For Immediate Release
National Lawyers Guild Urges Washington to Halt Blockade Against Cuba and Provide Humanitarian Aid in Time of Crisis
NEW YORK - The National Lawyers Guild urges President Bush and Congress to halt the U.S. blockade against Cuba in order to provide immediate aid to families in dire need of assistance.
The Cuban people are facing total devastation in the wake of Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike. Wind gusts of over 200 miles per hour destroyed or damaged 440,000 homes as well as schools and hospitals throughout the island. At least 200,000 people have been left homeless.
It will be impossible for the Cuban people to recover from this disaster if the United States does not end its trade and travel restrictions. These restrictions have now become dangerous, preventing qualified medical help from reaching the people who need it, and also preventing the purchase of much-needed construction and electrical materials for those who are left without homes.
Although the Bush administration gave Haiti $19 million in aid for hurricane damage, it has offered just $1.5 million to Cuba, with an additional $3.5 million only if a U.S. "assessment team" is permitted to enter the country. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said now is "not the time" to lift the blockade.
Forty-eight years ago, the United States imposed an "all-out ‘quarantine' - economically, politically and diplomatically - of the Castro regime," in the words of Vice President Richard Nixon. Its aim was to starve the people so they would overthrow Fidel Castro's communist government, yet that did not happen. The Cold War has ended and the U.S. has normal relations with China and Vietnam. Nonetheless, we maintain a blockade against Cuba tighter than any other in the world. "Its restriction on the sale of medicine and food is unprecedented," said Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild.
After New Orleans was decimated by Hurricane Katrina, the Cuban government immediately offered to send doctors and emergency supplies to us despite our political differences. As Cuba is faced with a humanitarian crisis, the National Lawyers Guild believes that politics should be set aside and the United States should lift its blockade of Cuba.
Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.