While currently blinded by political myopia, Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike could very well be the Cuban Communist Party’s undoing. The Communist Party’s rejection of U.S. humanitarian assistance confirms that the regime is not interested in change, but more of the same. Fidel Castro may have been sidelined, but Fidelismo lives on through his brother and the party elders.
The Communist Party’s nostaligic response to offers of U.S. assistance reminds us that Cuba’s leaders are still stuck in another era when it comes to foreign affairs. The Party has invoked the Venezuelan “petrodemocracy” talisman, the Russians, and other nations of the Bolivarian Axis for support. These players are wholly incapable of delivering the type and amount of assistance that the devastated island currently needs. At its core, pride, ignorance, and, some would say pure stupidity, characterize the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party. The Cuban people are taking notice.
While the Communist Party dawdles in Havana, the U.S. has an opportunity to demonstrate to the people of Cuba and the Americas our commitment to freedom and democracy in Cuba. As we have done for famine victims in Africa or the tsunami victims in Southeast Asia, the U.S. should organize a massive relief effort and make it available to Cuba, even if they say no. Food, water, medicine, and medical supplies, including donations from Americans, should be stored in GiTMO in eastern Cuba (no worries, the prison facility is very much apart from the rest of the base). Given GiTMO’s proximity to Haiti and the Eastern Caribbean, it is possible that assistance for these regions could also be staged from this area.
As Americans do when people are in need, Americans will step up. Humanitarian groups such as the long-established Miami Medical Team can be tapped to provide free medical care. Undoubtedly, hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles and their families in South Florida, and throughout the U.S., will make donations that can be flown and pre-positioned at GiTMO. There are reports that some groups have already started to collect supplies. It would send a clear message to the Cuban people that there is nothing to fear from the U.S., as the Cuban Communist Party tells them that they should, but quite the opposite.
The world will also witness that we are ready to assist, and that the Cuban Communist Party seeks to make politics of a very tragic situation. The images of massive relief supplies sitting in shipping crates or delivery trucks at GiTMO will make it even more challenging for the regime to say no. More importantly, the people of Cuba, especially those in the eastern provinces, will know that the only thing standing between their glass of water or medicine is the Communist Party of Cuba, Venezuelan “petrodemocracy” bribe aid, the Russians, and the Bolivarian Axis.
With regards to current U.S. policy, there is no need to ease any of our sanctions toward Cuba. Our policy is designed to isolate the Cuban regime, while assisting the Cuban people. Despite the sanctions, bar none, the U.S. remains the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. We can only expect the donations and offers of aid to increase in the days and weeks ahead. The U.S. military will see to it that this assistance gets pre-positioned and ready to move to the most affected in Cuba. It would be up to the Cuban Communist Party just give the word. This is the only policy change we need right now, enforcement of the current policy on the books.