Cuban immigrant Cristina Pujadas has spent the past few days crying, watching hurricanes devastate her homeland and worrying about the family she left behind.
Pujadas watches, as well, as the U.S. and Cuban governments duel over formalities that she views as meaningless: The Cuban government refuses aid from the United States, while the U.S. government stands by restrictions on the flow of money from immigrants to their families on the island.
''I am tired of living like this, with this situation that has gone on for decades because of a lack of love for the people who are most affected,'' said Pujadas, 57, who came to the United States in 1982. "While these governments are shooting back and forth at each other, the people are suffering.''
The devastation wrought on Cuba by hurricanes Ike and Gustav, with widespread destruction of vital food crops, has renewed perennial calls to loosen the decades-old U.S. embargo. The Catholic Church, a coalition of Cuban-American aid organizations and a contingent of politicians -- including Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flake -- have called on President Bush to temporarily lift restrictions on how much money Cubans here can send to families.
Many recently arrived Cubans with family ties on the island also say humanitarian needs should supersede the politics that divide the two countries.
''Everything hurts, to watch this, because Cuba is my blood and mi patria,'' Pujadas said.
She worries about her half-sister, holed up in a flooded Havana apartment, surviving on crackers.
''When there's a catastrophe like a hurricane in Cuba, people tend to focus more on Cuba and they realize our policy doesn't make sense,'' Flake said.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, a top pro-embargo lobbyist and a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee, said the calls for easing restrictions to help hurricane victims come from the same camp that has long advocated relaxing the embargo. He predicted the push would fail.
The percolating pressure -- and accusations of callousness in the face of widespread suffering -- drew an emphatic response from the U.S. government. The State Department put out a list of steps Washington has taken to help the Cuban people, including offering $100,000 in emergency assistance to nongovernmental organizations and temporarily increasing the cash amount licensed organizations can provide for humanitarian assistance.
The United States also offered to send a humanitarian assessment team to Cuba, the first step to opening the door to millions more in aid. But the Cuban government declined, saying their evaluation teams were capable of chronicling the damage.
''We stand with the Cuban people at this difficult hour,'' U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement. "We're hopeful that the government of Cuba will put the welfare of their people above politics.''
Supporters of the embargo fired back at politicians fighting the restrictions and at the family members pushing to send more money.
Cuban immigrants worried about their relatives should consider the greater good, said radio and TV personality Ninoska Pérez Castellón, director of the conservative Cuban Liberty Council.
''There are 11 million people under the same conditions,'' she said. "What we should be looking for are ways to benefit the 11 million people and solve the crisis and not think of what we can do for our own relatives.''
The fresh debate sparked by the hurricanes has intensified the issue of the embargo in local congressional races.
Campaign representatives for former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, a Democrat, and his opponent, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, accused each other of politicizing the humanitarian crisis.
Martinez advocates a temporary lifting of the family aid restrictions because ``when something like this strikes, everything needs to be put aside and people need to come first.''
Diaz-Balart campaign spokesman Carlos Curbelo pointed out that an e-mail Martinez sent out calling attention to the devastation included a link at the bottom that said ''click here to contribute'' to Martinez's campaign.
Martinez called the link an ''accident'' that he immediately apologized for and that was immediately corrected.
''See how small these people think?'' said Martinez, who added his opponent has allowed ideology to trump the needs of his Cuban-American constituents.
Diaz-Balart emphasized that he and other supporters of the embargo believe mechanisms are already in place to help Cubans through organizations licensed by the U.S. government to provide aid.
''It certainly is our hope that international community puts the maximum amount of pressure on the regime to allow unlimited aid,'' he said.
Local organizations such as Democracy Movement, Jewish Solidarity and Daughters of Charity gathered donations and supplies for Cuba.
While appreciative, many Cuban immigrants worried that aid would not directly help their loved ones.
''They should lift those restrictions because there is nothing more secure than sending money to your relatives,'' said Miguel Jiménez, 46, who has family in hard-hit Camagüey. "You want that tranquility of knowing they're going to have what they most need.''