Monday, September 15, 2008

Cold War Politics Blocks Aid For Storm Victims

The devastating string of tropical storms and hurricanes that rushed through the Caribbean in the last month - Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike - left hundreds dead and tens of thousands of people hurt and displaced in Haiti. In Cuba, Gustav and Ike destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes. A fifth of the population was evacuated.

The scale of devastation calls for an extraordinary assistance effort that is, so far, not happening. While the United States has offered some emergency aid to Haiti, it has not done enough for an impoverished nation that Americans have a moral responsibility to help. And the Bush administration's peculiar fixation with an obsolete trade embargo and deep-pocketed anti-Castro hard-liners in Miami is standing in the way of dispatching desperately needed assistance for Cuba.

In the last week, Washington has announced $10 million in aid for Haiti. It is a good start. But Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, will need more. The United Nations has asked for more than $100 million to help those stricken by the storm.

Aid to Cuba is being complicated by outdated Cold War politics. The United States has, so far, offered only $100,000 in aid, with a promise of more if Cuba allows a U.S. team in to assess the damage.

Havana has foolishly rejected it. And the United States is refusing to temporarily ease core aspects of the longstanding trade embargo to help Cuba deal with the emergency.

The Treasury Department increased the dollar limit that organizations authorized to work with Cuban dissidents may send to Cuba. But Washington is refusing Cuba's request to buy American construction materials. It won't allow Cuba to buy food on credit, and it has, so far, refused to lift restrictions on the money that Cuban-Americans may send back to their relatives.

We believe the embargo against Cuba is about as wrongheaded a policy as one can devise. It gives credibility to the regime in Havana while contributing to the misery of ordinary Cubans, all for the sake of some votes in Florida. But we are not even asking the Bush administration to lift the embargo forever. The right thing to do to alleviate the crisis wrought by the storms is to temporarily lift all the restrictions on private remittances and private aid flows to Cuba.

Source: Iht.Com

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