Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pride keeps storm aid from Cuba

Posted on Sat, Sep. 27, 2008

Pride keeps storm aid from Cuba

Pride, it's the sin of sins, the one that caused an angel named Lucifer
to turn against God and want to run things himself. It's been downhill
ever since.

I don't mean to preach religion. This is about the politics of pride.

We live it here in South Florida every day. And after the devastation
that back-to-back hurricanes Gustav and Ike caused in much of the
Caribbean -- Cuba and Haiti, in particular -- we're still witnessing how
pride can harm suffering people.

For all the Bush administration's political posturing over how best to
help Cuba -- initially requiring an emergency team to check on the
damage before sending substantial aid -- our government has tried to do
right by the people of Cuba. The U.S. Agency for International
Development was poised to send $6.3 million in construction materials --
zinc roofs, nails, lumber -- along with food and medicine. Light shelter
kits would give a temporary home to 48,000 of the hundreds of thousands
left homeless.

No strings attached.

But no, once again, Cuba's communist leaders put pride ahead of people's


In one of his published ''reflections,'' Fidel Castro blasted USAID last
week as a CIA front and sniffed that Cuba doesn't need aid from the

The USAID surely has not done as good a job as it should over the years
monitoring groups sending aid to Cuba.

The U.S. government's own auditors have pointed out that much of the
money stays in South Florida.

This year, the Bush administration started to change the way it awards
contracts to end the abuse.

But on emergency aid after a natural disaster, USAID has done a lot of
good in a lot of places.

In an island facing $5 billion-plus in damages, with an estimated
half-million families homeless, the Cuban regime prefers to ignore a
$6.3 million U.S. offer.

That's one-fifth of what Cuba has received from its leftist allies.

Cuban leaders want the U.S. embargo suspended, so they can ''buy'' goods
on credit.

Except the regime has a long record of defaulting on payments to its
friends. Imagine the payback planned for Castro's half-century-old enemy.

At least $1.78 million of U.S. government aid is reaching Cuba through
nonprofits and other nongovernment groups working with USAID, but the
U.S. approach also has been contaminated by the politics of pride.


In two days, the Cuban American National Foundation tapped out its U.S.
license issued for hurricane relief that allowed Cuban Americans to help
extended family and friends.

Hitting the $250,000 limit on the license, CANF applied to the U.S.
Treasury for another humanitarian assistance license.

This time, the U.S. government reverted to the Bush rules, restricting
such direct aid. The new license only allows aid to go to dissidents and
civil society groups, which CANF has done for years but can only go so far.


Dissidents already are getting pressured by Cuban security officials to
not hand out even $10 to their needy neighbors.

While Cuban officials harass dissidents, CANF has 400 applications -- it
has stopped accepting more until the license issue is resolved -- from
Cuban Americans hoping to send money to an aunt or a former neighbor.

''This is a real necessity, a moment of crisis,'' said CANF spokeswoman
Sandy Acosta Cox. ``It's not the time to limit the ways people can help.''

No it's not, but the politics of pride -- here and mostly there -- keeps
making a mockery of Cubans' true suffering.

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