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Senators Seek $100M for Cuba Groups

May 16, 2001

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sens. Jesse Helms and Joseph Lieberman are proposing $100 million in U.S. aid to dissident and other nongovernmental groups in Cuba over the next four years.

Congressional sources said Helms planned to introduce the legislation Wednesday. Helms, R-N.C., is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lieberman, D-Conn., was his party’s vice presidential nominee in last year’s election.

The move has the support of the Cuban-American National Foundation, the largest of the anti-communist Cuban exile groups in the United States.

Confirming an account in Wednesday’s New York Times, the foundation’s Washington director, Jose Cardenas, said the legislation would authorize the president to send cash, food, medicine, telephones, fax machines and other items to nongovernmental groups in Cuba, which would then distribute the aid.

``We believe the debate about Cuba policy has totally been skewed by a straight up-or-down debate on the embargo,″ Cardenas said, referring to U.S. attempts to economically isolate the Castro government.

``The embargo has a crucial role to play but we need to be more active in reaching out to the Cuban people,″ he said.

Cardenas said effort is comparable to one undertaken by the Reagan administration in Poland, where U.S. support for dissident groups helped pave the way for the demise of communism in 1989 and its replacement by a democratic system.

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