Saturday, August 20, 2022

Letter to USAID


                   Fund for Reconciliation and Development

                   64 Jean Court, Riverhead, NY  11901

                   1 (917) 859-9025

 August 15, 2022

 Ms. Samantha Power

US Agency for International Development

Dear Ms. Power,

We are about to launch a petition to urge USAID to provide assistance to Cuba to recover from the horrendous oil fire at Matanzas.   
Help Matanzas Recover | MoveOn

It is unconscionable and counterintuitive that the US did not send immediate help to stop the fire.  The provision by the State Department of a phone number to obtain technical advice prompted expressions of gratitude from Deputy Foreign Minister Fernandez de Cossio and President Diaz-Canel.  (see below)

Cuba was ready to welcome direct timely assistance from Resolve Marine Group and the Hope for Cuba Foundation as authorized by OFAC, but the idea died because no US disaster assistance funding was made available.

If the US had responded quickly with its unequaled capability, the explosion of the third and fourth tank could have been avoided,  In addition we squandered the opportunity for a positive change of US-Cuba relations with potential consequences internally in both countries and in bilateral relations.  Instead, average Cubans and intellectual and cultural leaders who are known critics of their own government now despair of the US.  (see below)

It is not too late to bring to bear US expertise and traditional generosity.  Cuba faces a massive need for clean up and salvage in Matanzas.  Resolve Marine Group and Hope for Cuba Foundation are revising their proposal to meet the current situation so an easy and credible path for US engagement will soon be on offer. 

Some critics say the uncharacteristic Biden Administration inaction in the face of a neighbor's natural disaster is because it cares more about votes in Florida.  Others claim the US government regards Cuba's loss and additional disruption of electric generating capacity as a good thing because they will add to public discontent and contribute to prospects for regime change.  I cannot accept such cynical interpretations but lack evidence to the contrary.

I am writing to you not only because USAID is a logical source of assistance through the US private sector, but also because of your eloquent, historic and applauded speech to the UN when the US abstained on the embargo vote.   Cuba today is essentially the same as when you spoke.  The encouraging growth of civil society and widening of public debate of that era were reversed in reaction to the Trump Administration's harsh regression in bilateral relations.   

My personal view, based on more than sixty trips to Cuba in the past twenty-five years, is that the wide scale protests of July 11, 2021, were affected by Biden’s continuation of Trump's maximum pressure campaign through denial of remittances and travel.  I also believe the harshness of Cuban repression and subsequent prison sentences are consequences of the unexpected undiminished perceived threat from the US.

I would love to see USAID present in Cuba the way it is in the formerly enemy countries with which I have also worked closely, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; not to mention Peru where I collaborated with USAID as a Peace Corps volunteer.  For that to happen covert ideology-based democracy programs (which we would not tolerate if Russia, Iran or China tried to carry out in the US) must be replaced by public collaborations for academic, cultural, professional and business exchange.  But that is a longer conversation.  Let's move now on the inescapable humanitarian crisis created by the Matanzas fire.


John McAuliff

Executive Director


PS Your ties to Ireland are more immediate than the several strands of my 19th century immigrant ancestry.  However, a July revisit to the Republic and to Northern Ireland reminded me afresh that Ireland experienced England in ways analogous to Cuba's experience of the US.  Perhaps this parallel might also capture President Biden’s attention.


 Appreciation in tweets from Cuban leaders for US technical assistance

Carlos F. de Cossio  @CarlosFdeCossio  

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Agradecemos profunamente condolencias y expresiones de ayuda de diversas organizaciones y personas de EEUU con motivo del siniestro en #Matanzas , incluyendo gob EEUU, que ofreció asesoría técnica, propuesta ya en manos de los especialistas para la debida coordinación. #Cuba

Google translate:  We are very grateful for the condolences and expressions of help from various organizations and people in the United States on the occasion of the incident in #Matanzas, including the United States, which offered technical advice, already in the hands of specialists for proper coordination.

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez  @DiazCanelB


Expresamos profunda gratitud a los gobiernos de México, Venezuela, Rusia, Nicaragua, Argentina y Chile, que con prontitud han ofrecido ayuda material solidaria ante esta compleja situación. También agradecemos ofrecimiento de asesoría técnica por parte de EEUU.

Google translate: We express deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, which have promptly offered material assistance in solidarity in the face of this complex situation. We also appreciate the offer of technical advice from the United States.

Push back that followed the tweet from President Diaz-Canel

Was the author a hard liner from Cuba's Party or security services; or a Russian, Chinese or  Miami exile troll.  All would be unhappy with Washington-Havana rapprochement.

@BettyCOM6 Replying to @DiazCanelB

Que bien el apoyo a Cuba que tanto ha ayudado en el mundo. Pero en el caso de EEUU cuidado con la ayuda si viene de la USAID, no podemos permitir que el principal emisor de subversión en Cuba, sea ahora el Salvador. Si quieren ayudar que quiten cláusulas del bloqueo.

Google translate:  How good the support for Cuba that has helped so much in the world. But in the case of the U.S. beware of help if it comes from USAID, We cannot allow the main issuer of subversion in Cuba to now be our saviour. If they want to help let them remove clauses from the blockade.

Opinion from critics of the government

 La Joven Cuba is an on-line independent publication fostering democratic debate in Cuba.  It is distrusted and attacked by official sources and hard liners in Cuba and by the Florida right wing.  It was sympathetic to protestors in July 2021 and published this editorial about Matanzas.

United States Absent: Little support from the White House in the face of the disaster in Matanzas”


Ulises Aquino, the outspoken and widely respected creator of Opera de la Calle, asked me to circulate this statement before the fire was extinguished with the help of Mexico and Venezuela:

This is a message to the U.S. Embassy, to the Government of Cuba, Organizations, Artists and all people of good will.

Matanzas suffers, the entire Cuban people, is suffering a voracious fire that threatens to prolong itself due to the impossibility of having the resources and means to extinguish it. As a Cuban citizen, and also as a citizen of the United States, I feel a duty to insistently and with urgency request of the US government that you put aside all differences, and that you urgently collaborate with the Cuban authorities at this difficult time.

It is not a question of procedures now; it is a crusade for life. Let us show that beyond political differences there is a need for a pure space for our peoples to breathe clean air and the right to life.

To the Cuban authorities, please request the collaboration of the United States officially in the solution of this catastrophe that will leave deep traces in our lives.


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