HAVANA (AP) — A shipment of medical supplies worth nearly $100,000 sent by Cuban-American businessmen and politicians destined for a Cuban state health center arrived in Havana on Thursday, an unusual shipment within the framework of Washington’s current policy against the island.
“It is a donation from the private sector, some friends and I, that we have made with all the permits from the United States and Cuba to receive it,” businessman Saúl Berenthal told The Associated Press by telephone.
More than a hundred packages wrapped in red and blue plastic arrived at the airport, where they were received by the director of the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Diseases, Manuel Romero, and officials from Cuba’s foreign ministry.
The donation included protective masks, biosafety suits, gowns and other medical and health supplies, some of which will help the country in the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the organizers of the shipment was Joe García, a former congressman and ex-director of the Cuban American National Foundation, an organization that for years had bad relations with Cuba’s government and was accused by it of financing attempts to overthrow the revolution.
But García, who was born in Florida to Cuban parents, was satisfied that this time the differences had been overcome.
“The Cuban-American community is a great supporter of the economy to Cuba and although this is still being organized by us, this is still part of the broader aid that is sent to family and friends in Cuba, as a constant flow of those who live abroad, as almost all those who leave their countries of origin do, ” García told AP.
Florida's Cuban emigrant community includes hardliners who support President Donald Trump's policy of seeking to asphyxiate the island to press for change the government model on the island. These policies also cut off any type of cooperation or exchange that would reach a state entity.
Garcia defended the donation to a state center in Cuba, where there is no private health care.
“There are people who spend their lives trying to unearth the dead and trying to bury the living, but this is a project of trying to help those in need,” he said.
Romero expressed gratitude for the humanitarian shipment, which was among about 170 donations received from many countries around the world amid the pandemic.
Cuba largely controlled the pandemic through an active house-to-house health program and mandatory quarantines. For months it closed its commercial flights and social and economic life was paralyzed, but a gradual reopening began in November. As of Thursday, 9,181 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed, including 136 deaths.