On June 22nd IFCO/Pastors For Peace to Launch 15th Non-Violent Challenge to US Blockade of Cuba in Portland.
IFCO/Pastors for Peace
402 W 145th Street
New York, NY 10031
Pastors for Peace and hundreds of volunteers from the US and 7 other countries are slated to cross the US border into Mexico on July 7th challenging US restrictions on travel and aid to Cuba. The group has used hunger strikes and mass mobilizations to successfully challenge the US governments past attempts to confiscate vehicles and humanitarian aid crossing the Mexican border on its way to Cuba. Since 1992, Pastors for Peace, an ecumenical project of IFCO, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, has delivered more than 2,350 tons of urgently needed assistance to the Cuban people without seeking a US Treasury license.
In this election year, the Bush Administration has virtually eliminated "people to people" exchanges with Cuba, and utilized the "homeland security" budget to investigate those suspected of travel to the island. The 15th Friendshipment Caravan will publicly challenge these policies and the unpopular economic blockade as it traverses thirteen separate routes across the country; welcomed by 120 US communities that have collected over 60 tons of humanitarian aid for the people of Cuba. Two hundred people will meet at the border to travel to Cuba without US treasury department licenses with the school buses, computers, medicines, and school supplies.
"As people of faith and conscience, it is our duty to resist and expose this cruel contradiction," declared Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., Executive Director and founder of IFCO, a 36-year old ecumenical agency. "IFCO/Pastors for Peace rejects this licensing system as both immoral and illegal. It is immoral because it endangers the lives of Cubans and inflicts suffering on innocent children, as well as adults. It is illegal under international law because it uses a sanction to be imposed only in a time of war against a declared enemy in order to force another nation to change its government. Licensing is also unconstitutional because it requires people of faith to submit their acts of conscience and friendship to government licensing, in violation of our right to freedom of religious expression, political thought, association and travel," continued Walker.
For more than 12 years, IFCO/Pastors for Peace has worked tirelessly for a more humane and reasoned policy toward Cuba, and for an end to the immoral US economic blockade. Cuba poses no tactical or economic threat to the United States or any other country; in fact, they have shown only consistent advocacy for the least advantaged people of the world and have given generously time and again to those seeking social justice throughout the world. Those of us working with Pastors for Peace are inspired by Cuba's remarkable achievements in health care, education and culture, by their determination to maintain their sovereignty.
Now Cuba is under serious threat and it is more important than ever that we stand by their side. In recent days, the Bush Administration has escalated its provocations and aggressions against Cuba. In addition to assigning several more judges to oversee cases against Americans sympathizing with the people of Cuba, Bush's so-called Presidential Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba are:
-Plans to fly a C-13 military cargo plane constantly around Cuban waters, in order to beam US government propaganda on TV/Radio Marti.
-Millions of dollars in US appropriations to fund a continued internal opposition movement in Cuba, and
-Increased restrictions on travel to Cuba, which will apply to educational institutions, and to Cuban-Americans who would be allowed to visit Cuba only once every 3 years, and then only to visit their most immediate relatives, and only if they apply for a US Treasury license.
As Bush's military adventure in Iraq becomes more chaotic and more tragic, and his re-election seems more and more uncertain, we fear that he will work even harder to cater to the Cuban-Americans in Miami who helped assure Bush's 'victory' in 2000. Even more, we fear Bush is sufficiently unstable that he might start yet another war just before the November election. Cuba is doing what it must do. It is preparing itself for the possibility of a US attack.
On May 1st, millions of Cubans marched in Havana and other cities to proudly demonstrate their support for their independence and their revolution. On May 14, millions more mobilized again in protest to the renewed US assault. The Cuban government has announced emergency economic measures to ensure that the country's precious economic resources will stay focused on the long-term priority items that will benefit all Cubans, such as fuel, food, health care and education. Cubans are stepping up their resistance to US efforts to re-colonize them.
In terms of world opinion of US foreign policy, we know that the US has never been more isolated. The rest of the world has consistently rejected US policy towards Cuba. At the United Nations virtually every country has condemned the blockade. Even in Congress there is a clear majority to end the travel ban and at least partially lift the blockade. The great majority of US citizens see current US/Cuba policy as pointless, foolish, and mean-spirited.
This is the political context in which IFCO/Pastors for Peace is launching the 15th Friendshipment Caravan, which will travel to Cuba in July. We are going to Cuba, as always, proudly and openly, without asking for or accepting a US government license. The efforts are coordinated with three other organizations that challenge the blockade: the Venceremos Brigade, the African Awareness Association, and the Committee to Free the Cuban 5.
Please join in an act of solidarity Tuesday, June 22nd, at Peace House on NE 18th and Tillamook, as we welcome Alicia Jrapko to Portland for the send-off of the 15th Pastors for Peace Caravan. Alicia was born and raised in Cordoba, Argentina. In 1976, during the repressive military dictatorship she was forced to leave and relocate to San Francisco. Alicia first traveled with IFCO/P4P to Cuba in 1994, and has been a tireless advocate for peace and solidarity work for those in Latin America ever since. Come hear from Alicia, and meet those traveling and supporting Cuba in their resistance to being re-colonized.
There will be a potluck at 6:00; the program begins at 7:00.
Hasta La Victoria Siempre
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