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Cablegate: Disaster Declaration for Cuba - Hurricane Ike

VZCZCXYZ0232
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0744 2551959
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 111959Z SEP 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 0168
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3719
RUEHWN/AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN PRIORITY 0004
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE PRIORITY 0021
INFO RUEHKG/AMEMBASSY KINGSTON 0016
RUEHBH/AMEMBASSY NASSAU 0033
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE 0008
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO 0026

UNCLAS HAVANA 000744

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CCA, WHA/EX
STATE FOR USAID/OFDA ROB THAYER
SAN JOSE FOR USAID/OFDA TIM CALLAGHAN
BRIDGETOWN FOR USAID/OFDA JULIE LEONARD
USMISSION GENEVA FOR NKYLOH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL CU
SUBJECT: DISASTER DECLARATION FOR CUBA - HURRICANE IKE

REF: HAVANA 722

1. (U) Hurricane Ike has wreaked havoc across eastern,
central, and western Cuba as it traversed virtually the
entire island from September 8-9. U.S. Interests Section
personnel do not have direct access to these regions of Cuba,
but have received reports from Cuban NGOs, international
organizations, and foreign and Cuban media of serious damage
to houses, other buildings, infrastructure, and agricultural
production in these areas. These reports include almost
every province of Cuba, ranging from Guantanamo in the
extreme east to Pinar del Rio on the western tip of Cuba.
Pinar del Rio province already was reeling from the
devastating effects of Category 4 hurricane Gustav just ten
days earlier.

2. (U) Accordingly, the Chief of Mission requests an
additional $500,000 in assistance from USAID/OFDA for
emergency relief to these affected areas. In accordance with
prior discussions with WHA/CCA, AID/LAC, and AID/OFDA, COM
believes that the USG should consider providing this
assistance through a USG contribution to the International
Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), in response to the IFRC's
September 9 appeal for $5.8 million for relief programs in
Cuba to address the needs of the population affected by
hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Our understanding is that the
IFRC would provide its assistance through the Cuban Red Cross
affiliate, which reportedly has a network throughout Cuba.
Because this would indirectly funnel USG assistance through
GOC channels, there will need to be a policy decision made
that the USG is prepared to take such a step given the
exigent circumstances.

3. (SBU) The COM on September 10 signed separate
agreements with Caritas and the Methodist Church in Cuba to
provide $80,000 and $20,000 respectively in humanitarian
assistance for the damages from hurricane Gustav. Both
Caritas and the Methodist church have told USINT that they
are re-evaluating their relief efforts in the wake of
hurricane Ike but that they are not in position now to expand
their current operations. Both organizations prefer to
purchase locally their relief supplies, and Caritas in
particular emphasized that it already has run into supply
problems due to local scarcities. Both Caritas and the
Methodist Church would be prime candidates for follow-on USG
funding in addition to the $500,000 for the IFRC once they
have settled into their relief efforts and been able to plan
and build potential capacity for broader-based relief
programs.

4. (SBU) In that regard, USINT urges discretion in
avoiding references to Caritas and the Methodist Church in
any public diplomacy regarding USG relief provided to Cuba
via humanitarian organizations. Caritas is especially
sensitive to any public reference to assistance it might
receive from the USG, and in Havana avoids any discussion of
USG assistance in public or over the telephone. Highlighting
the roles of Caritas or the Methodist church as recipients of
USG aid would draw unwelcome attention from the GOC and
jeopardize their ability to work with us in the future.

5. (U) COM also requests the re-designation of an OFDA
assessment team to travel to Cuba to assess additional
humanitarian assistance requirements should the GOC change
its position and accede to such a visit. USINT Havana
appreciates OFDA assistance provided already for hurricane
Gustav relief and looks forward to working with OFDA to
address this latest humanitarian crisis.
FARRAR

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