Unfortunately, I've been horribly busy and will probably only post once a week for now. But, I will aim to cover as much material as possible to satisfy the news of that particular week. So here goes.
The aftermath of hurricane Ike was top news in Miami, especially since a local debate emerged within the exile community on how best to send relief aid to Cuba. I posted about the developing debate last week after hurricane Gustav first hit Cuba. Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, was among the first to petition for relaxation of current US travel and remittance restrictions against Cuban families in exile. Last week I also wondered about the meaning if the Cuban government would reject US offers of hurricane aid.
Earlier this week the US received an answer: NO THANKS. US Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, responded in an interviewed with Radio Mambi (WAQI 710) on Tuesday and told Armando Perez Roura (programming director at Radio Mambi):
"[I] feel that [...] when there's a humanitarian disaster what should be done is to look after the welfare of the people and not towards political aspects. But, one can see that again they [the Cuban government] is placing their own political interests before the interest of the people who are suffering greatly in these days." [Listen to the audio, MP3]
Sec. Gutierrez also mentioned that the US would make another offer soon, but at the same time also said the Cuban government is more interested in power anyway, and was ultimately uninterested in the welfare of the Cuban people.
Perez Roura later asked if Sec. Gutierrez was still studying the plans of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC). Gutierrez, who is Co-Chair of CAFC, mentioned that the US continues to update those plans in hopes that the Cuban people will see that Cuban communism has failed and that the US wants to help them prosper.
Around this same period, some leaders in the exile community, led by Rep. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, made public statements supporting the US position. In video by Univision, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tells reporters that there are no US "prohibitions" to humanitarian aid going to Cuba. But, Eddie Levy, from Jewish Solidarity, says that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart "shamelessly lied to the public." Levy believes US aid being offered to Cuba includes conditions which should not be imposed at the moment.
Well, today Sec. Gutierrez again appeared on Radio Mambi to tell listeners that the Cuban government has TWICE rejected US relief aid. He told Armando Perez Roura:
"It's very unfortunate that they have rejected aid that has been made with very good intentions by the government of President Bush." [Listen to audio, MP3]
Gutierrez mentions that the first rejection came from Felipe Perez Roque, the Cuban foreign minister, and that this second rejection came again from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations.
It certainly doesn't surprise me that the Cuban government has decided to reject offers from the US. But, it does surprise me that Sec. Gutierrez believes that he can convince the Cuban government that the US offering was made with "good intentions."
Maybe the US DOES have "good intentions" in this case, but you have to put yourself in the shoes of the Cuban government to understand the two rejections. Just like some would place their priorities in finding justice for the crimes committed by the Cuban government, the Cuban government has also placed their priorities in objecting and pointing to the crimes of the US "blockade."