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Chavez, Castro Offer Katrina Aid
But critics dismiss offers as attempts to destabilize U.S. government
Francesca Solmi (fren82)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2005-09-04 17:57 (KST)   

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Hurricane Katrina, one of the largest natural disasters ever to hit the United States, has swept away thousands of lives. The slow withdrawal of the waters from what is left of New Orleans, the City of Jazz, has uncovered many issues that may come to represent a painful thorn in President Bush's side, contributing to his declining popularity in recent polls.

The evacuation plans aimed to empty the city and contain the damages have only worked for those who had the material capabilities to escape. Unfortunately, this did not include a great bulk of the population. According to some sources, thousands are believed to have died and the number could still increase.

The images that have reached every corner of the world show a side of America that many did not think that could exist, or perhaps, many did not want to believe still existed. Those who have died are mostly the poor.

In a city like New Orleans, as in others, this still means immigrants, sons of immigrants, black men and women. In 2005, this is something that few people would like to hear or see in the news.

How can a country that is claiming to be waging war in Iraq to bring it democracy which it did not ask for, forget in its own territory the principles of democracy? That the pillars on which the U.S. was founded, those of Locke, the French Revolution, include the right to life?

A sovereign state has the duty to guarantee life and protection to its citizens, regardless from their social rank. But this did not happen and this striking contradiction embedded in the president's policy could undermine his credibility.

To see Bush hugging a girl and her mother while walking through what is left of their house is of little help, as is the late arrival of first aid. The city is in a state of chaos: robberies and destruction of property are rampant while outbreaks of epidemics remain likely.

At this stage comes the last, but not the least, problem that President Bush will have to face in the days to come. International aid has already been mobilized, but among the countries that offered their help to the U.S., two in particular presented a major dilemma for the administration. These countries are Cuba and Venezuela.

The age-old U.S.'s public enemy No.1 -- Fidel Castro -- has offered to help by sending 1,100 doctors to the areas hit by the hurricane, the kind of offer resembling the "oil-for-doctors" operation undertaken with Venezuela. At the same time, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered to send military aid and workers for the reconstruction to tackle the situation in Louisiana.

Chavez's offer seemed to have come out of the blue, especially after what happened a few weeks ago. During the TV program "The 700 Club," Rev. Pat Robertson invited to kill President Chavez, as an alleged terrorist and enemy, with these words: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

"It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with," Robertson continued. However, this was followed by public excuses that have solved a potential diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Critics denounced President Chavez's offer as an attempt to destabilize the U.S. government -- for which Venezuela represents a major oil supplier. In fact, by intensifying his populist rhetoric, Chavez would gain even more support for the Latin American left and for his policy of preferential oil deals with many South American and Caribbean states, among them Castro's Cuba, in a period in when oil reserves can actually make a difference.

President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice glossed over President Chavez's aid proposals at first before accepting, conscious that at stake there is more than the lives of Katrina's victims, that a "yes" or a "no" could mean far more in geo-politic terms, and in ethical ones.

But when it comes to people's safety, is it more democratic to accept help from undemocratic countries or refuse their help and deprive people of their democratic right to life?
Is the Bush administration doing enough for Hurricane Katrina victims?  (2005-09-03 ~ 2005-09-20)
Yes
No
Not sure
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Francesca Solmi

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