U.S. will provide $2 million of hurricane aid to Cuba

U.S. will provide $2 million of hurricane aid to Cuba

HAVANA, Oct. 19th The United States will provide $2 million in funding for emergency relief in Cuba, the State Department announced Tuesday, following Cuba’s appeal for aid in the wake of devastation on the island caused by Hurricane Ian.

Both the appeal made directly to the United States, and the U.S. response marked a rare moment of agreement between the two governments — although the Biden administration made clear that its assistance would not go to the Cuban government, but would be funneled through nongovernmental international organizations.

“We stand with the Cuban people as they work to recover from this disaster,” spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. “The United States will continue to monitor and assess humanitarian needs in coordination with our trusted partners and the international community, and we will continue to seek ways to provide meaningful support to the Cuban people, consistent with U.S. laws and regulations.”

The assistance, Price said, would be provided indirectly, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, to international relief organizations such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies “who have a long presence in hurricane-affected communities.”

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez quickly expressed appreciation on Twitter, saying that the U.S. aid would “contribute to our recovery efforts and support by those affected by the ravages” of the storm.

The western third of the island took a direct hit from Hurricane Ian before it traveled toward the U.S. mainland. Cuba suffered an islandwide loss of electricity, floods, and extensive damage.

Cuba was already in the midst of a major economic crisis, including shortages of food and fuel that have brought people across the country into the streets in peaceful protests of both the privation and the apparent inability of their government to address it.

Cuba suffered an earlier natural disaster, just weeks before the hurricane, when lightning hit a major oil storage facility in Matanzas, east of Havana, causing a massive blaze that burned for days, contributing to fuel shortages. The administration offered unspecified assistance after that event, for which the Cuban government said it was grateful. But it did not follow up.

A Cuban offer to send physicians to New Orleans to aid in recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was rejected by the George W. Bush administration.

Following a brief U.S.-Cuba rapprochement toward the end of the Obama administration, when diplomatic relations were reestablished and Cuba was taken off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, President Donald Trump returned U.S. policy to the antagonistic relations of the past. Expanded travel and business opportunities were canceled, and Cuba was placed back on the list.

Although President Biden pledged during his campaign to roll back the Trump reversals, he has only gingerly approached normalization with Havana, in part because of political pressure from the Florida-based Cuban American community and its backers in Congress, and partially because of the Cuban government’s repression of political protests during the summer of 2021.

Since then, the administration has loosened restrictions on travel and remittances and reopened its consulate in Havana for Cuban visa applications.

The two governments have also resumed migration talks that were canceled by Trump, as a record number of Cubans have sought admission to the United States across the Mexican border.