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Cuba says attack on its embassy in Washington was a ‘terrorist act’

The Cuban flag flies in front of the country's embassy after 54 years on July 30, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The embassy was closed in 1961 when U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower severed diplomatic ties with the island nation after Fidel Castro took power in a Communist revolution. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Members of the Cuban government opposition and the exile community have denied any connection to an outburst of gunfire at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. The building was riddled with at least 30 bullet holes early Thursday.

Investigators from the Washington Metropolitan Police identified the attacker as Alexander Alazo, 42, a resident of the city of Aubrey, Texas. No one was injured in the attack.

Official media on the island showed photos of the damage to the diplomatic headquarters, and Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel condemned the attack on Twitter.

“Cuba awaits an investigation into the attack with a firearm against our embassy in the United States. We condemn this aggression. Governments must protect accredited diplomatic missions in their country,” Díaz-Canel posted.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement requesting “the corresponding investigation by the U.S. authorities on the identity and motivations of the author of this attack, as well as on the circumstances.”

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Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said in a statement published online that the attack, which he labeled a “terrorist act,” has been “encouraged” by the “growing hostile rhetoric” of the Trump administration against the island.

“It is not possible to dissociate a fact like this from the policy of aggression and hostility of the United States government against Cuba,” Rodríguez said. “It is an obligation of the government to adopt all the appropriate measures to protect the premises of an accredited diplomatic mission in their country against any intrusion or damage and to avoid that the tranquility of the mission is disturbed or its dignity is violated.”

Rodríguez also said that he called the U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Cuba, Mara Tekach, to “vigorously protest” the incident and added that Havana has not received any official communication from the State Department.

Tekach condemned the shooting.

“It is a great relief that no one has been hurt,” she posted in Spanish on Twitter. “The US takes its responsibilities to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations very seriously and insists on a full and thorough investigation.”

Opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, who was recently released from prison on the island, said in a telephone interview that Alazo does not belong to his organization. He said he knew nothing about the incident.

In Miami, various Cuban exile groups also said they had no knowledge of the attack.

“I had never heard that name,” said Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, president of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, which belongs to the Cuban Resistance Assembly, an organization that brings together various opposition groups.

Harold Cárdenas, the editor of La Joven Cuba magazine in New York, which openly supports the Cuban government, said in a Facebook post that “the armed attack on the embassy is the consequence of politically radicalizing right-wing sectors based on a policy of regime change in Cuba.”

“An attack is not surprising, Trump’s commitment to multilateralism is zero, his defense of the armed militias is habitual and his policy towards Cuba has been very irresponsible,” he wrote in Spanish. “Common sense is urgently needed in the presidency of this country.”

“Alexander Alazo is the material actor in this act, but the person who created the context for it is still in the White House,” Cárdenas wrote.

What is known about Alazo

According to public records, Alazo lived in Florida between Miami-Dade and Broward counties from 2011 to 2017, when he moved to Texas. He has no criminal record and is licensed as a massage therapist, first issued in Florida and then renewed in Texas.

He was charged with assault with intent to kill and possession of an unregistered firearm, among other counts, the Secret Service, the agency in charge of the investigation, told The Washington Post.

Authorities have not released more details about the attacker or motive. Only material damage to the building was reported. Built in 1917, it served as an interests section and resumed its functions as an embassy in July 2015, after the reestablishment of diplomatic relations under the administration of former President Barack Obama.

In 1978, a group of Cuban exiles attacked the same building with an explosive device, and a year later, the Omega 7 exile organization claimed responsibility for detonating a bomb at the facility, causing minor damage. No one was hurt in either incident.

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© 2020 Miami Herald