September 22, 2008 / 9:02 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. offers storm-hit Cuba $6.3 million more aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has offered another $6.3 million in hurricane relief aid to Cuba, U.S. officials said on Monday, even though a similar offer was previously rejected.

The latest U.S. offer, made on Friday, is composed of family emergency shelters and building kits to respond to the Cuban government's plea for construction materials following hurricanes Gustav and Ike, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement.

"Reports from news agencies and relief organizations that have visited the island indicate that as many as 2.5 million Cubans remain without homes," Gutierrez said. The materials the U.S. has offered would help house 48,000 Cubans, he said.

"We hope the Cuban government will consider our genuine offers of assistance and that the best interests of the Cuban people will come before political differences," Gutierrez said.

Cuba last week accused the U.S. government of lying about its aid to try to make it look like it was helping the island. Cuba and the United States have been at odds since a 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power, and the United States has had a trade embargo against Cuba for 46 years.

Hurricane Ike wreaked havoc in Cuba this month, soon after Hurricane Gustav struck the island at the end of August.

A week ago, the U.S. government said Cuba had rejected an offer of $5 million in relief aid. An official with the U.S. Agency for International Development said on Monday that $2 million of that aid had been distributed anyway, to humanitarian organizations working in Cuba.

There has been no reply from Cuba to the latest offer of $6.3 million in aid, but "if they were to accept it, it would be in addition to the $2 million that we put forth," the official said, asking not to be named.

The U.S. government also dispersed $100,000 in cash relief assistance to humanitarian organizations in Cuba immediately after each of the two hurricanes hit, according to a U.S. AID statement.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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