Today, President of Engage Cuba, James Williams, released the following statement supporting the defeat of amendments to the FY2018 omnibus spending bill that would restrict funding for the U.S. embassy in Havana to pre-Obama Administration levels. The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed this amendment since 2015, when the U.S. upgraded its Havana interests section to an embassy.
"By eliminating this senseless budget provision, Congress has averted a foreign relations debacle that would have upended progress on law enforcement cooperation, migration, and commercial ties. We commend the bipartisan majority of lawmakers that fought to preserve our diplomatic engagement with Cuba. Slashing embassy funding would hurt Cuban Americans and the Cuban people, and turn back the clock to a discredited counter-productive Cold War policy that failed for over 55 years.
"The current administration has already severely restricted diplomatic relations with Cuba, thereby inviting Russia and China to expand their influence in Latin America and the Caribbean. We cannot afford to jeopardize U.S. national interests by removing diplomatic resources on the island, especially on the eve of a historic political transition to a post-Castro Cuba.
"We believe the safety of our diplomats is a top priority, and we support and encourage the ongoing investigation into the health incidents affecting U.S. personnel. At the same time, we believe that Americans and Cubans alike are safer and better served when we let the Foreign Service do its job. We urge the State Department to take the critical next step of fully staffing our embassy in Havana."