by W.T. Whitney Jr.
At noon August 18, 2001, U.S. Customs officers at Coburn Gore, Maine (pop. 6) found themselves in a face-to- face confrontation with 75 determined opponents of the economic blockade against Cuba. A caravan of 23 cars and trucks had arrived carrying medical supplies for Cuban hospitals and doctors.
Let Cuba Live, a group of Maine people in solidarity with Cuba, had organized the humanitarian donation. Several other Maine social justice groups joined in on the border challenge, also 12 supporters of Pastors for Peace of New York, accompanied by the leader of that organization, Rev. Lucius Walker. On the other side of the border, members of the Caravane d’Amitie Québec-Cuba were waiting to provide support.
Customs officials offered Let Cuba Live one more chance to obtain the required license for humanitarian donations to Cuba, and the answer, as always, was “no.” As soon as it was known that the shipment of 130 boxes would be seized, the protesters began carrying boxes to the border by hand. Ninety boxes were passed over to the Canadians on the other side, and the rest were seized. There were no arrests.
On July 2, Let Cuba Live had mounted an earlier challenge
to the blockade. On that day 13 people delivered 40 boxes into the waiting arms
of their Canadian friends, in defiance of a seizure order. Customs officials
grabbed 45 boxes. Also on July 2, Pastors for Peace took the Twelfth
Friendshipment into Mexico from Texas, without a trace of interference by the
Let Cuba Live members recall that in October 1999, unimpeded, they had shipped four truckloads of supplies for Cuba to Montreal. Clearly, the U.S. government is now putting up the appearance of strict enforcement of embargo regulations regarding licensure.
Refusing to enter into complicity with cruel, immoral laws, the two Cuba solidarity organizations refuse to secure the license required by embargo laws. In 1996, Rev. Walker and three others fasted for 94 days to persuade the U.S. government to allow 420 computers to be delivered to Cuban hospitals. A similar spirit of resistance has been apparent this summer in Coburn Gore, as shown by veteran activists, neophytes, students, working people, seniors — prominent among the latter being 90-year-old Irv Wolfe of New Jersey, a veteran of twelve Pastors for Peace Friendshipments of aid to Cuba.
Let Cuba Live designated the action a success. The last chant directed to federal authorities by the departing crowd was, “We’ll be back.” Plans are now under way for agitation and action directed at securing the release of the medical supplies still held by the U.S. government. A petition for the release of the material seized on July 2 has yet to bear fruit.