Monday, January 18, 2010

More cooperation with Cuba on Haiti?

After Cuba allowed the use of its airspace for medical evacuation flights from the Guantanamo naval base to Miami, Secretary Clinton said, “We very much appreciate the Cubans opening their air space for medical evacuation and emergency flights, and we would welcome any other actions that the Cuban Government could take in furtherance of the international rescue and recovery mission in Haiti.”

Here’s a simple, practical suggestion from Gary Maybarduk, formerly the political counselor in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. He suggests in a letter to the Washington Post that the United States agree to provide supplies to the Cuban doctors working in Haiti.

I wonder if there would also be some benefit in cooperation on logistics. The aid effort is being hampered by the limited capacity of Haiti’s damaged airport and by the destruction of the port facilities in Port-au-Prince (USA Today story here).

The French and others are upset about aid flights that have been turned away. Peru’s health minister noted on Saturday that two Peruvian planes were unable to land in Haiti, and he suggested that airport and seaport facilities in Cuba be used as a staging area for aid flowing to Haiti. An airlift and sealift “bridge” could then deliver materials to Haiti and perhaps solve the airport bottleneck. (Some flights turned away from Port-au-Prince are landing in the Dominican Republic and moving their shipments overland.)

Certainly there are capable airports in eastern CubaSantiago, Holguin, the Guantanamo naval base. If this option makes logistical sense, all that would be needed would be an agreement between Cuba and the United States, or the United Nations, to make it happen.

And some related items:

  • CNN reports on a hospital where Cuban and other doctors are working; video here. Fidel Castro’s latest reflection contains an excerpt from a report from the Cuban medical mission in Haiti, and it mentions the hospital that CNN filmed. A Cuban news agency report, summarized in English here, has more details.

  • An effort was announced in Miami “to airlift possibly thousands of Haitian children left orphaned in the aftermath of Tuesday's horrific earthquake,” according to this Herald article. The idea is based on the Peter Pan operation that brought more than 14,000 Cuban children to the United States under the Catholic Church’s auspices in the early 1960’s – but those children were not orphans, they were sent by their parents. This is a compassionate idea, but it’s not clear that anyone has considered that Haiti’s battered government would have to approve adoptions. As is pointed out here in the LA Times, the process is quite long. More here from the Sun-Sentinel.

  • In El Nuevo Herald, experts discuss the geology and history of eastern Cuba and the possibilities of major earthquakes there. The U.S. Geological Survey has tons of information on earthquakes worldwide, including this note on a 2008 earthquake centered in the Caribbean between Jamaica and Cuba (see depiction of the fault along Cuba's southern coast near Santiago). Also, not for the faint of heart, there’s this map of all the world’s quakes in the past seven days.

No comments: