Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
The United States must show compassion, and diplomatic smarts, by easing remittance and travel restrictions to Cuba.
The island has been slammed hard by two hurricanes in successive weeks. First, Gustav ripped through its western province early last week. Now, Ike has pummeled western and central Cuba, too.
Considering Cuba’s deteriorated state, and the brittleness of its buildings, it’s expected the storms could leave widespread destruction. Cuba’s capital, Havana, might be spared serious damage. But early images and reports suggest there might be much need for post-storm food and shelter in other parts of the country.For the United States to sit on its hands, or send meager amounts of aid, is a huge error. Do we really want to come across that punitive and petty?
Worse, it would be unconscionable for Washington to stand behind four-year-old travel and remittance limits preventing Cuban Americans in the United States from providing assistance to loved ones in great need.
Those restrictions were counterproductive before the storms. It would be a fiasco to stick to them now. And yet, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent comments suggest the Bush administration is telling Cubans to look elsewhere for help.
Washington must open channels for U.S. aid to arrive. Havana must allow that aid to be delivered without erecting obstacles or discriminating against Cuban expatriates in America.
In the wake of two hurricanes, it’s logical to expect that a large swath of the island has been impacted. Many of Cuba’s 11 million people could be facing enormous hardship.
They are not the ones to blame for 50 years of Cold War hostility. There’s no point for either Washington or Havana to cling to a half century of animosity simply to drive home a point.
Yes, Cuba’s dilapidated state is the direct result of 50 years of economic mismanagement by the Castro regime. Cubans have no choice but to live under Raul and Fidel, but they shouldn’t be left to face Gustav and Ike on their own, too.