Office of the Spokesman
September 5, 2008
Question Taken at September 5, 2008 Daily Press Briefing
Call to Temporarily Loosen Restrictions on Cuba (Taken Question)
Question: What is your reaction to the call to temporarily loosen restrictions on travel and sending money to Cuba in the wake of Hurricane Gustav?
Answer: We have been heartened by the outpouring of compassion for hurricane victims in Cuba. The U.S. Government has offered humanitarian aid to the Cuban people that would be distributed through in-country non-governmental organizations.
In fact, there is sufficient flexibility under existing regulations to permit humanitarian organizations or individuals licensed to send money and other assistance to Cuba to significantly increase such assistance in support of Hurricane Gustav relief efforts. The State Department has been coordinating closely with the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department to facilitate humanitarian relief directed to hurricane victims in Cuba.
We do not believe that at this time it is necessary to loosen the restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba to accomplish the objective of aiding the hurricane victims. Non-governmental organizations on the ground in Cuba are already mobilizing to provide such assistance.
We are looking for independent confirmation of the State Department's claim, including whether these are organizations authorized to work in Cuba. Regrettably past practice has compromised the role of US NGOs which have taken government funding linked to intrusive regime change agendas.
Both NGOs and individual Cuban Americans would benefit from suspension of restrictions on providing humanitarian aid through mutually acceptable partners and direct assistance to family members.