U.S. And Cuba Showing Signs Of Cooperation In Haiti Relief Effort

January 22, 2010 4:43 a.m.

The United States is prepared to give medical supplies to a team of Cuban doctors in Port-au-Prince who reportedly ran out of anaesthetic this week, a State Department spokesman tells TPMmuckraker.

“The United States has communicated its readiness to make medical relief supplies available to Cuban doctors working on the ground in Haiti as part of the international relief effort,” said spokesman Darby Holladay.

Over 300 Cuban doctors were already in Haiti doing humanitarian work when the earthquake hit, and 100-plus more have since arrived, according to CNN. But a report in the Irish Times Tuesday describes how a Cuban medical team in Port-au-Prince ran out of key supplies, forcing them to perform amputations without anaesthetic.

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, tells TPMmuckraker he and other pro-engagement advocates have been involved in an effort to reach out to U.S. officials and encourage cooperation with the Cubans in Haiti. He calls the State Department statement “tremendous if true.”

In another sign of rare cooperation between the two adversaries, Cuba last week authorized American medical evacuation flights to go through Cuban airspace, cutting 90 minutes off the travel time from Guantanamo Bay to Miami.

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“Non-politicized opportunities like this for our countries to work together, to do good together, help build the confidence needed to eventually normalize relations on a political level as well,” says Sarah Stephens, executive director of the pro-engagement Center for Democracy in the Americas.

Holladay, the State spokesman, tells us the U.S. offer of medical supplies “reflects our overwhelming concern for the welfare of the Haitian people. We will continue to identify areas where our cooperation can support the overall relief effort in Haiti.”

Meanwhile, some groups that favor the continuation of the Cuban embargo, are not pleased with the signs of cooperation. It’s “absolutely unconscionable to try to use tragic disasters — such as Haiti’s earthquake — as a springboard for bilateral relations,” wrote Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the hardline Cuba Democracy Advocates.

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