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US-Cuba direct postal service cut off since March: Havana

© AFP/File | The US embassy in Havana, a symbol of relations that have grown tense again under US President Donald Trump

HAVANA (AFP) - 

Direct postal service between Cuba and the United States, which had resumed last year after a 48-year break, has been suspended since March, a Cuban official disclosed Friday.

The development was another indicator of the souring relations between Havana and Washington since US President Donald Trump came to office.

Earlier this week, the State Department ordered the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats in response to a mysterious ailment that has sickened 22 US diplomats serving in Cuba.

Soraya Bravo, vice president of the Cuban postal system, disclosed the months-long interruption in direct mail service in comments to local media.

She said mail to and from the United States was still being routed through third countries, and that the volume has dropped by 47 percent so far this year.

"We are waiting for a response from the (US) postal authorities to be able to reactivate direct mail service through regular commercial flights, which is the usual practice worldwide," she said.

The two countries had renewed direct mail service in March 2016 as part of a thaw in relations under former US president Barack Obama.

That was done through a year-long pilot program in which mail was carried by a charter company, IBC Airways, initially three times a week and then reduced to twice a week.

But the pilot program expired in March and deliveries have not resumed because the US side has yet to respond to Cuba's proposal that the mail be carried on commercial flights, according to Bravo.

Cuban officials had hoped to talk to their US counterparts about it at a meeting of postal authorities from the Americas, Spain and Portugal that was supposed to have been held in September in Mexico. However, the meeting was suspended after a major earthquake in Mexico.

Direct service between the two countries was cut off by Cuba in 1968 after a bomb exploded in a package received in Havana.

© 2017 AFP