On Friday October 10, President Bush met with leaders of the Cuban American community in Coral Gables, Florida to discuss his the Bush Administration's response to Hurricane Ike in Cuba. In the process Bush made a few remarks that are, at the very least, interesting for their hypocrisy.
As part of his remarks Bush said:
"You know, recently Ike hit Cuba very hard and all Americans, whether they be Cuban Americans or otherwise, grieve deeply about the damage done to the average Cuban citizen. And so my government, under the leadership of Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, offered aid from the United States to the Cuban people. But that aid was rejected by the Castros, which should tell the people of Cuba and the people around the world that the Castro people are only interested in themselves and their power, and not to the benefit and welfare of the Cuban people."
First of all lets address the hypocrisy in this here statement. According to Bush, the denial of American aid is proof of Raul and Fidel Castro's selfishness and indifference towards the people of Cuba. If that logic is correct then we can only assume that back in 2005 when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and FEMA was nowhere to be found, that Bush's decision to reject Cuban medical aid was similarly selfish and proof of Bush's own indifference towards the people of New Orleans. After all, the US seemed utterly incapable of managing the situation and while people drowned, Cuba had a ship with 500 medically trained personnel ready for deployment offered to the US without preconditions. An offer rejected by the Bush Administration.
So either Bush and Castro are equally heartless towards their people or they both placed national security concerns above the immediate crisis. Either logic can be applied, but only hypocrisy leads you to assign logic to one but not the other.
In other remarks Bush hints at something more important from his point of view:
"You know, our government has been very clear about our strategy, and that is, is that we will change the embargo strategy only when the government of Cuba lets the people of Cuba express themselves freely. We will change our policy when the people running Cuba free people of conscience from the prisons. But until then we won't change, because our message is to the Cuban people, you're being repressed by a handful of elites that are holding back your great potential. And we will not put policies in place that allow them to benefit personally at the expense of the Cuban people."
Here he is referring to an issue that has been at the forefront of Cuban American issues, while being careful not to betray the image of the US for American voters while equally addressing the complaints of the group. What is he referring to?
Immediately after Hurricane Ike hit Cuba, the Cuban American community sprang into action amassing aid packages for the people of Cuba. Everything from clothing to building supplies and food were carefully collected and prepared for shipment to the island. This was however a futile effort as the Bush administration moved to block all aid from Cuban Americans to Cubans in the island. This is the policy Bush is referring to when he speaks about not changing the Administration's Cuban Policy which has limited the ability of Cubans to communicate and send money or aid to the island nation.
In short what Bush was saying to this group of Cuban Americans is that 1) despite the crisis in Cuba, American foreign policy is more important than the people's welfare, 2) that aid can only be sent to Cuba by the hand of the American Government or its agents in the island, 3) that change to this policy as well as others will only come once Cuba accepts American preconditions.
It is true that Cuba rejected aid, aid from the American government that is, not aid in general. In fact, not only did Cuba appeal to the US government to allow the Cuban American community to send aid, but it asked the international community as well. In all Cuba has thus far received over 2,500 tons of relief from 230 international relief aid shipments worth 17 million dollars out of the 478 offers worth 51 million dollars.
Cuba asked for aid, the Cuban American Community responded admirable, the International Community responded as well, however it was the United States, Bush's Administration specifically, which turned this crisis into a political volleyball by offering aid only if it came under the name of "USAID". Now Bush takes a victory lap in Cuban neighborhoods while playing to the well-worn ears of the Cuban American elite in Miami who seem at times more interested in a photo-op with Bush than calling him out for his hypocrisy against their own brethren.