Response to the Hurricane in Cuba

July 12, 2005

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates:

After picking ourselves u p from the disappointment of the votes on Cuba policy on June 30, we now find ourselves needing to assist in picking up our friends in Cuba following the devastating hit the island took from Hurricane Dennis. News reports indicate that at least 16 have died, nearly 150,000 homes and buildings have been damaged or destroyed, and the cost of material destruction is over $1.5 billion. In fact, in the province of Granma, in two communities, nearly 90 percent of the homes were destroyed. This calls for a response.

There are two (or three) important things we are asking you to do:

(1) Call your congressperson (U.S. Capitol Switchboard: 202.224.3121; www.house.gov ) and request that she/he sign on as a cosponsor to a resolution that Congressman José Serrano (D-NY) is sponsoring in the House of Representatives. Rep. Serrano has sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all members of the House, asking them to cosponsor his resolution to suspend restrictions on family travel, remittances, and gift parcels to allow families to send or deliver humanitarian aid to their relatives in Cuba who have been impacted by the hurricane. Please help Rep. Serrano in this excellent effort. The “Dear Colleague” letter follows our signatures; it has details about the resolution and the phone number for your member of Congress to call to cosponsor.

(2) Write to President Bush to let him know of your concern. You can do this very easily by going to: www.cubacentral.com . Our CubaCentral friends have a click-and-send email letter to the President that calls on him to set aside the restrictions he imposed last year and allow, even on a temporary basis, Cuban-American families to provide unlimited cash and material assistance to their families and friends in Cuba. They should also be permitted to travel to the island freely and regularly to help with post-hurricane recovery and relief. Your letter through CubaCentral would let President Bush know that you support allowing Cuban Americans to provide assistance and support for Cuba.

(3) Sign the petition on our website on travel to Cuba: http://www.lawg.org/tools/petition.htm  To those of you who signed the petition prior to June 30, we want you to know that we delivered your signatures (some 3,400 of them) to each and every member of the House of Representatives prior to the votes. We will deliver the petition again prior to votes on travel and Cuban-American travel in the Senate. We now have over 5,000 signatures. Please continue to make your voices heard.

Sincerely,

Mavis Anderson
Philip Schmidt
Latin America Working Group
www.lawg.org


Resolution to Address Humanitarian Crisis in Cuba as a Result of Hurricane Dennis

July 11, 2005

Dear Colleague:

I am introducing a resolution asking that the President temporarily ease restrictions on remittances, gift parcels, and travel to Cuba in order to help ease the suffering of the Cuban people that has resulted from Hurricane Dennis.

This resolution calls on the President to temporarily suspend restrictions on the amounts and frequency of remittances that Cuban-American families can send to their relatives in Cuba. In addition, the resolution recognizes that, during this temporary period, Cuban-Americans should be able to send remittances and gift parcels to all their relatives in Cuba, including members of their extended families. The President should also permit a temporary change to allow gift parcels to include personal hygiene items and clothing. Finally, the President should temporarily waive travel restrictions on family members so that all Americans with Cuban relatives- regardless of the dates of their last visits- may travel to Cuba to help their relatives during this time of urgent need.

These are all small measures that would allow Cuban-Americans to help their family members as they struggle to rebuild destroyed homes, businesses, and infrastructure, including schools, clinics and hospitals. This is an opportunity for our country to show once again that it is capable of great compassion during a time of crisis.

If you would like to be an original cosponsor of this resolution that would put aside politics in this moment of great humanitarian need, please contact Nadine Berg of my staff at extension 54361 by noon on Tuesday, July 12th.

Sincerely,

 /s José E. Serrano

Member of Congress /

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