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Posted September 05, 2008 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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(original title: U.S. Offers Storm Aid to Cuba Only Through Relief Groups)

By MARC LACEY

The United States State Department said Thursday that it had offered humanitarian aid to Cuban victims of Hurricane Gustav, provided that it went through relief organizations and not the government of President Raúl Castro.

“The U.S. government informed the Cuban government that we’re prepared to offer hurricane assistance to the Cuban citizens,” said Heide Bronke, a State Department spokeswoman. “We’ve made the offer, but we haven’t heard from them yet.”

All six Cuban-American members of Congress have called this week for the Bush administration to aid victims of the storm, which tore through the western province of Pinar del Río and the Isle of Youth over the weekend, causing what the Cuban government estimates to be billions of dollars in damage.

The offer from the United States, which was made Wednesday through the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, calls for an initial $100,000 in emergency aid. The State Department also offered to send disaster experts from the United States Agency for International Development to Cuba to assess damage. Initial estimates by the United States put the number of Cubans affected by the storm at 500,000.

Whether Cuba would accept such assistance from Washington remains to be seen. The countries have a long history of animosity when it comes to disaster aid.

Cuba’s former ruler, Fidel Castro, wrote in a newspaper commentary on Wednesday that the storm hit Cuba like a “nuclear blast” and that the damage reminded him of what he saw when he visited Hiroshima, Japan, after World War II.

The hurricane’s wind speeds exceeded 200 miles per hour, and more than 100,000 homes were leveled in Cuba. There were mandatory evacuations of the affected areas, however, and not a single death was reported. Haiti was also hit hard by the storm; the death toll there exceeds 100.

“Now the battle is to feed the victims,” Mr. Castro wrote, estimating that it would take $3 billion to $4 billion to finance basic recovery efforts.

Russia sent two cargo planes to Cuba on Thursday, and state television showed workers unloading tents and construction materials at the airport in Havana, Reuters reported. Cuban state media have said that Venezuela and China, two close allies, have offered aid, as have Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

In 2004, Cuba rejected an American offer of $50,000 in aid after Hurricane Charley, calling the amount humiliating and the offer “cynical and hypocritical.”

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said then that the American trade embargo of nearly half a century made it clear that the aid offer was not genuine. “Cuba will not accept supposed help from the government of a country that harms us and tries to take us under with hunger and need,” the ministry said in a statement four years ago.

In 2005, Cuba offered to send doctors to the United States to help treat victims of Hurricane Katrina. The White House declined the offer.

In 1996, Cuba agreed to accept tons of rice, milk and beans from the United States after Hurricane Lili, but it later turned down part of a planeload of the aid because some packages contained slogans that the government considered “suggestive, provocative and counter-revolutionary.”

  1. Follow up post #1 added on September 05, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Well, it looks like President Bush is going out on a low note.

    There are 500,000 people affected by Hurricane Gustav in Cuba and Bush offers to send $100,000 with strings attached. A real humanitarian.

    Also, he wants to send in USAID workers? Really? This is the agency that directly funds Miami anti-Cuba organizations and dissidents in Cuba.

    That’s like Iran sending a “humanitarian” agency into the US to help out. No thanks.

    So, here’s a note to President Bush and John McCain who is EXACTLY the same as Bush on Cuba policy… do something nice for the Cuban people and come up with Plan B to get rid of the Castro dictatorship.

    How about that?



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on September 05, 2008 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    When Katrina hit New Orleans, Cuba offered whatever they could, doctors, doctors, and more doctors with no strings attached. The people of Cuba will get things done as they always do, with thought, creativity and with the help of one and another. Bush will end up in hell with Fidel, I’m putting my money on Fidel.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on September 05, 2008 by Lourdes

    Castro wrote it would take $3 billion to $4 billion to finance basic recovery efforts. You got to be kidding. Oh wait, could it be he wants other countries to restore his tobacco harvest. The Castro brother main cash crop.


  4. Follow up post #4 added on September 05, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    guess we’ll just have to wait for GWB to be gone after all - pity it would have been a great opportunity to see if it could lead to a betterment of relations.  Am not sure that $100k is better than nothing - its kind of like leaving a waitress a penny for a tip - you’re sending a message that you’re not happy with the service whereas no tip could mean you just forgot.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on September 05, 2008 by GDB

    Manfredz, the Cuban Embargo has been in effect since GWB was a child.  Why is this his problem to resolve when we have thousands affected in the Lousiana? 

    How many millions of dollars has Chavez sent over in aid?  I am searching all over the internet but can’t find any info.


  6. Follow up post #6 added on September 06, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    Dont know how much it will be but below and similar is all over the net, and will just make Cubans more thankful to Chavez:
    Russia´s President Dimitriv Medvedev approved immediate emergency assistance for Cuba after the disaster caused by hurricane Gustav and he held a fraternal phone conversation with Cuban President Raul Castro.

    Venezuela´s President Hugo Chavez also expressed his will to send humanitarian aid to Cuba, as well as Colombia´s Alvaro Uribe, who was also interested in learning about the damage inflicted on Cuba by Gustav, Granma newspaper reported.

    The Russian aid began arriving in Havana this week in huge cargo planes. President Medvedev said his country will prioritize the implementation of bilateral accords with Cuba in the field of electricity. Preliminary information on the damage indicates that housing and the electric system were the most affected sectors


  7. Follow up post #7 added on September 06, 2008 by GDB

    So Oil rich Chavez still hasn’t done anything? 

    Russia sent 2 cargo planes.


  8. Follow up post #8 added on September 08, 2008 by Mario Grande with 1 total posts

    Hey Guys, Instead of whining about what the government does or dosen’t do how about we begin a relief effort ourselves. Humanitarian missions are allowed to Cuba. How about it publisher, will you start a pledge page?


  9. Follow up post #9 added on September 08, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Great idea but there is no way I would be able to coordinate such an effort. Just getting the paperwork done would take weeks.

    The US government isn’t even interested to help and they don’t seem interested to allow private citizens to help either. Rice said that it would not be wise to ease the Embargo.

    Sad but true. It will just be a waste of time.



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