HAVANA – Cuba halted all mail deliveries to the United States over a dispute about US security procedures, and after they said that US-bound mail had been returned to the island.
State postal service Correos de Cuba announced Friday that a freeze on all correspondence was "the result of new security measures imposed on the aviation authorities of the United States to all countries in the world."
The service "advises that until further notice, post offices are not accepting any shipments destined for the United States."
Direct mail between the United States and Cuba was interrupted in 1963, two years after the countries broke ties. Currently, Cuban mail to the United States is routed through Mexico and Canada.
In Washington, the State Department denied Cuba's claims that the US postal service had returned mail to the island.
US authorities have "not imposed restrictions on such mail," Charles Luoma-Overstreet, a State Department spokesman on Latin American affairs, told AFP.
The interruption "may be due to the return of US-bound mail by third country air carriers unable to transport it to destination and who may thus be declining to carry any mail, including from Cuba, to the United States," he added.
Luoma-Overstreet said the new US security measures for mail applied to all countries, and were not aimed at Cuba.
The mail link between Cuba and the United States -- where 1.5 million people of Cuban origin live -- is one of the few direct ties between the two countries.
The communist island nation halted all mail service to the United States between November 25 and December 8 for packages weighing more than 453 grams (16 ounces) due to US measures to counter threats from bombs mailed from abroad.
The latest interruption comes a week after Washington moved to ease restrictions on visas, remittances and travel to Cuba, with Havana expressing hope the decision would make a "crack" in the decades-old US embargo.
The US embargo on Cuba became law in 1962 after Fidel Castro rose to power, and is now the biggest remaining hangover from the Cold War. The United States bans trade with and most travel to Cuba.
In September 2009, officials from both countries met for a first round of talks to re-establish a direct mail service.
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley suggested that Cuba's move was an example of "how countries, on a case-by-case basis, are working through new regulations" imposed by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The US interest section in Cuba, which represents Washington in the absence of diplomatic ties, declined to comment on the matter.