Cuban dissidents ask looser
embargo after storm US
By WILL WEISSERT – 49 minutes ago
HAVANA (AP) Two prominent Cuban dissidents have asked U.S. President George W. Bush to temporarily loosen restrictions on travel and sending money to the communist-run island to help tens of thousands left homeless by Hurricane Gustav.
Marta Beatriz Roque and Vladimiro Roca signed a Spanish-language letter to Bush which they delivered to the U.S. Interests Section in
The letter, sent by fax to foreign reporters on Thursday, asks Bush to lift restrictions on travel and money transfers to
"You know as well as we do that any family member abroad would like to have physical contact with those who are going through a difficult situation," they wrote.
Gustav slammed into western Cuba with 140 mph (220 kph) winds on Saturday, ripping roofs off homes, leveling buildings, tossing trees, cars and power lines and crumpling electric towers.
About 100,000 homes nationwide were damaged, thousands beyond repair, and Fidel Castro suggested recovery could cost billions of dollars.
"Knowing how intransigent the Cuban government is about accepting help from your country ... we ask that you permit American non-governmental organizations to help the region so as to soothe the suffering of its inhabitants," the dissidents wrote.
Past hurricanes have served to soften the
In 2000, the U.S. Congress authorized direct sales of American food and farm products to the island. The communist government refused to import even one grain of rice for more than a year because of a dispute over financing, but finally agreed to take advantage of the law after Hurricane Michelle in November 2001 cut into its food stocks.
Raul Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel as president six months ago, has not asked for international aid, though Russian planes carrying tents, building materials and food landed in
Roque is a former government official who was among 75 political activists sentenced to prison in 2003 on charges of conspiring with