Cuba’s recent Mantazas oil fires were a brutal blow to the already struggling island. The impact from the oil storage facility’s destruction will be felt for a long time. Not to mention, the health implications from the release of toxic chemicals as the plume of smoke drifted towards Havana need to be studied so that care can be administered.
It’s now time to clean up and support the rehabilitation of the country’s electric system. And, frankly, it’s time to do it with the help of the United States. That’s what John McAuliff, the Executive Director of The Fund for Reconciliation and Development (FFDR), is calling on all of us to encourage the U.S. government to do.
When the fires first began to rage in Cuba’s primary oil storage tanks in Matanzas on August 5th, U.S. agencies failed to provide or fund immediate material help. Despite our country’s history of support to nations around the world we did not offer the assistance we are known for, and capable of.
Look, I get it. Things are complicated. They’re not black and white: they’re a shade of super messy gray. The U.S. and Cuba are 60 years into it. It’s not like this fire happened in France or another Western ally. But, sometimes we’ve got to get over ourselves, cut through the bureaucracy and see just a little bit of the forest through the trees.
That’s what McAuliff is suggesting with the petition he’s asking you to sign.
Since 1985, his organization has been on the front lines of building human connections between people of the U.S. and those of former adversaries. Originally working in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the group’s primary goal is to seek ways to develop mutual understanding and trust.
It’s a noble cause.
McAuliff’s petition is aimed at encouraging Samantha Power, the Director of USAID, to fund U.S. NGOs and businesses to assist in the clean-up of the disaster. He’s asking that we all add our names to the petition to help move more aid for the Matanzas oil fire forward.
I believe in dialogue as a tool to move people forward. Therefore I support engagement with Cuba. And, I support our nation offering help in circumstances where human beings need the kind of assistance that we are good at.
I’ll leave it at that because I don’t believe this platform is a valuable tool if we blatantly use it to push an agenda – any agenda. I would ask though that you give McAuliff’s petition a look. At the very least, the eternally hopeful optimist in me thinks that U.S. assistance could be an olive branch in a stalemate between two nations pounding their chest at each other.
And… we may help a few people while we’re at it.
Matanzas Oil Fire Hero Image: Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images