A Note on Cuba from President & CEO Richard Walden
March 14, 2016 — On Monday, March 21, President Barack Obama will become the first American President to visit Cuba since 1928, when Calvin Coolidge attended the Pan American Conference in Havana. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, transferring the authority to remove the far-reaching trade embargo to Congress, and thereby limiting a president’s ability to alter or end the embargo. Today, the 55-year US trade embargo continues with a only few modifications put into place by an executive order from President Obama.
Operation USA has worked in Cuba for 20 years under licenses from the US Treasury Department and US Department of Commerce which regulate both travel to Cuba and what US-made health care products we can donate to our pediatric hospital partners. In some years even used pediatric dental equipment, used sterilizers and laboratory equipment to diagnose disease were denied authorization by US officials. Despite this, Operation USA managed to deliver millions of dollars worth of life saving medicines and medical equipment to help the children of Cuba. Operation USA has also played host to a number of Cuban pediatricians from the three Cuban pediatric hospitals we serve, enabling them to come to our supply warehouse and choose the equipment most urgently needed by their hospitals.
We hope the Obama presidential visit and the recent re-opening of the US Embassy in Havana and Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. are harbingers of a better future for US-Cuba relations which have been held hostage to an aging but politically effective and vocal group of Cuban exiles in Florida and New Jersey. Fortunately, many US businesses and a growing bi-partisan majority in Congress are in favor of lifting the embargo and putting the era of bitterness and mutual recriminations behind us.
A number of long-time Operation USA donors have supported these efforts over the years and we hope the recent events between the US and Cuba will attract more resources in support of our work.
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To learn more about President Obama’s trip to Cuba, click here