Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cuba might accept U.S. hurricane aid in the future, Minex official said

This 2009 cable says if the U.S. government is going to offer hurricane aid to Cuba in the future, it should do so quietly to avoid embarrassing the Cuban government.
The document adds:
however, the USG should be wary that the GOC may be expecting a blank check, not a calculated offer of pragmatic post-hurricane assistance.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09HAVANA559 2009-09-14 10:10 2010-12-16 21:09 SECRET US Interests Section Havana

VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0559/01 2571036
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 141036Z SEP 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4755
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COGARD INTELCOORDCEN WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOWCV/COMCOGARD SECTOR KEY WEST FL PRIORITY
RULSJGA/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOWCA/COMLANTAREA COGARD PORTSMOUTH VA PRIORITY 0142
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCOWCV/MARINCEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/NAVINTELOFC GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RUEHKG/USDAO KINGSTON JM PRIORITY

S E C R E T HAVANA 000559

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/11/2029
TAGS: SNAR PREL SMIG PGOV CU ASEC
SUBJECT: CHECK PLEASE! GOVERNMENT OF CUBA MAY ACCEPT U.S.
OFFER OF POST-HURRICANE ASSISTANCE

REF: HAVANA 500 & 511

Classified By: CDA JAMES WILLIAMS FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) & (D)

¶1. (S/NF) Summary: On 3 September 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard
Drug Interdiction Specialist (DIS) assigned to the U.S.
Interests Section (USINT) in Havana, Cuba, engaged in a
candid conversation with a Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MINREX) official who provided insight into the possible
Government of Cuba (GOC) response to any USG offers of
post-hurricane assistance to the GOC. End Summary.

¶2. (S/NF) A MINREX officer ("officer") in the Ministry's
North American Division, Rodney, who attends repatriations
somewhat infrequently (DIS has had contact with this official
on approximately 5 occasions- USINT consular officers have
also met this officer on other occasions while attending
repatriations), exchanged pleasantries with the DIS at the
outset of the repatriation. During the boat ride to the
receiving pier, the officer almost immediately directed the
conversation towards what seemed to be a pre-planned
discussion. Offering up the usual &in my personal opinion8
while placing a firm hand on his chest and gesturing towards
himself, the officer stated: "I have been reading a lot of
U.S. press reports about possible U.S. hurricane assistance
and I think the GOC would be willing to accept that
assistance." DIS stated to the officer that that approach
would be different than last year's GOC response to the
multiple USG offers of post-hurricane assistance. The
officer went on to say that "(political) conditions this year
are very different than they were last year this time," an
apparent reference to the recent re-establishment of USINT
access to MINREX (reftels).

¶3. (S/NF) DIS stated to the officer that it was common and
prudent practice to offer a disaster assistance response team
(DART) to locations following natural disasters to assess the
damage and the necessary level and type of assistance. The
officer responded by saying that: "the level of damage to
Cuba during last year's hurricane season was evident and the
team was a precondition to providing post-hurricane
assistance to Cuba; the U.S. should not impose preconditions
and should allow the GOC to determine how assistance is
used." In turn, the DIS responded that the USG is not in the
business of writing blank checks to foreign governments to
which the officer seemed to be at a loss for words. The
officer and the DIS cordially agreed that this was an
ideological difference between both nations, and agreed that
while neither of us wanted to see any hurricane affect Cuba,
should the opportunity arise for the USG to offer hurricane
assistance to the GOC, it would be interesting to see how the
scenario unfolds.

¶4. (S/NF) This officer is a young (29 years old), cordial,
well-spoken MINREX officer who utilizes repatriations as an
opportunity to practice what might already be considered
polished English. He studied economics, is well versed in
international political ideology, and appears to be a
voracious reader. Like his more senior MINREX counterparts,
he makes a point during each repatriation to discuss recent
U.S. press reporting relative to U.S.-Cuba relations, and
uses each repatriation as an opportunity to elicit a response
from the DIS on a wide scope of U.S.-Cuban matters, always
under the guise of being a personal opinion or interest. He
does not balk when given the chance to prop-up and support
the tenets of the Cuban revolution, and especially, in his
government's opinion, the harsh treatment the USG has
afforded the Cuban people throughout the course of the
revolution. He is able to support and speak to the major GOC
talking points (i.e. the embargo, Cuban-Americans, etc.), and
is likely to rise in the GOC.

¶5. (S/NF) Comment: Yet again, MINREX has utilized the DIS and
the repatriation process as a forum to air out a current GOC

focus, and float the idea by a U.S. officer who the GOC is
aware works in the political-economic section at USINT. The
typical "this is my opinion" approach from this MINREX
officer is an opening gesture, whereafter he and each MINREX
officer then communicates a willingness, need, or current
focus of the GOC that they have decided to communicate to the
Mission and USG at large. This may well be a concerted
effort on the part of MINREX to engage in one-on-one
communication, at a relatively low-level, as a circuitous
approach to GOC-U.S. communications in lieu of direct or
over-publicized talks. By communicating in this manner, the
GOC can communicate with the USG, in this case over the issue
of hurricane assistance, and still maintain its public image
and propaganda campaign that lambaste the USG for its
approach towards Cuba. Interestingly, DIS cannot recall any
recent press reporting having to do with possible
post-hurricane assistance to Cuba.

(S/NF) Further Comment: DIS was extremely surprised by the
hurricane assistance-related comments made by the MINREX
officer. Having spent a significant amount of time working
and traveling with Cuban MININT and MINREX officers over the
past year, Cubans are extremely proud people, and almost
never admit that there is a flaw in their system, even when
the flaw is a glaring one. For a MINREX officer to admit
that his country may be willing to accept assistance from the
U.S. should a hurricane ravage this island again, ventures
well beyond the perceived pride level of GOC officials. More
than anything, the GOC does not like to be embarrassed, and
taking handouts from the USG may well be a point of
embarrassment for the GOC should they choose to accept. As
such, any genuine post-hurricane assistance offer should be
extended quietly; however, the USG should be wary that the
GOC may be expecting a blank check, not a calculated offer of
pragmatic post-hurricane assistance. End Comment.
WILLIAMS

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