U.S. to give $2 million in hurricane aid to Cuba

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The United States will provide $2 million for emergency relief in Cuba, the State Department announced Tuesday after Cuba requested assistance after Hurricane Ian devastated the island.

Both the appeal, addressed directly to the United States, and the US response marked a rare moment of agreement between the two governments – although the Biden administration made it clear that its aid would not go to the Cuban government but would be channeled through non-governmental international organizations would become organizations.

“We stand with the Cuban people as they work to recover from this disaster,” spokesman 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 avenues to provide meaningful assistance to the Cuban people consistent with U.S. laws and regulations.”

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

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was quick to express his appreciation on Twitter, saying the US aid would “contribute to our recovery efforts and to support those affected” by the storm’s devastation.

The western third of the island was hit directly by Hurricane Ian before heading toward the US mainland. Cuba suffered an island-wide power outage, flooding and extensive damage. Cuba was already in the midst of a major economic crisis, including food and fuel shortages, that has drawn people across the country to peaceful protests against the deprivation and their government’s apparent inability to address it.

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Cuba suffered an earlier natural disaster just weeks before the hurricane struck, when lightning struck a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, east of Havana, causing a massive fire that burned for days and contributed to fuel shortages. The government offered unspecified assistance after this event, for which the Cuban government expressed its gratitude. But it didn’t follow.

A Cuban offer to send doctors to New Orleans to help with recovery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was turned down by the George W. Bush administration.

After a brief rapprochement between the US and Cuba towards the end of the Obama administration, when diplomatic relations were restored and Cuba was removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, President Donald Trump guided US policy towards the antagonistic relations past back. Extended travel and business opportunities were removed, and Cuba was put back on the list.

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Despite President Biden promising during his campaign to reverse Trump’s reversals, he has only tentatively approached normalization with Havana, partly due to political pressure from the Florida-based Cuban-American community and their supporters in Congress, and partly due to pressure the Cuban government’s repression of political protests in the summer of 2021.

Since then, the government has eased travel and remittance restrictions and reopened its consulate in Havana for Cuban visa applications.

The two governments have also resumed migration talks, which Trump canceled, as a record number of Cubans have applied to enter the United States through the Mexican border.

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