WASHINGTON, DC (CWN) - The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff released a report on Thursday that recommends the use of US government funds for a humanitarian aid campaign delivered through the Catholic Church and independent nongovernmental agencies.

      The report prepared by congressional staffers who traveled to Cuba during Pope John Paul's visit there in January said delivering such humanitarian aid could help topple the Communist government which it said uses deprivation as a means of control. "This program should emphasize donated food and medicine and could include material support purchased with US government funds," the report said. The document also calls for maintaining the 36-year-old US economic embargo, which the Holy Father has asked the US to end.

      The staff report follows on proposals made by Cuban exile groups in January which advocate a similar plan. That proposal was turned down by President Fidel Castro's government, calling the offer ridiculous and an attempt at humiliation. The report, based on interviews with government officials and ordinary citizens during a 10-day visit, also accused the Castro government of employing a policy of coercing abortions from certain categories of women labeled "social risk pregnancies."

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March 9, 1998 volume 9, no. 48         DAILY CATHOLIC