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Castro: U.S. hasn't responded to Katrina offer

From Lucia Newman
CNN

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Fidel Castro
Cuba
United States

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro told more than 1,500 doctors Sunday night that American officials had made "absolutely no response" to his offer to send them to the U.S. Gulf Coast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Castro, a longtime adversary of the United States, initially offered to send 1,100 doctors and at least 26 tons of supplies and equipment, but the Communist leader announced Sunday during a televised speech that he had increased the number of physicians to 1,586. Each doctor would carry about 27 pounds of medicine.

"You could all be there right now lending your services, but 48 hours have passed since we made this offer, and we have received absolutely no response," Castro said at Havana's Palace of the Revolution.

"We continue to wait patiently for a response. In the meantime, all of you will be taking intensive courses in immunology and also something that I should be doing -- an intensive brush-up course in English."

Besides Cuba, several other countries and international agencies have offered money and supplies to the hurricane victims. (Full story)

In the past, Cuba has refused U.S. offers of aid, the most recent following Hurricane Dennis. That storm killed more than 10 people in the Caribbean island nation in July.

At that time, Castro said he would not accept help from Washington because of the U.S. trade embargo against his country. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Castro has named the Cuban rescue team the Henry Reeve Brigade in honor of an American who fought with Cuba's rebel forces during the Cuban War of Independence against Spain that began in 1895.

The doctors who have been mobilized went to South Asia after the December tsunami and have worked in other disasters.

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