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1999 NCC News Archives

In Letter to President Clinton, NCC General Secretary Welcomes Opening to Cuba
But Regrets Rejection of Bi-Partisan Commission

NEW YORK, Jan. 8, 1999 -- In a letter to President Clinton, the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, welcomed this week's new opening toward Cuba but expressed regret that the United States government rejected a Senator's recommendation to create a bi-partisan commission.

While welcoming "the new opening toward Cuba announced by your government on January 5, 1999," the letter states, "we do not feel that these measures are sufficient to resolve the conflict that has divided the two nations over the last forty years." The letter goes on to say that "the government of the United States has missed a historic opportunity by rejecting the recommendations of Senator John W. Warner to create a bi-partisan commission" which "could have carried out a fresh review of a policy that has been demonstrated to be ineffective for the past thirty-seven years."

The letter also emphasizes the role of the Cuban churches in constructing and strengthening civil society in Cuba.

Over the past six years, the NCC – through its Church World Service ministry – has sent more than 40 shipments of food, medicines, medical equipment, school supplies and other goods to Cuba with a market value of more than $10 million. CWS assistance is targeted to the most vulnerable members of Cuban society – women, children and the elderly.

The NCC also called repeatedly for the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, including a lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

The full text of the January 6 letter follows.

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January 6, 1999

The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States of America
The White House

Dear Mr. President:

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) welcomes the new opening toward Cuba announced by your government on January 5, 1999.

On several occasions, the NCCCUSA has reiterated –both inside and outside of Cuba— the need to strengthen the civil society in that country. We continue to emphasize the role of the Cuban Churches in constructing that new society. We wish to affirm Mr. President, that the positive change in the space for the Churches was obtained through dialogue with the Cuban government.

Nevertheless, we do not feel that these measures are sufficient to resolve the conflict that has divided the two nations over the last forty years. We feel that the government of the United States has missed a historic opportunity by rejecting the recommendations of Senator John W. Warner to create a bi-partisan commission. This commission could have carried out a fresh review of a policy that has been demonstrated to be ineffective for the past thirty-seven years. This proposal is not only supported by both parties, but by broad sectors of the civil society in the United States, of which the Church is a part.

We leave you with assurances Mr. President, that the expression of these concerns is guided by our hope to find paths of justice and peace that will lead to reconciliation between the people of both countries. We pray that one day this hope will become a reality.

Grace and Peace

The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell
General Secretary

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