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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 04:33 GMT
US offers to help Cuba
A man looks at the ruins of his home
Thousands of homes have been destroyed
The United States has offered to help Cuba recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Michelle, despite a 40-year American economic embargo against the island.

We are prepared to offer assistance... in a way that ensures that the Cuban people benefit, not the Castro regime

Richard Boucher
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Washington was prepared to give direct assistance to the Cuban people as long the aid did not benefit the communist government.

Mr Boucher said that in the past President Fidel Castro's government had rejected offers of humanitarian assistance.

The Cuban authorities are still struggling to clean up after the country's worst hurricane in more than 50 years battered the island earlier this week, killing five people and destroying tens of thousands of homes.

'Direct aid'

With gusts of up to 200km/h (125mph), Hurricane Michelle caused extensive damage to Cuba's electricity infrastructure, ruined crops and left many communities unreachable by car or telephone.

Two Cubans on a bicycle
Michelle: The worse hurricane to hit Cuba in 50 years
The US State Department said its aim was to provide aid directly to those affected by the devastating storms.

Mr Boucher said the US was prepared to do so through "appropriate international and other intermediaries in a way that ensures the Cuban people benefit, not the Castro regime".

The official recalled that during a drought in eastern Cuba in 1998, Havana had rejected a US offer to deliver food through the UN World Food Programme.

Earlier this week, President Castro said his country had the necessary reserves to finance the recovery.

Venezuela has already sent a shipment of humanitarian aid, with food, tents and power generators.

And, the German ambassador in Havana also promised to donate $70,000 worth of baby food and medicine immediately, to be followed by more emergency relief later.

See also:

05 Nov 01 | Americas
Cuba's clean-up begins
18 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Nature's lethal weapons
19 Feb 00 | Washington 2000
Decades of major hurricanes ahead
17 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Hurricanes set to grow fiercer
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