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Pompeo rejects two Cuban diplomats for performing "influence operations"

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered two New York-based individuals to leave Cuba for the United Nations to leave the country.

"This is due to their attempts to influence the United States," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Thursday.

The announcement came just days before world leaders came to New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly. Foreign officials subject to the United Nations generally have the right to work in New York under the terms of the agreement establishing the headquarters of the international institution in the United States.

"In addition to the necessary departures, the travel of all members of the Cuban Permanent Mission to the United Nations within the United States will now be essentially confined to the Isle of Manhattan," Ortagus said.

The United States and Cuba had a controversial relationship that dates back to the rise of Communist dictator Fidel Castro in 1

959, the regime's resulting US economic embargo, and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. President Barack Obama endeavored in 2014 to restore diplomatic relations with the regime. However, after a series of mysterious attacks in 2017, involving more than two dozen Havana-based Americans and Canadians struggling with various brain injuries, the fragile relationship came to a standstill again. The attacks resulted in the displacement of 15 Cuban diplomats from the United States and a reduction in the American presence in Havana.

Pompeo sees the Cuban security services as the main reason why the Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro could resist international pressure to hand over power to Juan Guaidó. Opposition lawmaker Trump and other world leaders have recognized this as the country's legitimate interim president. US intelligence officials under Obama and Trump have repeatedly identified Cuba as one of the largest espionage threats against the United States, alongside China, Russia and Iran.

"We take all attempts against US national security seriously and will continue to investigate other individuals who may be manipulating their rights of residence," Ortagus said.

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