'Brothers' gives money to democratic groups in Cuba

Herald Staff Writer

Brothers to the Rescue has sent an undisclosed amount of money to Cuba to help underwrite the First nationwide conference of "Concilio Cubano. an association of pro-democracy groups. The conference is set for Feb. 24-27 in Havana.

During a news conference Tuesday at the Ermita de la Caridad, Brothers' President .lose Basulto handed a check to dissident leader Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, who is in Miami for medical treatment.

Basulto said his group, an association of volunteer pilots who patrol the Florida Straits looking for Cuban rafters, applied to the U.S. Treasury Department for the license needed to transfer funds to nongovernment organizations in Cuba. But Washington has not issued the license, he said.

"The process of change in Cuba cannot wait for the government of the United States," Basulto said. "Since we didn't get a reply to our application, we decided to go ahead and send the money."

Treasury Department officials did not return calls from The Herald requesting confirmation of Basulto's assertion.

Arcos said he will have the money delivered to dissidents on the island through unofficial channels.

"That money will go for transportation, to buy typing paper or carbon paper, to pay for phone calls ... medicine and food," Arcos said. "Right now, everything is scarce. Those people are bereft of everything."