Monday, September 15, 2008

Bush offers aid, Cuba refuses

If the well-being of hurricane victims were not at issue, the back-and-forth over the U.S. offer of aid would make for an interesting spectator sport.

But that’s not the case.

The latest development is that the U.S. government apparently dropped its insistence on sending an assessment team prior to delivering aid, and on Saturday offered $5 million in aid, to be airlifted as soon as Cuba would give the green light.

Cuba said no.

A CNN account of the U.S. offer and Cuba’s refusal, as described by the State Department today, is here. The Cuban foreign ministry’s September 10 statement is here, and a statement issued yesterday by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington is here.

I don’t think the assessment team was an unreasonable idea in the first place – the point is simply for experts to figure out how U.S. aid could contribute to the overall recovery effort. Duplication of effort, or delivery of items that don’t have an immediate impact, would be steps backward.

On the other hand, other countries have sent aid without requiring that they first send a team to inspect damages. The Bush Administration apparently reached a point where, even without its own assessment, it had a good idea what was needed and was prepared to open the spigot.

Given the state of relations between the two governments, it was perhaps predictable that Cuba would resist the idea of a U.S. assessment team, and insist instead that the United States ease its economic sanctions. “If you want to help, stop punishing our economy,” is a message that makes common sense, and scores political points. But with the assessment team issue apparently gone, Cuba seems to be refusing a straight-up offer from the closest potential source of immediate, significant aid.

Other countries are helping. Fidel Castro writes that Venezuela’s aid offer is unprecedented. An international relief effort is gaining steam. But the damage is so severe that it makes no sense to leave any offer on the table. George W. Bush is not Havana’s favorite, but his Administration ends in a few months. Why can’t Cuba score its points elsewhere, and agree to the U.S. aid?

[Photos via Juventud Rebelde; Camaguey province (top) and Mayari (right).]


Anonymous said...

If the US aid is non-conditional then cuba should be gracious and say thank you; then they can work on further negotiations. Cuba's position has been no donation from the US, but purchase of food etc as they have been doing since the last big hurricane.
But in this case, with so much damage, the Cubans should accept. they are wrong, but they are so very hesitate which is the result of 50 years of American aggression.
But for the people's sake, cuba needs every penny offered. Pride should not play into the final decision.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully this is not the end of all the talking, that there is still some back channel communication going on, and that Cuba will accept the donation and then continue negotiations with whatever new administration comes in in January 2009.

Anonymous said...

Please continue to remind people that they can give through Catholic Relief Services and other outlets. I actually recognized the streets of Baracoa where I walked and one of those pollo di tu fast food places where I ate as recently as January 2008 and the area is completely devastated.

leftside said...

This becomes harder for Cuba to justify (they did not mention the $5 million figure in Granma). I think the stubbornness now probably has more to do with the initial "offer," which was an insult. To put aside their principled position just because some more cash was waved in their face is not the way Cuba wants to begin doing business with the US. And I think Cuba feels like it might just have a real chance to make a dent in the embargo here and are doubling down on that bet. If they were to bump up the end of the embargo even by a couple months, the $5 million will look like chump change. This is firing up pro-Cuba activists here in LA...

Anonymous said...

cuba should just take the aid. No conditions for pete's sake. But they want the people to suffer more to score cheap points about the embargo.

Anonymous said...

leftside, how many times does it have to spelled out for you? $100,000 and an assessment team is the standard initial offer the US makes in ANY disaster response situation. It was not supposed to be "here is $100,000. have a nice day." sheesh.

Anonymous said...

why cuba want negotiation with their enemy? they have rusia and venezuelaa , they don,t need u.s.they could buy whereever they want with the help of rusia and venezuela...and in such way they prove that the revolution do n ot need the "imperialism" to solve their problem.