Van Nuys, CA – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today asked President Bush to suspend for 90 days U.S. legal restrictions on visits, remittances and gifts to people in Cuba so that Cuban Americans might assist family members whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Gustav.

“We have the opportunity now to harness the deep desire and capacity of Cuban American families to assist their loved ones in this time of great need by temporarily suspending regulatory restrictions on Cuban American visits, remittances, and gift parcels,” Berman said in a letter to Bush. “There is no more effective way to urgently get relief to Cubans in need than to lift U.S. government restrictions to allow direct family assistance. …. Whether or not one agrees with current US policy toward Cuba, the entire spectrum of opinion on the issue shares the goal of providing relief for the citizens and people of Cuba in a time of great hardship.”

Gustav hit Cuba at Category Four strength, heavily damaging crops, housing and infrastructure. Authorities there report that about 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed; officials in the Cuban Catholic Church and leading dissidents have launched international appeals for assistance.

“I am aware,” wrote Berman, “of the difficulties in the past of getting Cuban authorities to accept U.S. government offers of help. While I believe such an offer should still be made in this case, provided Cuban authorities permit conditions for its effective delivery, we should not make this the U.S.’s only attempt to assist the Cuban people devastated by Gustav.”