EFE Ingles Via Acquire Media NewsEdge
A major Cuban-exile organization announced here Wednesday a plan to help people on the communist-ruled island recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
The Cuban American National Foundation presented the initiative at a press conference in Miami.
CANF board chairman Jorge Mas Santos said the organization has obtained an “additional license” from the U.S. Treasury Department that will allow it to send up to $250,000 in aid to hurricane victims.
The Treasury Department is responsible for enforcing Washington’s 46-year-old economic embargo against Cuba.
“We already have a license that allows us to send aid to dissidents; now, with this humanitarian license, we’ll be able to help the general public,” CANF spokesperson Sandy Acosta Cox told Efe.
She said this program will allow the exile community “to send money directly to family members and any person inside Cuba.”
The CANF will absorb the wire-transfer fees so that the full amount arrives to the family members or victims of the hurricanes.
Hurricane Ike churned away from the northwestern coast of Cuba on Tuesday after killing four people, injuring 20 and causing widespread damage to homes, crops and infrastructure. Ike struck the island when it was still reeling from the effects of Gustav, a Category 4 hurricane that battered western Cuba at the end of last month.
Acosta Cox said the CANF realized that the U.S. government was not going to suspend its economic embargo on the communist-ruled island, as some groups had requested.
“There’s neither the desire nor the will to grant a moratorium on the restrictions,” Acosta Cox said.
She said she was perplexed as to why “the U.S. administration and lawmakers have not supported” an initiative that sought to ease sanctions against Cuba so that humanitarian aid could be sent to the island.
That refusal is inexplicable at “a time of crisis when the Cuban people need help urgently,” she said.
Several exile groups urged the Bush administration to lift for at least 90 days the draconian restrictions imposed in 2004 on family visits to the island and the sending of remittances.
Those regulations allow Cuban Americans to send a maximum of $300 per quarter to their relatives on the island and to visit Cuba only once every three years. EFE