U.S. keeps Cuba informed on Gulf oil spill
``It is incumbent upon us to inform all of our neighbors . . . those countries that could be affected by disasters that happen within our territorial waters,'' State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters in Washington.
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana delivered a diplomatic note to the Cuban government with updated details of the oil spill and its direction, the Reuters news agency quoted U.S. State Department spokeswoman Virginia Staab as saying.
``We have had working-level discussions with the Cuban government to keep them informed of developments,'' Staab said. ``We also communicated the U.S. desire to maintain a clear line of communication with the Cuban government on developments.''
Duguid also confirmed that the U.S.-Cuba contacts on the oil spill so far have been ``at the working level'' but added that he had no other details. ``I don't have the outcome of the discussions yet. They're ongoing.''
A U.S. Coast Guard officer is permanently stationed at the diplomatic mission in Havana to maintains contact with Cuban officials on issues such as narcotics trafficking and search and rescue emergencies.
Cuba's Prensa Latina news agency reported Wednesday that the country would stage a series of exercises to prepare the population for natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. The announcement made no mention of the oil spill.
The Meteor 2010 exercises, to be held Friday through Sunday and June 25-26, were prompted by the string of small earthquakes that have hit eastern Cuba since the quake that devastated Haiti in January, the news agency reported.
The Meteor exercises are held annually but are usually focused on preparing for the hurricane season. This year's version also will include preparations for quakes and tsunamis, according to Prensa Latina.
The Cuban state news media has reported regularly on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but a scientist with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Orlando Rey, was quoted early this month as saying the catastrophe did not appear likely to threaten the island.
The oil spill could prove disastrous for Cuba's tourism industry, one of its principal sources of hard currency, which brings more than two million visitors to the island each year.
The Obama administration has approved a string of diplomatic contacts with Cuba, on issues such as migration and direct mail service, that had been suspended under the previous administration.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO