Cuban Diaspora Organizes To Send Aid To Areas Affected By Hurricane Matthew / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A woman holds her sewing machine amid the desolation left by Matthew in Baracoa. (EFE)
A woman holds her sewing machine amid the desolation left by Matthew in Baracoa. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 7 October 2016 — The devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa and in the east end of the island has sparked a movement of solidarity from the Cubans who live in different parts of the world. Hours after the passage of terrible hurricane, dozens of people looked for how to send aid to those affected.

The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), based in Miami, will send humanitarian aid through the opposition group on the island, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Cristina Canales, a member of the board of the CANF, told 14ymedio that they have been collecting aid for a week.

“From the images that have come out of the affected areas and multiple comments from Cubans interested in collaborating, we decided to offer the chance for the community to also send aid through our organization,” said Canales.

“UNPACU has been posting videos of how to deliver this help. We want to be very clear as to where the money goes, and for that we will be posting regular updates on our website. We urge people to help through our website or to call the foundation’s offices,” she said.

From Spain, the news aggregator CiberCuba on behalf of one of its founding members, Luis Manuel Mazorra Fernandez, has posted a petition on the platform to ask Cuban Customs to eliminate the payment of fees for sending humanitarian aid to the island.

The action, called “Eliminate tariffs at Customs Cuba for sending Hurricane Matthew Relief” already has more than 4,100 signatures of the 5,000 needed, explained Mazorra by telephone from Valencia, following a precedent from 2008.

Cuban Customs levies a fee of about 20 CUC (roughly $20 US) for every kilogram entering the country.

“We want to use our media power to help the victims. There are many people who are suspicious about the use of the money. So we want to promote this petition for Cubans wishing to send food and clothing without tariffs, and in this way to help their fellow countrymen, “he said.

The platform has also made a collection of money to be sent to Caritas, which has begun a campaign to help the most impoverished areas of Guantanamo, along with other non-governmental organizations. But according to Mazorra, “It is much better, if instead of sending money, we can send products, because we already know that not much is resolved in Cuba with money.”

“The most important thing is to raise awareness, create noise for the Cuban government to wake up and react,” he said.

The founder of the digital site also referenced the censorship they have been subjected to in recent weeks by the Cuban government.

“It’s unfortunate because we have become one of the 10 most visited pages of Cuba. It has affected us a lot. In Cuba we had a brutal audience and maintained a neutral editorial line.”

According to Mazorra, what is happening is a brutal campaign against bloggers and official journalists. “We were accused of being financed by USAID (US Agency for International Development), a complete lie, because we have no relationship with any government or foreign agencies. We are funded with advertising on the site. This is a project of only 20 people in Spain, Miami and Cuba,” he argued.