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Storm Relief For Cuban People

The United States continues to reach out to the people of Cuba with a pledge of millions of dollars in direct assistance in the form of humanitarian commodities, emergency shelter and building materials to help repair residences devastated by two powerful storms. To date, government officials in Havana have rejected offers of such aid on political grounds.

On September 19, the Cuban government was informed that the U.S. Agency for International Development was ready to send $6.3 million in light shelter kits with tools, plastic, rope and nails, and complimentary corrugated metal roofing sheets and lumber, by ship to aid Cuban victims of Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Ike. The offer was made without preconditions. Havana has not responded to this offer, which followed a rejected aid flight with relief supplies and a disaster assessment team.

Cuba demands that before it allows this desperately needed aid to reach its people, the U.S. must lift its ban on credit sales by U.S. companies selling agricultural products to Cuba. U.S. law already allows the sale of food, medical and other goods when paid for in cash. The United States has also facilitated the authorization of over $8 million in private donations to Cuban hurricane victims.

Cuba's First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, "If they really want to help the Cuban people, why don't they lift the embargo?" A better question is, if Cuba really wants to help its people, why does it put politics ahead of such suffering?

The U.S. is not standing idly by, though, and is looking for ways to send $1.5 million in aid to storm victims in Cuba through nongovernmental organizations.