Friday, September 26, 2008

After the Hurricane (Part 2)

It's been almost one month since Cuba was hit by a Category-4 hurricane named Gustav. The devastation brought upon the island nation was estimated at $5 billion by the Cuban government. Cuban President Raul Castro noted that "never in the history of Cuba" had such destruction been caused by a passing hurricane. The US-funded Cuba Transition Project described the aftermath as "perhaps the worst natural disaster in the past half-century."

But, as Americans view the devastation in the nearby region, no official US aid has arrived inside Cuba. The Cuban government has repeatedly rejected US aid. The US refuses to negotiate any terms with the Cuban government which could bring millions of dollars of relief.

Yet, this stalemate should come to no surprise to those who are familiar with US-Cuba relations for the past half-century. And recalling their long-standing conflict since 1959 is a tragic lesson whose events should cause a rare sadness among the most hopeful.

After the hurricane, some behave like nothing happened.

Earlier this week, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez made it clear to reporters that despite Cuba's efforts to recover from Gustav, economic pressure to achieve regime change is still a priority (just like the last 50 years):

"We don’t want to give them a lot of breathing room at a time where we believe change will happen."

The Economist magazine last week reported on the dire Cuban situation, and they specified what kind of "change" Sec. Gutierrez may have in mind:

"Hurricanes Gustav and Ike could increase pressure on Raúl Castro to accelerate reforms to loosen the island’s centrally-controlled economy, much as his brother, Fidel, was forced to do in the early 1990s after the collapse of Cuba’s subsidized trade with the Soviet Union."

The Cuban government as well positioned itself to condemn the US embargo (as it has for the past 50 years). But, this time at the risk of denying much needed relief aid to the victims of hurricane Gustav. Blogger Yoani Sanchez of Generation Y asked herself some important questions that many Cubans may be asking themselves at the moment:

"What is the priority of the Cuban government? Political principals or the welfare of those who have lost everything?"

But, as the UN General Assembly gathers in New York, it looks like the Cuban government may have intentionally rejected US aid in an effort to again highlight US economic sanctions against Cuba, sanctions which have been repeatedly condemned by the majority of nations at the UN.

Given the public remarks of some of the nations so far, the UN General Assembly may again condemn the US embargo, perhaps with greater force than before. Hopefully, the US will listen and consider lifting the US economic sanctions.

Nevertheless, the US government has not done enough beyond just making presentations of relief aid to Cuba. It is still time to begin a dialogue with Cuba, and also to negotiate.

When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in May of this year (causing the death of tens of thousands), the US government made real efforts to convince the Burmese military junta to allow delivery of American relief aid. The US sent the head of US Pacific Command to the Burmese capital of Rangoon, where "the highest-level military contact between the two countries in decades" took place.

The US Treasury Department even relaxed its sanctions by issuing one general license to NGO's delivering aid to Burma. NGO's delivering aid to Cuba are still required to obtain TWO licenses.

The US must make more efforts to dismantle their diplomatic barriers to Cuba. They should follow the recent bi-partisan recommendations of the Council on Foreign Relations, seize the opportunity to normalize relations with Cuba, and join multilateral objectives in achieving a free Cuba.

Or, are we just going to wait for the next big one to hit?

Monday, September 22, 2008

More False Analysis at Babalu Blog

This shouldn't surprise anyone. I was looking through the posts over at Babalu Blog and noticed that Henry Gomez is again playing around with polling numbers.

According to a post from last week, Gomez cited the results of a CBS4 poll, conducted by Survey USA, showing Sen. McCain with a sound 6-point lead against Sen. Obama in Florida. There's no doubt that McCain is leading in Florida. On September 11, Quinnipiac polling showed McCain with a 7-point lead. And just yesterday, Rasmussen polling was showing McCain still ahead with 5 points.

But, Mr. Gomez's point here was that the recent Survey USA poll "blows away the mainstream media's new myth" that "the Republican 'stranglehold' over the Hispanic vote in Florida is loosening."

I don't know one honest person who would be convinced by ONE POLL to make such declarations. But, Henry Gomez of the Babalu Blog seems to be that one.

I've already written before about Mr. Gomez's faulty analysis on polling data, and his convenient omissions in his declarations (and debated him on Babalu before being banned). Either Mr. Gomez is being secretly manipulative, or ignorant of the variety of polling data that emerges almost on a daily basis.

Let's review some results.

Mr. Gomez seemed to be ecstatic with the results of the Survey USA poll (because they "blew away" the myths of the evil mainstream media), but he didn't look at the sample demographics. The poll showed that Hispanics in Florida picked Sen. McCain over Obama at 55 - 36% (with 9% undecided). But, the Survey USA poll vastly under-represents Hispanics in Florida.

According to US Census data and estimates, Hispanics in Florida currently make up about 20-22% of the population. The Survey USA poll has Hispanics at 13%. This is closer to estimates from 1990(!). Also, Survey USA over-represents the 65 and older Florida population. They have it at 27%, when actual estimates are around 18%.

But, these relevant facts don't bother Mr. Gomez. He's busy celebrating how the mainstream media got "blown away."

Now, if Mr. Gomez was at all concerned about how the Hispanic population is going to vote, then he should take a look at the recent polling results (September 18, 2008) from the Pew Hispanic Center [PDF]. According to those results, more Hispanics believe Democrats have more concern for them (49%) in comparison to Republicans (only 7% believe), and think that Sen. Obama is a better candidate for them (55%) in comparison to Republicans (11%).

But, only time will tell. Other recent polling in Florida has also shown contradictions and complexities.

But that doesn't matter at Babalu.

Why Won't Mario, Lincoln and Ileana Debate?

This weekend, Vice President and General Manager of local news station WPLG, David Boylan, asked a question in a televised editorial aimed at the three Cuban-American Congressional incumbents of South Florida:

"[W]hy are the incumbent candidates so reluctant to join in the debate?"

It seems that Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have been avoiding making some committments for televised debates against their Democrat challengers in South Florida. The same day that Boylan's editorial aired on WPLG, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart had finally confirmed the FIRST debate of the three important Congressional races. His challenger is Joe Garcia, former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Larry Thorson, a Democrat blogging about the three local races, had noticed the pattern of avoidance by the three Republicans, and believes they're fooling around with the public:

"Why do they do this? My guess is that they may fool some few voters who will approvingly remember the little news story saying the Republicans had agreed to debate, but not see the one reporting the debate had been called off."

According to Boylan, "[WPLG] is planning to televise three debates next month for the candidates who want to be your voice in Congress. All three challengers say they're in, but all three incumbents have more commitment issues than an aging bachelor. Representatives Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen won't confirm their availability."

It seems that this editorial was the result of rumors that Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart had backed away from scheduled debates to be aired on WPLG, and to be moderated by their political reporter Michael Putney. The dates were scheduled for October 8 and 31. Lincoln's challenger is Raul Martinez, former Mayor of Hialeah.

But, according to the Miami Herald's political blog, Naked Politics, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart has NOW agreed to a televised debate with Martinez on rival news station CBS4. This all came about this weekend, after the WPLG editorial, and after "[t]he camps traded insulting press releases Friday." Lesley Clark on Naked Politics quotes a political analyst saying that this particular race (for Congressional District 21) has the potential to be "one of the ugliest" this season.

Given the renewed debate over travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban families, Raul Martinez, Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo (challenging Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) can certainly capitalize on this issue given that most in Miami likely favor changes in this policy. But, it may all come down to the economy.

[Raul Martinez Website]
[Joe Garcia Website]
[Annette Taddeo Website]

[Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP]

Friday, September 19, 2008

After the Hurricane (Part 1)

How tragic that at this particular time when the victims of hurricane Ike and Gustav need help in Cuba, both the US and Cuban government have entrenched themselves in their usual political stances.

It seems that earlier this week the Cuban government rejected a commitment of $5 million of US aid, which came with no conditions according to US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. The Cuban government, which had earlier protested certain conditions on aid, was quick to respond saying that it cannot accept aid from a country that has economic sanctions against it. The Cuban government has now proposed that the US embargo be lifted for six months.

Why six months?

According to the Cuban Agriculture Ministry, Cuba now faces a six-month food crisis. With approximately 30% of the island's crops destroyed, egg and dairy production interrupted, the Agriculture Vice Minister Alcides Lopez told reporters: "We have six hard months to go... [but] no Cuban will die of hunger."

But, in order to increase food production Cuba's Foreign Minster Felipe Perez Roque believes lifting the US embargo is required. According to the AP (Andrea Rodriguez):

"The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed during 50 years by the United States is the main obstacle to Cuba's development," Perez Roque said, complaining of an "irrational persecution against North American companies, banks and citizens and those of third countries" who do business with Cuba.

But, does this position by the Cuban government justify the rejection of US aid? Especially, a commitment of $5 million? Phil Peters of the Lexington Insititute believes the US presented a "good offer." I think it was good too, but I also think that lifting the US embargo for six months is a good idea too. The real obstacle here seems to be two close neighbors (and long-time adversaries) that are not willing to negotiate a deal for an immediate and dire problem.

How the people respond to this will also be important to watch. Circles Robinson, on his blog, recently brought this to attention:

"The fact that the country’s socialist revolution has survived a half-century of relentless hostility from Washington and out lived the collapse of the USSR and Socialist Europe reinforces their belief that they will overcome the major setback to the economy poised by Gustav and Ike. "On the other hand, as the Revolution turns '50' on January 1, the battle horses of past struggles are aging and time will tell whether the new generations are willing to accept the calls to hard work and sacrifice."

[Photo by AP]

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Debate Continues

The other night I heard a host (Marta Flores) on Radio Mambi speak about her "confusion" over how best to help the people of Cuba. With many points of view now surfacing, it is certainly correct to describe it as confusing. But, many in Miami seem to agree that the US needs to make changes to its policy position to eventually send aid to Cuba.

Local Spanish-language news station Telemundo 51 recently asked viewers if limits on travel and remittances to Cuba should be temporarily lifted (photo above). Out of approximately 1000 online votes, 85% said YES. The poll is linked to two stories on the Telemundo 51 website, describing the devastating aftermath costs of hurricane Ike and how the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) is trying to help.

On Wednesday, CANF revealed that they had recieved an additional license by the US Treasury to help increase it's private efforts to send aid to Cuba. They call it their Hurricane Relief for Cuba Project. Click on the link to read the full report.

Coincidently (or not), that same day Unidad Cubana released their own official statement on sending aid to Cuba. If you don't know, Unidad Cubana represents the militant and intransigent sector of the Cuban exile community (some members include supporters of Commandos F4).

Radio Mambi's programming director, Armando Perez Roura, who is also Chairman of Unidad Cubana, took the priviledge of his daily radio commentary (called "Tome Nota") to repeat the official statement of Unidad Cubana (Perez Roura's daily radio commentary is repeated THREE TIMES daily).

According to Unidad Cubana:

"During the natural disasters occcuring since 1959, all aid sent to the Cuban people has been intercepted by the Communist tyranny, placed in control of the those who exploit the country, directed to supply the requirements of the tourist industry, or sold at high prices at the so-called 'diplotiendas' [luxury stores in Cuba that use US dollars], which the Cuban worker has no access to.

"Undiad Cubana urges the exile community to not let it be confused by those who call for the suspension of measures destined to promote and accelerate the political, economic, and social change in Cuba.


"Our country confronts extreme situations of hunger and disease in the following days. And the only obstacle to its salvation is [the Cuban regime]... and that the Cuban regime be overthrown without contemplation."

[Full audio here.]

Henry Gomez of the Babalu Blog seems to share this same position, indicated by his recent posting of an Alfredo Pong cartoon showing a starving and chained Cuban man being told by Raul Castro to beg louder as the President awaits to collect all the aid for himself.

But, the debate continues in Miami. The Democracy Movement recently demonstrated against the limits of sending aid to Cuba by the Cuban government and the US. You can watch the video here, and see the various people involved.

Those who want to know the reasons why the Cuban government rejected US aid relief can check out the Cuban Colada blog where the points have been posted.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two Rejections

Unfortunately, I've been horribly busy and will probably only post once a week for now. But, I will aim to cover as much material as possible to satisfy the news of that particular week. So here goes.

The aftermath of hurricane Ike was top news in Miami, especially since a local debate emerged within the exile community on how best to send relief aid to Cuba. I posted about the developing debate last week after hurricane Gustav first hit Cuba. Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, was among the first to petition for relaxation of current US travel and remittance restrictions against Cuban families in exile. Last week I also wondered about the meaning if the Cuban government would reject US offers of hurricane aid.

Earlier this week the US received an answer: NO THANKS. US Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, responded in an interviewed with Radio Mambi (WAQI 710) on Tuesday and told Armando Perez Roura (programming director at Radio Mambi):

"[I] feel that [...] when there's a humanitarian disaster what should be done is to look after the welfare of the people and not towards political aspects. But, one can see that again they [the Cuban government] is placing their own political interests before the interest of the people who are suffering greatly in these days." [Listen to the audio, MP3]

Sec. Gutierrez also mentioned that the US would make another offer soon, but at the same time also said the Cuban government is more interested in power anyway, and was ultimately uninterested in the welfare of the Cuban people.

Perez Roura later asked if Sec. Gutierrez was still studying the plans of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC). Gutierrez, who is Co-Chair of CAFC, mentioned that the US continues to update those plans in hopes that the Cuban people will see that Cuban communism has failed and that the US wants to help them prosper.

Around this same period, some leaders in the exile community, led by Rep. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, made public statements supporting the US position. In video by Univision, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tells reporters that there are no US "prohibitions" to humanitarian aid going to Cuba. But, Eddie Levy, from Jewish Solidarity, says that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart "shamelessly lied to the public." Levy believes US aid being offered to Cuba includes conditions which should not be imposed at the moment.

Well, today Sec. Gutierrez again appeared on Radio Mambi to tell listeners that the Cuban government has TWICE rejected US relief aid. He told Armando Perez Roura:

"It's very unfortunate that they have rejected aid that has been made with very good intentions by the government of President Bush." [Listen to audio, MP3]

Gutierrez mentions that the first rejection came from Felipe Perez Roque, the Cuban foreign minister, and that this second rejection came again from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations.

It certainly doesn't surprise me that the Cuban government has decided to reject offers from the US. But, it does surprise me that Sec. Gutierrez believes that he can convince the Cuban government that the US offering was made with "good intentions."

Maybe the US DOES have "good intentions" in this case, but you have to put yourself in the shoes of the Cuban government to understand the two rejections. Just like some would place their priorities in finding justice for the crimes committed by the Cuban government, the Cuban government has also placed their priorities in objecting and pointing to the crimes of the US "blockade."

Friday, September 5, 2008

What If They Say No? [Updated]

That's what some people should be asking the US government. What if Cuba refuses the aid that the US is now offering? The aid is based on the requests proposed by a bi-partisan group of legislators being led by Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart, a vehement defender of the US embargo towards Cuba.

The requests call for a team of experts from the US to assess the damage, provide relief through the US interest section in Havana and possibly allow aid through the International Red Cross, once the US grants permission to send aid from American soil. Needless to say, US-Cuba relations are currently poor (thanks to this Administration), and Cuba can easily say no to the requests closely associated with the US government.

All that would be left from the proposal is if the US will allow NGO's to easily travel to Cuba (which means applying for difficult-to-get OFAC licenses), and granting permission to the International Red Cross to also apply for a license and send aid from the US.

Years of mistrust have essentially broken important links between Cuba and the US, and now when an emergency situation is here its so difficult to cast aside the web of controversy that exists between both nations.

While we wait to hear from the Cuban government, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart is taking advantage of the opportunity to exercise his negative rhetoric:

"It's evident that the Cuban tyranny is anti-Cuban and enjoying the suffering of the Cuban people."

On the other hand, the Cuban American National Foundation has publicly taken the side of calling for a moratorium on US restrictions on travel and remittances.

----- [Update] -----

As the US continues to wait for an answer from the Cuban government...

"Spain shipped in 16 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Cuba on Friday, while tiny East Timor donated $500,000 and China anted up $300,000 as international help flowed into the island working to recover from devastating Hurricane Gustav... Russia, Cuba's former Cold War ally, flew in two planeloads of goods on Thursday, and said two more were coming." [Source: Reuters/Rosa Tania Valdes]

"The [Spanish Agency for International Cooperation] said Spain had also sent to Cuba 15 tons of commodities: 99 tents, two generators, 1,008 sanitary kits, 1,020 water deposits, 1,200 mosquito nets and 1,000 sailclothes." [Source: Xinhua News Agency]

"The Cuban government thanked on Friday East Timor for the donation of 500,000 U.S dollars for the damages caused by Hurricane 'Gustav'... 'Our people is [sic] touched by this gesture of expressing their feelings of friendship in this way, because East Timor is a small country of the third world and with limited resources,' the official Granma daily newspaper reported on Friday." [Source: Xingua News Agency]

There's no question that the Cuban government is delaying their reply to the US for hurricane relief as a sign of protest. This has been one consistent characteristic of the Cuban government, adamant in its opposition to US policies towards Cuba. (Will this political stance be tolerated by the devastated Cuban population?) Furthermore, this protest also serves to highlight to the rest of the world the half-century debacle that is US-Cuba relations.

It should certainly raise immediate questions to any honest person, such as why a powerful nation cannot exert its influence on a smaller (and very close) neighbor.

[Photo above by Getty Images]

Democracy Movement's Petition

Below, I'm posting the Democracy Movement's petition calling for a moratorium on US travel and remittances to Cuba. This petition mostly applies to Cuban families in exile, but provides details on the restrictions currently in place, which some might find informative.

Furthermore, you can click here and see the entire petition which provides the e-mail addresses to the US President, Vice President and Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez. Democracy Movement is asking everyone to e-mail (or mail) this petition, and send back copies.


Dear Mr. President:

This is an urgent appeal to your conscience regarding the dire conditions facing the Cuban People due to the devastation caused by hurricane Gustav and how a humanitarian gesture on your part, temporarily easing some of the restrictions against Cuba, could also help ease the suffering of its people by allowing them to receive more direct help from Cuban exiles in the United States.

Mr. President, we urge you to consider ordering, at least, a 30 to 60 days emergency moratorium on the limitations on remittances, gift parcels, travel and baggage to Cuba as follows:

1. Rescind or temporarily waive the 'direct relative' classification on remittances from exiles to people in the Island required by your 2004 Cuba policy sanctions. (As you may know, in our culture, sometimes a cousin may be regarded as a brother and an aunt may be revered as a grandmother);

2. Rescind or temporarily waive limitations on gift parcels so that they may include clothing, soap and other essential items that were allowed prior to the 2004 restrictions;

3. Rescind or temporarily waive the three year from the last trip restriction on travel visits to Cuba so that Cuban exiles can visit their loved ones affected by the hurricane and take with them some help;

4. Rescind or temporarily waive the pounds limitation of baggage to allow more aid to reach the Island.

In as much as we oppose any type of relief that may be used by Castro to further oppress his people, we encourage direct help to the Cuban People--especially in times of tragedy. From a US perspective, a positive response in the fashion requested herein can also favor the principal objective of U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba of reducing the potential for a massive exodus of rafters to Florida shores.

We trust that you will give this request your full consideration in an expedited manner so that help can begin to flow legally as soon as possible. Certainly, both the Cuban People in exile and in the Island will remain grateful to you should you find merit in this humanitarian request.

The Planes Are Ready. Now What?

Local Spanish-language news station Telemundo51 interviewed Ramon Saul Sanchez earlier today. Sanchez is the leader of the organization "Democracy Movement" (Movimiento Democracia) here in Miami.

According to the report, Sanchez's organization has prepared 6 planes ready to make humanitarian flights into Cuba. Sanchez estimates the planes can make 3 to 4 flights daily into Cuba, carrying approximately 500,000 lbs. of aid.

Sanchez says his organization is awaiting permission from the US government to begin the flights, and comments...

"What we are asking of both governments [US and Cuba] is [to] lay down your barriers that divide Cubans [and] that impede Cubans from helping each other mutually."


Ramon Saul Sanchez has a very interesting history in his struggle for a free Cuba, which in this case might affect his humanitarian mission. He arrived as a teenager to the US during the Freedom Flights from Cuba, and soon joined Alpha 66 back when it was actively organizing covert attacks on Cuba.

Sanchez's luck finally ran out in the eighties when he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for failing to testify before a grand jury related to an investigation of Omega 7. During his time in prison Sanchez changed his ways and began a non-violent struggle.

By 1999 Sanchez had become a prominent leader of the Cuban exile community mainly because of his acts of protest. And, by 2000, his organization gained further notoriety through its efforts to keep Elian Gonzalez in Miami. Yet, his non-violent struggle in exile was not well-received by all.

In 2002, Sanchez extended an olive branch to Radio Mambi director Armando Perez-Roura after he heard "vicious" insults directed at him on the air. Sanchez wrote that he had had enough.

"For Pérez Roura and company, the search for the truth is no longer important, and democracy is a one-way street. They're not interested in persuading others, not as long as they have the power to defeat them. They censure coarsely if someone points out their inconsistencies. When someone deviates from their narrow vision, they destructively brand him 'traitor' and start the machinery of slander that has ostracized so many people who might have benefited Cuba."

Radio Mambi had derided Sanchez for seeking a non-violent path (just as Radio Mambi calls Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya a 'traitor') in the struggle for a free Cuba. Sanchez at the time had run into problems with the US government for sailing into Cuban waters during a demonstration in the Florida Straits. Sanchez and two other men were charged, facing years in jail, but eventually freed after all charges were dropped.

More recently, Sanchez made headlines in 2006 after he initiated a hunger strike on behalf of 15 Cuban migrants who had been repatriated after landing on disputed American soil near Key West. Many Cuban exiles had become angry at the decision, and Sanchez sought to bring attention to the controversial "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy for Cubans, and pressure the US to make changes.

Ramon Saul Sanchez had received support from the Babalu Blog for his hunger strike in 2006, but now there is silence towards the Democracy Movement. It was just today that Babalu finally wrote something about aid relief to Cuba after hurricane Gustav. But, no mention of Sanchez or his organization.

According to the Democracy Movement's philosophy, "violence breeds more violence" and we must free ourselves from the "brutal manner of opression found in hate, jealousy, ambition, arrogance, vengeance, intolerance or indifference" to make our world a better place.

But, I don't know if the Cuban government will buy it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Time to Help

Wow. You're gone ONE week and you miss so much news from Cuba. I tell ya...

Anyway, the top story is without a doubt the aftermath of hurricane Gustav in Cuba. The destruction left by Gustav's winds has left many Cubans in a dire situation, and this tragedy has immediately brought scrutiny on US sanctions towards Cuba, namely because of restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban families in exile.

Boy, if my family living overseas had become victim to a terrible natural disaster, I would be infuriated if my attempts to join them or help them directly would be restricted by my government. How tragic that this might be the case for some with family in Cuba.

Here in Miami, prominent leaders of the Cuban exile community have raised their voices calling for a moratorium on travel and remittance restrictions to Cuba. Some who are adamant in keeping restrictions in place have raised their voices too. And, thus, we have a debate. [Watch Ramon Saul Sanchez on Spanish-language television this week proposing a moratorium on restrictions (beginning at 8:30 mark).]

I'll keep this post short, and hopefully tomorrow I will post more. But, I want to spread the word for those in the US who want to help the people in Cuba, namely those who have become the victims of Gustav's destruction. Below is information on how you can send donations to humanitarian organizations working in Cuba. The information is copied from the Cuban Triangle blog, whose author, Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute, has excellent coverage of the aftermath.

Help if you can.

How to help: U.S. government regulations severely limit what Americans can do directly, but we can work through two fine charities, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas Cubana. CRS, the international aid arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, has long supported the work of Caritas, Cuba’s nationwide Catholic charity, in a variety of humanitarian tasks including disaster relief. Caritas has requested assistance to help Gustav’s victims, and CRS is receiving donations for this purpose. If you want to help CRS respond to Caritas’ appeal, you can make a donation to CRS and designate it for “Cuba hurricane relief,” the code is 2770-1284 – you can do it on-line at the CRS donation page, or by mail (Catholic Relief Services, PO Box 17090, Baltimore MD 21203-7090), or by calling 1-888-277-7575.