Pastors for Peace Caravan Wins Return of
Caravanistas Carry Them Across the Border for Shipment to Cuba
to the Department of Homeland Security were effective! The government
responded to the hundreds of calls and e-mails by returning the 32
confiscated computers to the Pastors for Peace 19th Cuba Caravan.
Caravanistas then proceeded to hand-carry them across the border to
Reynoso, Mexico, for shipment to Cuba. Thanks to all who sent messages
of protest! By taking united action, we can win!
Tom Barrett, co-Managing Editor, Labor Standard
July 14, 2008 — for immediate release
In McAllen, TX: Ellen Bernstein: 646/319-5902, 646/319-5904
In New York: Lucia Bruno: 212/926-5757, 347/423-4330
PASTORS FOR PEACE CARAVAN COMPLETES ITS 19TH CHALLENGE
OF THE US BLOCKADE AGAINST CUBA:
"DETAINED" COMPUTERS RELEASED BY US AUTHORITIES AND SENT ON TO CUBA
Members of the 19th US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan returned to the US today after challenging the US blockade on travel to Cuba and delivering nearly 100 tons of humanitarian aid to that island nation. When they crossed through Mexico and reached the US border at Hidalgo, TX today, the members of the caravan were processed through US Immigration and Customs.
Responding to constant pressure from communities all across the US, US officials then returned to the caravan the 32 computers that had been seized on July 3.
"It’s difficult for even the US government to enforce the blockade against us, since they know that we are acting on the basis of our moral principles -- principles which are supported by the great majority of the US people," said Rev. Thomas Smith, president of the board of directors of IFCO/Pastors for Peace.
Determined caravanistas then hand-carried the 32 computers across the International Bridge from Hidalgo, Texas into Reynosa, Mexico.
The computers will be sent from Reynosa on to Cuba, which means that every item of the nearly 100 tons of humanitarian aid collected by the caravan from all across the US will in fact be donated to Cuba.
"We appreciate that the computers were released today. But our work could not be complete until we knew for sure that the computers would be on their way to their intended home," said Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "In fact, even now, our work is not complete — not until this mean-spirited, foolish, petty, counterproductive, immoral blockade against our Cuban sisters and brothers is ended."
The caravan program in Cuba included visits to different provinces, homes for the elderly, and health care sites. Caravanistas also visited the Latin American School of Medicine, where young people from 30 nations of the Americas and Africa are studying medicine on full scholarship in order to serve as physicians in their home countries. More than 100 of the students in this program are from medically under-served communities in the US.
Caravanistas are already planning for next year’s 20th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba, which is expected to have broad participation, including a large youth contingent to participate in next year’s US/Cuba ‘Hip Hop Exchange."
Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which has been working for 40 years in support of social justice. More information about the caravan and photo images are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org.
Thursday, July 3, 2008 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: In McAllen, Texas: Ellen Bernstein 646/319-5902
In New York City: Lucia Bruno 212/926-5757
Homeland Security Agents Seize 32 Computers Bound for Cuba
at Texas-Mexico Border
Pastors for Peace Caravan Threatened With Arrest for Exercising
Their Right to Protest
Federal agents seized 32 computers from Pastors for Peace as they attempted to cross the Pharr International Bridge early this morning at the US-Mexico border.
The U.S. government has forced the issue by turning back on previous actions and understandings" said Rev. Lucius Walker, Executive Director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "They have intentionally provoked and harassed us, he continued.
"We will not be intimidated. We have made every effort to be cooperative and they have responded with aggression. These computers are the same type as the hundreds we have taken in the past", said Rev. Walker.
Members of the Pastors for Peace caravan quickly launched an emergency outreach campaign to their elected representatives, local community networks, and local media. They demonstrated in the Customs compound, chanting "Si se puede" and "Cuba si, bloqueo no."
These computers were donated by a Japanese-American group from the Bay Area of California. They were so impressed with Cuba's educational system that they collected PCs in their community to contribute to the 19th Pastors for Peace US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan. As a result of this US seizure, 32 Cuban classrooms will not have a computer from this caravan.
In addition to the computers, participants are taking 100 tons of humanitarian aid across the US-Mexico border and on to Cuba. The aid includes wheelchairs, medicine, medical equipment, musical instruments, sports equipment, six brightly-painted school buses and a bookmobile to be donated to the people of Cuba.
The caravanistas are challenging an inhumane US law by delivering aid and traveling to Cuba without a license. They range in age from 8 to 86, and include Irish, British, German, and Canadian citizens as well as US citizens. Seven members of the caravan are Cuban-Americans. The Caravan also includes a contingent of hip hop and spoken word artists who will be meeting up with their fellow artists in Cuba.
Although they come from a broad variety of ages and backgrounds, the caravanistas are united in their determination to bring an end to the immoral and unjust blockade against Cuba. Explaining why they are participating in this year's Friendshipment Caravan, caravanistas said:
"A person does not need an ancestral connection with Cuba in order to believe that what America has done and continues to do is not only immoral but denies us our right to travel as Americans."
"It is our obligation as citizens to be informed about what is happening 90 miles off our shores; I am addressing this by witnessing it with my own eyes."
Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), an ecumenical agency with a 40-year history of work for social justice. More information and photo images of the caravan are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org.