded his release.

Ferrer’s supporters said that he had been charged with assault and called the case a fabrication. The statement Wednesday in Granma, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, said Ferrer was detained October 1 with three other people on suspicion of kidnapping and assaulting another man.

It alleged that, since the detention, the United States has used the case in a campaign to discredit Cuba.

“The United States Embassy in Cuba has been the fundamental vehicle for attending to, orienting and financing the conduct of José Daniel Ferrer, in a clear demonstration of interference in Cuba’s internal affairs and open instigation of violence,” the Cuban statement said.

The US says Ferrer is a peaceful dissident whose human rights have been regularly violated by Cuban security forces.

Ferrer’s Patriotic Union of Cuba is perhaps the country’s largest opposition group, with operations based mainly in the east of the island. It sporadically organises protests against the government, which calls its members mercenaries backed by the US and Cuban exiles overseas.