WASHINGTON, DC (September 10, 2008) – The US bishops asked the US government to lift its ban on remittances and travel to Cuba, even temporarily, in light of the crisis caused by recent hurricanes.
The request was made in a September 10 letter from Cardinal Francis George, OMI, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to President George Bush. The letter follows.
Dear Mr. President:
In light of the devastation and humanitarian disaster caused by recent hurricanes in Cuba and the efforts of extended families, friends and organizations to reach those in need, 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.
At times of crisis, there are simple and basic acts of charity on which people rely. Churches, as well as governments, urge people to reach out and respond with generosity to those in desperate need. The United States has a tradition of such assistance for which it can be rightly proud. At this time, all should be done to facilitate humanitarian assistance, be it through institutions like Catholic Relief Services or through the generosity of individuals moved by the misfortune of their brothers and sisters. Removing restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba are a necessary step, which I urge you to take without delay.
USCCB has long-opposed US sanctions on Cuba because of their failure to foster greater freedom, democracy and respect for life. In our judgment, restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba, especially by family members, are onerous and counterproductive. Under current circumstances, they are particularly unjustifiable and need to be relaxed.
In prayerful support for your efforts to assist all those affected by these ongoing weather emergencies, I remain.
Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago