September 18, 2008
The Honorable William Delahunt
Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight
US House of Representatives
Dear Mr. Chairman;
Congratulations for holding the important hearing this morning on “Families Torn Apart: Human Rights and U.S. Restrictions on Cuban-American Travel”.
No doubt one focus of today’s discussion will be special issues raised by hurricane caused devastation in Cuba and the widespread call for temporary suspension of restrictions on travel and remittances.
To that end, I wish to submit for the hearing record this letter and the attached on-line petition to the President and the Speaker of the House calling for a ninety day suspension of travel, remittance and aid restrictions for all Americans which in one week has been signed by a very diverse group of more than 800 persons, many of whom have attached moving comments.
(The continuously growing list can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Cubafloodaid/signatures.html )
The text is attached along with a list of some of the initiating signers, many of whose names and organizations will be familiar to you.
A strikingly similar letter was written to President Bush by the President of US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Francis Cardinal George
I urge you to suspend -- even temporarily -- Treasury and Commerce Department restrictions and licensing requirements for humanitarian travel and remittances by American citizens and assistance by not-for-profit organizations.
While the need to address the special interest of Cuban Americans is understandable from both a humanitarian and political perspective, it is important to not create an invidious distinction between them and many other Americans who have close friends and professional colleagues in Cuba to whom they also wish to send personal support and visit at this moment of extreme need.
OFAC is to be congratulated for permitting the Cuban American National Foundation to in effect bypass remittance limits by serving as a channel for direct personal assistance to Cubans, whether or not family related. I wonder whether similar permission would be given to organizations which do not have a history of hostility to the Cuban government.
The fastest and least politicized way for Americans to provide assistance to Cubans is to give all of us the freedom to use Western Union and other public services, with no intermediary institution receiving political or financial benefit, be it Cuban or American.
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
cc: The Honorable Howard Berman
The Honorable Jo Ann Emerson
The Honorable Ray LaHood
The Honorable Thaddeus G. McCotter
The Speaker of the House