During the negotiations on an agreement on fishery and maritime boundaries in 1977, the United States proposed the opening of interests sections in each other’s country which were to be headed by Cuban and US diplomats. Cuba accepted this proposal. From 1977 Switzerland’s mandate as a protecting power was mainly formal.
Opening of interests sections
In 1977 Cuba put forward to the United States via a Swiss diplomat a proposal for an agreement on fishery and maritime boundaries. During the negotiations on this agreement, the United States proposed the opening of interests sections in each other’s country. The interests sections were to be located in the former embassy buildings and headed by Cuban and US diplomats. Cuba accepted this proposal. The US interests section remained under the protection of the Swiss embassy in Havana, and the Cuban interests section in Washington under the protection of Czechoslovakia. In 1991 the Cuban interests section was attached to the Swiss embassy in Washington.
Disturbances in front of the US interests section in 1980
From 1977 Switzerland’s mandate as a protecting power for the United States was mainly formal. In May 1980 another incident took place that called for Switzerland’s services as a protecting power. Some 800 former political prisoners gathered in front of the US interests section in Havana demanding to be allowed to emigrate to the United States. They clashed with supporters of the Cuban government, and over 300 men, women and children who had been standing in line for a visa pressed their way into the embassy compound. Some would spend over five months in the embassy.
The Swiss ambassador in Havana reminded the Cuban foreign ministry at the time that the interests section enjoyed diplomatic immunity. He also organised the delivery of food and medicines to the people in the embassy.
Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland: