WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
17 Sep 2008 | News

WOLA Supports Hurricane Aid to Cuba

The Center for Democracy in the Americas, the Latin America Working Group, and the Washington Office on Latin America, released the following statement urging the U.S. government to provide hurricane relief for Cuba:

The United States has an opportunity to save lives – and to turn a diplomatic corner – if we can rise above politics and allow Cuban Americans to aid family members back in Cuba which has been savaged by two tropical storms and two hurricanes in just 30 days.

America's wealth, geography and large Cuban-American community make us ideally suited to see that Cubans now suffering get the shelter, food, drinking water and medicine they need. America's first instinct is always to aid victims and to save lives; we should give it free reign.

And what could be worse for the United States' standing in Latin America than to see governments as disparate as the European Union, Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, and China rushing to offer assistance to Cuba, while U.S. politics stop Cuban-Americans from responding to the needs of their relatives on the island?

Today, Cuban-American families are blocked from providing aid by restrictions tightened in 2004, and yet they could be the guiding force behind the delivery of humanitarian aid to the island.

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and co-sponsor Richard Lugar (R-IN) have offered an amendment that would temporarily allow Americans with families in Cuba to travel to Cuba or to send cash and parcels including food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to relatives in Cuba, to help them recover from hurricane damage. The legislation would also allow American merchants to sell Cubans the supplies they need to rebuild damaged homes to replant ravaged farms. Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have introduced similar bipartisan legislation which should be considered by the House.

This suspension of economic sanctions would last only 180 days. It would cost taxpayers nothing. It would allow families to take care of their own. And it would demonstrate that America is a compassionate nation, able and eager to help end the suffering of our friends, the Cuban people.

Now, before deprivation and disease do further damage to people's lives, Congress should pass this legislation and the President should sign it.