The Cuban government last month searched the contents of a U.S. diplomatic pouch destined for the U.S. Interest Section in Havana in violation of all normal procedures, according to sources on Capitol Hill and in the Clinton administration.
Far from hiding its behavior, the sources said, Havana protested to the State Department over publications it found in the pouch intended for Cuban dissidents. The Clinton administration, rather than protest the opening of the pouch, apologized to Cuba for the publications.
The State Department's Cuba desk officer, Michael Rannenberger, said yesterday he could not respond to the allegations because the situation was "too complex."
But, at a luncheon for the Freedom House Congressional Task Force on Cuba, he refused to deny the incident took place.
Others at the meeting were less secretive.
"Yes, the Cubans messed with one of our pouches," said David Evans, Cuba program officer at the U.S. Information Agency. He refused to divulge any details.
According to several people, a 40-pound box containing a variety of human rights publications was pilfered on entry into Cuba. Cuban officials discovered the "subversive" literature and filed a protest with the State Department.
The Cuban government claimed in its protest that the pouch lacked the proper seals and that the contents spilled out in front of officials, who then reviewed them.
"The Clinton administration responded in effect by saying, `Oops, we're sorry. …