CubaBrief: Cuban dictatorship’s blockade on humanitarian assistance. In Cuba, a container of humanitarian aid sent by UK religious org is taken.

Havana calls the United States economic embargo a “blockade.” This is not true as the State Department (and U.S. – Cuba trade statistics over the past 25 years) demonstrate. It is a lame excuse for the Cuban dictatorship’s failure. 

The current economic debacle in Cuba is primarily due to 65 years of communist central planning under a totalitarian government. There is no rule of law, and decisions are neither obvious or transparent in Cuba. This includes the arbitrary confiscation or acceptance of humanitarian assistance, as demonstrated in four cases over the last three decades.

Most chicken eaten in Cuba is imported from the United States, not grown in Cuba

Confiscated humanitarian aid sent from the UK during the present crisis

According to a report from CubaNet, the Cuban regime confiscated a shipment of humanitarian aid sent to the Evangelical Church of Cuba “En Jesucristo Libres” by the Christian organization International Aid Trust, based in London, England, due to alleged “irregularities.”

The confiscated container contained “a power generator, 15 Singer sewing machines, three electric lawnmowers, food, clothing, shoes, household appliances, mattresses, musical instruments (guitars, ukuleles, violins, flutes, tambourines, keyboards, electric drums, wired microphones, toys, wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers).

A proforma invoice (or proforma facture) is a document that is used to confirm the details of a transaction between two parties before the actual goods or services are provided.

The shipment was sent in February 2024 with donations from religious individuals in the United Kingdom. It arrived at the port of Mariel and is still there. According to sources from the receiving Church, it followed Cuban customs regulations.

Reverend Bernard Cocker, founder and chief executive of International Aid Trust, wrote to the United Kingdom’s ambassador in Cuba, Mr. George Hollingberry, on June 4, 2024, requesting assistance to “establish constructive cooperation with Cuban officials and effectively implement humanitarian projects for the benefit of the Cuban people.

In a message to the religious organization’s directors, a communist bureaucrat named Ignacio Valdivia ‘Farrill claimed that “the confiscation of the container is a sovereign decision of the Cuban State,” and that “there is an approved procedure that consists of goods entering the country being accepted or not based on their origin, characteristics, and objectives. When certain of these characteristics do not match the acceptable requirements, the State has the authority to confiscate, as it did in this case.”
The donation, valued at $6,552 dollars, including shipping costs, had “many inconsistencies in this import procedure by those who carried out the procedures,” but Mr. Valdivia’Farril failed to enumerate what the alleged inconsistencies were, and reiterated the firmness of the decision to confiscate, which they believed was justified “with or without documents.”

Confiscated humanitarian aid during the COVID pandemic in 2020 

In May 2020, the  Pan American Foundation for Democracy, in collaboration with the City of Miami, called on all Cuban residents of South Florida and the United States to send donations to  provide humanitarian assistance to Cubans on the island, which was experiencing a crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Humanitarian supplies were collected in the Mana Wynwood Convention Center on Saturday, May 16, 2020, and delivered to the the Port of Mariel in Cuba, but the Cuban dictatorship confiscated the aid, which never reached Cubans in need.
 

Two leaders of the Council of Churches of Cuba, Reverend Joel Ortega Dopico, the Executive Secretary and Rev Antonio Santana Hernández, the president criticized the efforts of Rosa María Payá to get the much needed humanitarian assistance to Cubans on the island, providing cover to the actions of the Cuban dictatorship. Both are members of the Cuban Communist Party.

Drop off and collection point for humanitarian assistance for Cuba in May 2020 in Miami, FL.

Castro rejected U.S. offer of millions in humanitarian aid after two devastating hurricanes in 2008.

Fidel Castro turned down an offer of humanitarian assistance from the United States a dozen years earlier after the island was struck by two severe storms.

Cuba was devastated in 2008 by hurricanes Ike and Gustav, but has “too much dignity” to accept $5 million in aid from the United States, Fidel Castro said in a column published on September 17, 2008, reported Reuters at the time. Castro claimed that “If instead of five million they were one billion, the answer would be the same.”

“The United States first offered $100,000 to Cuba with the possibility of more if Cuba allowed a U.S. team to do its own damage assessment. The offer was eventually raised to $5 million, without the request to do an assessment” said Reuters in the same report.

Despite public rejection of U.S. assistance and misleading allegations about the U.S. embargo, Havana purchased US goods worth 711.5 million dollars in 2008.  Cash and carry trade had been initiated in 2000, but the anti-embargo rhetoric of the Cuban dictatorship remained the same.

A GOES-12 infrared satellite image provided by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, Calif., showing the status of Hurricane Gustav over Cuba at approximately 12:45pm EST on Aug. 30, 2008.

Havana held up humanitarian aid following a devastating hurricane in 1996.

In another crisis 12 years earlier, following an act of state terrorism by Havana that drew international censure, the Cuban exile community sought to assist the Cuban people.

Eight months after the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown, following Hurricane Lili’s devastating impact on Cuba the United States government in October 1996 waived a then existing ban on direct flights from Cuba for a Catholic Church charity to send a planeload of aid to help victims of the hurricane.Ulises Cabrera in an article published by Cubanet on October 23, 1996 described the grim situation on the island.

”To the hundreds of thousands of homeless Cubans now there’s a fresh crop. Hunger worsens by the day. The sugar industry and the rest of the economy will have even worse results. The government has informed us that they have used up the State’s reserves for emergencies, therefore we will be subjected to even greater misery amidst the misery, and even the faint hope that some fools cling to, will vanish.”

30 tons of assistance arrived in Cuba, but were held by regime officials for over a week and not sent to impacted areas. On November 2, 1996 the Cuban dictatorship said that it “was not accepting part of a planeload of food aid for victims of Hurricane Lili sent by Cuban-Americans because packages had been adorned with political, ”counter-revolutionary” slogans.”

According to then Father Thomas Wenski, “some packages were adorned with messages such as ”exile” and ‘love can do everything.’ Wenski reiterated on Saturday that the donors had not meant any harm by putting such lettering on the packages.”

By User Storm05 on en.wikipedia – http://rsd.gsfc.nasa.gov/goes/pub/goes/961018.lili.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1056949

CiberCuba, July 1, 2024

In Cuba, a container of humanitarian aid sent by a British religious organization is confiscated.

The container was seized by the Department of Attention to Religious Institutions and Fraternal Associations of the  Cuban government

A shipment of humanitarian aid sent to the Evangelical Church of  Cuba “En Jesucristo Libres” by the Christian organization International Aid Trust, based in London, England, was confiscated by the Cuban regime due to irregularities found, according to a report from the independent media outlet CubaNet.

The container, seized by the Department of Attention to Religious Institutions and Fraternal Associations, contained a power generator, 15 Singer sewing machines, three electric lawnmowers, food, clothing, shoes, household appliances, mattresses, musical instruments (guitars, ukuleles, violins, flutes, tambourines, keyboards, electric drums, wired microphones, toys, wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers), as reported by the mentioned media outlet.

An analyst from that department, named Ignacio Valdivia ’Farrill, stated in an audio message addressed to the directors of the religious organization, and which CubaNet had access to, that “the confiscation of the container is a sovereign decision of the Cuban State.”

Valdivia O’Farrill alleged certain procedures for the reception of products. “There is an approved procedure that consists of goods entering the country being accepted or not based on their origin, characteristics, and objectives. When some of these aspects do not meet the approved standards, the State can make the decision [to confiscate], as was the case in this instance,” he added.

According to this official, the donation, valued at 6,552 dollars, including shipping costs, had “many inconsistencies in this import procedure by those who carried out the procedures.”

However, he failed to enumerate what the alleged inconsistencies were, and reiterated the firmness of the decision to confiscate, which they believed was justified “with documents or without documents.”

The shipment had been made in February with donations from religious individuals in the United Kingdom. It arrived through the port of Mariel and remains there currently.
Sources from the receiving Church stated that it complied with the requirements of Cuban Customs.

Reverend Bernard Cocker, founder and chief executive of International Aid Trust, sent a letter to the United Kingdom’s ambassador in  Cuba, Mr. George Hollingberry, dated June 4, in which he requests assistance to “establish constructive cooperation with Cuban officials and effectively implement humanitarian projects for the benefit of the Cuban people.”

Letter to the UK Ambassador in Havana.

In the letter, Reverend Cocker gives descriptions of the situation experienced at the port of Mariel as “regrettable” due to the retention of this container, which brings necessary products for the Cuban population, currently immersed in a crisis of shortages and lack of basic goods.

The formal reason given by customs officials is that “the shipment contained prohibited items,” when the “humanitarian cargo contains only essential goods to help those in need in Cuba, such as clothing, food, wheelchairs, mattresses, footwear, baby food, toys for children, etc.,” expressed in their letter.

The Patmos Institute denounces on its blog that this is not the first time that an event of this nature has occurred with religious institutions.

In 2020, we had already reported the theft of four containers that had been sent to Cuba, also collected by Cubans, in what was known as “Solidarity among brothers,” through a church in the USA that sent it to another church in Cuba with the purpose of distributing it to the Cuban people through a network of pastors and churches waiting for it.

Havana Times, August 18, 2020

Cuban Gov. Rejects Humanitarian Aid from Abroad

By Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES – Born in Miami, the “Solidarity between brothers and sisters” campaign managed to work a miracle. It transported food and personal hygiene items to the international Mariel port, to the west of Havana, destined for 15,000 Cuban families. The government is now facing the challenge of closing its doors or allowing the different religious organizations to distribute this humanitarian aid.

So far there’s only silence from Plaza de la Revolucion in response to a project that sidesteps the State’s power. However, the Council of Christian Churches in Cuba (CIC), took it upon themselves to speak for the Cuban people, God and Fidel Castro. https://consejodeiglesiasdecuba.org/

It was precisely on August 13th, the 94th anniversary of the Comandante’s birthday, that Reverend Antonio Santana, CIC president, felt the need to preach.

“As a Man of God, I feel the need to speak out in the face of an event that is not in keeping with what our country needs.”

Joel Ortega Dopico, the Executive Secretary of the above-mentioned religious association, issued a similar statement. “We believe that the campaign launched by Rosa Maria Paya, from the Cuba Decide project, is an insult to the Cuban people and churches.”

The statement comes four days after Rosa Maria Paya confirmed this news of the aid reaching Cuba, after donations were collected in May. The daughter of Sakharov Prize winner Oswaldo Paya sounded the following alert.

“We are warning Cuban Customs and its director, Cordobes Reyes, to fulfill its obligation of handing over these containers to the churches. They are the legal owners of this freight, so it can be distributed among families most in need.”

The government’s silence contrasts with the cry from the Council of Christian Churches, whose representatives declare the aid is not needed.   

“Cuba doesn’t need aid from those who serve a government [USA] which has wanted to create humanitarian crises with a political and economic agenda for 60 years. Far from seeking dialogue and respect and abiding by international laws, it violates them and holds no regard for diplomatic norms. It turns a deaf ear to the UN, year after year, when nearly all countries approve the Cuban resolution: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

This statement seems to be copied straight from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). Just like any minister, explaining the system of government they represent, the reformed Presbyterian Church pastor explains to us in another paragraph:

“In our country, civil society, churches and the State interact in harmony, each of them taking on its particular role.”

The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) controls the approved religious institutions which are directly attended to and supervised by its Central Committee’s Office of Religious Affairs.

Regarding the products in port warehouses, the almost unanimous opinion on social media is that this aid should reach its beneficiaries. In the only space for debate outside of government censorship trans actress and TV host Kiriam Gutierrez has spoken out to the CIC’s reverends.

“These five containers of aid were collected by Cubans and US citizens. There, our brothers and sisters, parents, relatives and friends made donations. I need this aid, my mother needs the diapers. Likewise, the medicines that are only found in international drugstores in dollars at exorbitant prices. My mother and I need the free food since you can only buy food in US dollars right now, and I don’t have any.”

Meanwhile, Rosa Maria Paya was cutting and straight to the point. She clarified about the destiny of the humanitarian aid. “The President and Secretary of the Council of Churches DO NOT have to reject anything because this Humanitarian Aid WAS NOT sent to them.”

In Santiago de Cuba, Alain Toledano, of the Sendas de Justicia movement, demonstrates there are other churches who aren’t standing by the Council’s statement.

“We have to let the world know that this aid belongs to the Cuban people, it doesn’t belong to the State. We won’t accept any trap to try and justify a seizure of what the Cuban people need so desperately today.”

When asked about how feasible it would be to distribute this aid, Toledano said the following,

“We have everything organized on our part: personnel, drop off places, teams lined up to distribute. There is a list which testifies that over 15,000 people or families have asked for aid, we know who they are, their names. We have a well-organized operation, and we would only serve as a bridge, as a channel so that these blessings reach the many families. These include believers and non-believers, because this aid doesn’t discriminate, it’s for the Cuban people.”

In Miami, donors are outraged because the donation drive went on for some weeks, directly and publicly. It took place in the parking lot in front of the Mana Wynwood Convention Center’s warehouses in North Miami, without a single political slogan. The only phrase visible was Solidaridad entre hermanos (Solidarity between brothers/sisters).

At 70 years old, Nelson Ruiz gave us a photo after buying the popular bath soap “Irish Spring”, along with other similar items.

He said: “Soap cleans the body, detergent cleans clothes and plates; these are basic human needs, there isn’t any political statement in these containers. We have to ask what the leaders in my country are so ticked off about.”

“Is it that Cubans are coming together everywhere, without asking them for permission, after they have had us in shackles for 61 years?”

“Invoking the blockade is ridiculous because we are sending our aid from the US freely,” an Internet user commented. He ends with: “we are in the shadow of a crisis that has brought the entire world to a standstill.”

https://havanatimes.org/features/cuban-gov-rejects-humanitarian-aid-from-abroad/

 

Babalu Blog, August 15, 2020

Cuba’s government-run Council of Churches refuses to accept aid from exile community

August 15, 2020 by Carlos Eire

From our Bureau of Rendering Absolutely Everything Unto to Caesar

No surprise here, even though it is always shocking to realize that there are self-styled “men of God” who really only serve Caesar and regurgitate whatever Caesar tells them to say.

Absolutely revolting.

As Dana Carvey’s SNL Church Lady would say: “Well…. isn’t that special!”

Simply because Rosa María Payá was involved in an effort to send humanitarian aid to Cubans in need, the Castronoid Council of Churches spewed forth the sort of venom one expects from the Ministry of Truth rather than from true ministers of God.

Miserere nobis Domine…..

The Council of Churches of Cuba rejected the humanitarian aid sent from Miami and described the initiative as a campaign orchestrated by the Cuban opposition party Rosa María Payá, director of the Cuba Decide platform.

In a statement published this Thursday, the religious organization assured that the Solidarity among brothers initiative, which aims to deliver food, medicine and supplies to some 15,000 Cuban families, “does not correspond” to the response the island needs to the pandemic of COVID-19.

“We are struck by the recent rumors and accentuated manipulations of the ‘Cuba decides’ campaign, orchestrated by the activist Rosa María Payá … As a Man of God, I am assisted by the need to exercise the prophetic work of denouncing a fact that does not correspond with the response our country needs, ”reads the statement, signed by Reverend Antonio Santana Hernández, president of the Council of Churches of Cuba.

The reaction of the institution comes after Rosa María Payá announced last Monday that the humanitarian aid collected in Miami on May 16, 2020 is already in the Mariel container terminal waiting for the island’s authorities to allow their collection and distribution.

In this sense, the activist called on “committed churches” to help collect it and distribute it to those most in need.

However, the Cuban Council of Churches turned its back on the initiative and blamed the US embargo for the material deficiencies of Cubans.

“It is not a secret, the lack of essential goods that our people have, but neither is the cruel economic, financial and commercial blockade increased by the United States Government towards Cuba, nor is the decisive effort of the highest leadership in the country for safeguarding the lives of Cubans and many people in the world, evidencing the vocation of solidarity that distinguishes us as people of good will ”.

Likewise, the Council pointed out that “the channel to bring aid will never be one that promotes division and double intentions for political purposes.”

Continue reading HERE in Spanish if you like the stench of Castro, Inc. venom

https://babalublog.com/2020/08/15/cubas-government-run-council-of-churches-refuses-to-accept-aid-from-exile-community/

Reuters, September 17, 2008

Fidel Castro says dignity stops Cuba taking US aid

By Jeff Franks, Michael Christie and Ross Colvin

HAVANA, Sept 17 (Reuters) – Cuba, devastated in recent weeks by two powerful hurricanes, has too much dignity to accept aid from the United States, former leader Fidel Castro said in a column published on Wednesday.

He said the United States had done billions of dollars in damage to Cuba with its 46-year-old trade embargo against the island and does not understand “that the dignity of a people has no price.”

Cuba suffered $5 billion in damages from hurricanes Ike and Gustav, but the government has rejected offers of up to $5 million in U.S. aid.

“If instead of five million they were one billion, the answer would be the same,” wrote Castro, who has been on the sidelines since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006 and was formally replaced as president by brother Raul Castro in February.

“The damage in thousands of lives, suffering and more than $200 billion the blockade (embargo) has cost, and the Yankee aggressions, can’t be paid with anything,” he said. Instead of accepting aid, Cuba has asked the United States to at least temporarily lift the embargo so it can buy what it needs, but the Bush administration has refused.

The United States first offered $100,000 to Cuba with the possibility of more if Cuba allowed a U.S. team to do its own damage assessment. The offer was eventually raised to $5 million, without the request to do an assessment.

Other countries such as Russia, Spain, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras and Colombia have been sending in goods, and Cuba has accepted an offer of $3.5 million in aid from the United Nations.

“The wave of solidarity with Cuba, that encompasses countries big and small, with resources and without, would disappear the day that Cuba quit being dignified,” Castro said.

The 82-year-old Castro, not seen in public since falling ill, now writes occasional columns published in Cuba’s state-run press.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Michael Christie and Ross Colvin)

https://www.reuters.com/article/economy/fidel-castro-says-dignity-stops-cuba-taking-us-aid-idUSN17404031/