Friday, September 5, 2008

What If They Say No? [Updated]

That's what some people should be asking the US government. What if Cuba refuses the aid that the US is now offering? The aid is based on the requests proposed by a bi-partisan group of legislators being led by Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart, a vehement defender of the US embargo towards Cuba.

The requests call for a team of experts from the US to assess the damage, provide relief through the US interest section in Havana and possibly allow aid through the International Red Cross, once the US grants permission to send aid from American soil. Needless to say, US-Cuba relations are currently poor (thanks to this Administration), and Cuba can easily say no to the requests closely associated with the US government.

All that would be left from the proposal is if the US will allow NGO's to easily travel to Cuba (which means applying for difficult-to-get OFAC licenses), and granting permission to the International Red Cross to also apply for a license and send aid from the US.

Years of mistrust have essentially broken important links between Cuba and the US, and now when an emergency situation is here its so difficult to cast aside the web of controversy that exists between both nations.

While we wait to hear from the Cuban government, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart is taking advantage of the opportunity to exercise his negative rhetoric:

"It's evident that the Cuban tyranny is anti-Cuban and enjoying the suffering of the Cuban people."

On the other hand, the Cuban American National Foundation has publicly taken the side of calling for a moratorium on US restrictions on travel and remittances.

----- [Update] -----

As the US continues to wait for an answer from the Cuban government...

"Spain shipped in 16 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Cuba on Friday, while tiny East Timor donated $500,000 and China anted up $300,000 as international help flowed into the island working to recover from devastating Hurricane Gustav... Russia, Cuba's former Cold War ally, flew in two planeloads of goods on Thursday, and said two more were coming." [Source: Reuters/Rosa Tania Valdes]

"The [Spanish Agency for International Cooperation] said Spain had also sent to Cuba 15 tons of commodities: 99 tents, two generators, 1,008 sanitary kits, 1,020 water deposits, 1,200 mosquito nets and 1,000 sailclothes." [Source: Xinhua News Agency]

"The Cuban government thanked on Friday East Timor for the donation of 500,000 U.S dollars for the damages caused by Hurricane 'Gustav'... 'Our people is [sic] touched by this gesture of expressing their feelings of friendship in this way, because East Timor is a small country of the third world and with limited resources,' the official Granma daily newspaper reported on Friday." [Source: Xingua News Agency]

There's no question that the Cuban government is delaying their reply to the US for hurricane relief as a sign of protest. This has been one consistent characteristic of the Cuban government, adamant in its opposition to US policies towards Cuba. (Will this political stance be tolerated by the devastated Cuban population?) Furthermore, this protest also serves to highlight to the rest of the world the half-century debacle that is US-Cuba relations.

It should certainly raise immediate questions to any honest person, such as why a powerful nation cannot exert its influence on a smaller (and very close) neighbor.

[Photo above by Getty Images]