Was it a mistake to reject Cuba's offer of Katrina medical help?

Bruce Alpert, NOLA.com | Thursday, 27 August 2015 | Click here for original article

Cuban doctors on standby after Katrina

Cuban doctors on standby after Katrina

WASHINGTON – Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, President Barack Obama's spokesman was asked whether the administration's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba might lead to a different response then when the Bush administration rejected Cuban President Fidel Castro's offer of medical assistance.

"Others have sent money; we are offering to save lives," the then Cuban leader was quoted as saying a few days after the hurricane and failed levees flooded New Orleans.

Here's how Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to the reporter's Cuban question at his daily press briefing Wednesday (Aug. 26):

"Over the last 10 years, there have been a lot of questions and concerns raised about the immediate response to Hurricane Katrina. And that's been well-chronicled, that there were significant shortcomings in that emergency response. And there is much that this administration has done to make sure that our government and our country is better prepared to respond to significant disasters like Hurricane Katrina."

"I guess it's unclear now exactly how our improved relationship with Cuba would affect that kind of offer in the future. I think what I would say is, because of our efforts to reform and improve the federal government's response to these kinds of emergencies, that the need to accept assistance from nations like Cuba hopefully would not be necessary in the future. But at this point, I would be reluctant to re-litigate that long history."

Earnest was pressed on whether he thought it was a mistake for the George W. Bush administration to reject the offer from leaders of Cuba, which has a fairly advanced medical system.

"Well, I would just say that I think that there have been a lot of legitimate critiques offered about the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina," Earnest said. "I wouldn't itemize them at this point."

Read an NBC News report on the US government's refusal to accept Cuba's offer of medical aid following Katrina

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