Urgent Cuba Travel Update from Ed Asner
Washington’s hostility to Cuba is growing, set to reach a fever pitch as the 2012 presidential campaign shifts into high gear. All of the candidates are pandering to the most extreme elements in Miami, in hope of winning Florida’s prized, often pivotal electoral votes. I’m asking that you join me now in standing with the Cuban people, when our support will have the greatest impact on the electoral debate.
While President Obama has tweaked travel regulations to permit more Americans to travel to Cuba, his first term has been marked by the same old rhetoric we heard from President George Bush, along with an actual tightening of the embargo.
And, as I write, Washington is, once again, standing against Latin America to block Cuba’s participation in this month’s Summit of the Americas, taking place in Cartagena, Colombia. It is the latest expression of the U.S. embargo, which even the conservative Economist recently termed Washington’s “50-year tantrum.”
This is the sixth time the U.S. has excluded Cuba from the regional summit; in response, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, termed the action an “enormous disrespect for Latin America and the Caribbean.” It’s also a huge rebuff to the international community, as the UN has voted overwhelmingly 20 times to demand an end to the embargo.
In our country, supporters of peace and justice like you have also stood firm against this cruel U.S. policy. Thanks to your generosity, Disarm has delivered more than $85 million of desperately needed medicines and medical supplies to Cuba, more than all of the nations of Europe combined. And these shipments, coupled with our vigorous advocacy, have spurred broad public support for an end to the embargo.
Thanks to your support, Disarm has saved lives and eased the suffering of children and adults across the island. This year alone, we have sent a remarkable $1.4 million worth of urgently needed medicine and surgical equipment! Together, you and Disarm are sending a clear signal to President Obama that millions of Americans vigorously reject his ongoing economic stranglehold of Cuba.
It’s no secret that our government’s use of a trade embargo to effect regime change in Cuba is one of our nation’s greatest foreign policy failures. The embargo has been in place for more than 50 years. President Obama is now the 11th U.S. President in office since it began. Yet, Washington still pursues a policy that brings hardship to millions of Cuban citizens.
President Obama has continued to fund a USAID program that provides direct assistance to dissident groups in Cuba – a program designed to spark unrest and instability on the island. This program, riddled with corruption that has already landed one USAID subcontractor in jail, is an incredible waste of taxpayer funds.
The President has continued to support onerous Commerce Department export regulations that have dramatically reduced U.S. agriculture sales to Cuba by more than 50 percent since he first took office.
And sadly, President Obama has refused to ease restrictions on humanitarian assistance programs like Disarm’s, denying U.S. doctors permission to travel to Cuba to teach, lecture or perform surgery. Our medical delegations – now barred – enabled American doctors to share skills with their Cuban counterparts and teach new, advanced techniques such as sophisticated breast reconstruction for women with cancer.
With our nation’s foreign policy held hostage once again by the narrow political agenda of Miami’s right-wing exile community, I urge you to actively challenge this policy. There are two concrete steps you can take right now:
First, contact your elected representatives. Campaign events provide excellent opportunities for personal access and informal discussion. Let them know that you oppose the embargo and support legislation permitting increase travel and trade. We need a foreign policy shaped by what’s right, not one bought with campaign contributions and the promise of electoral votes.
Second, and equally important, I urge you to renew your support for Disarm’s Cuban Medical Project by sending your tax-deductible contribution today.
While you help continue to build political pressure to end the embargo, you’ll be sending life-saving medicines and medical supplies to the people of Cuba. This will enable us to save even more lives, and send a vital message of people-to-people friendship.
Thanks to the compassion and solidarity you and so many other concerned Americans have shown in supporting Disarm and our life-saving medical shipments to Cuba, we can once again swing the political pendulum toward peace and against a draconian foreign policy that, by withholding vital medicines and supplies, kills just as surely as bullets and bombs.
For 16 years, as we delivered this precious medical aid to Cuban hospitals and community clinics, we demonstrated that Americans and Cubans can achieve peace and friendship. Some of our most stubborn opponents have already changed their minds and joined us in opposing the embargo. Big corporations, Republican Senators and Governors, Midwestern farmers, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce want the embargo lifted. You can take pride in this change. . . because you helped make it happen.
That’s why we must not stop. In times like these, it is critical for those who care about peace and social justice to stand up and be counted. I’m writing to ask you to do your part. By helping Disarm with your tax-deductible gift, you’ll help continue to send medicines and medical supplies to the Cuban people who urgently need our help. . . and your support will be your personal protest against the embargo.
Every container of medical supplies we send to Cuba is a statement of our values, our morality and our compassion. Every container saves lives, reduces suffering, and gives hope to a people who have been brutalized by U.S. foreign policy for more than half a century.
This spring we’re planning yet another massive donation of urgently needed pediatric medicines and medical supplies to the Juan Manuel Marquez Pediatric Hospital. Disarm has been supporting this vital children’s hospital for more than 15 years. I’ve visited this remarkable facility and can personally attest to how much good we’ve accomplished working together! We’re hoping to raise $87,340 over the next two months to pay for the cost of securing and shipping this important donation.
Please renew your support for Disarm’s Cuban Medical Project by sending your tax-deductible check as soon as possible. Or visit our website, www.disarm.org, to make your secure online gift. What better way is there for us to stand together as we defend our core values and compassion. Please stay with me – we’ve never been closer to our goal!
Thank you, in advance, for your continued commitment and support.
Very gratefully, Edward Asner
PS: The presidential campaign is a vital time to build pressure on Congress by organizing vigorous, vocal opposition to the embargo as possible. Please don’t sit on the sidelines. Please help Disarm challenge the embargo, while we send life-saving medical supplies to Cuba. We must not miss this important opportunity.