Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Softening of U.S. Embargo Linked to Pope's Cuba Visit

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Softening of U.S. Embargo Linked to Pope's Cuba Visit

Article excerpt

The first of a series of shipments of medical supplies left the United States for Cuba March 23, the result of President Clinton's, decision to allow temporary relief in a 35-year-old Cuban embargo.

Catholic leaders and some Cuban Americans praised Clinton's decision, though other Cuban Americans, who favor a hard-line approach to Castro's government, denounced it.

The policy change was linked to Pope John Paul II's late January visit to Cuba, where he criticized the 35-year-old U.S. embargo, saying it had caused civilians to suffer.

Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, N.J., issued a statement praising Clinton's action, saying he and others who visited Cuba during the pope's trip "cannot forget the outpouring of joy and enthusiasm of the Cuban people ... and neither can we forget so many signs of a general deterioration: the pitiful condition of state-run health clinics or the empty shelves of food stores." He added, "We welcome the willingness of our government to facilitate the more adequate response to the needs of the people of Cuba at this time."

McCarrick, chairman of the U.S. bishops' International Policy Committee, was in Cuba with the pope.

Supplies in the March 23 shipment are part of $6 million in stockpiled medical aid, including $1 million worth of insulin, collected from the nation's pharmaceutical companies by Catholic Medical Missions Board in New York City.

Catholic Relief Services also plans to ship medical supplies to Cuba -- more than $5 million worth, according to Kenneth F. Hackett, executive director.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who has made two recent visits to the Vatican, including one on March 24, stressed that the concessions were linked to the pope's visit and were intended to help the Cuban people, not Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Essentially, she said, the embargo remains in place. …

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