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PASTORS FOR PEACE CARAVAN CELEBRATES SUCCESSFUL RETURN- COMPUTERS STILL SEIZED

Pastors for Peace announced a victory today when its 16th caravan crossed the International Bridge from Reynosa, MX into Hidalgo, TX after returning from Cuba. But there is still no word about release of the computers seized from the caravan's cargo last week.
audio files- chanting, Fouder Rev. Lucius Walker, Ana- Caravan member
audio files- chanting, Fouder Rev. Lucius Walker, Ana- Caravan member
PASTORS FOR PEACE CARAVAN CELEBRATES SUCCESSFUL RETURN;
CAMPAIGN TO SEND SEIZED COMPUTERS TO CUBA CONTINUES

Pastors for Peace announced a victory today when its 16th caravan crossed the International Bridge from Reynosa, MX into Hidalgo, TX after returning from Cuba. But there is still no word about release of the computers seized from the caravan's cargo last week.

The caravanistas'energy and motivation were very high last night when they returned from Cuba to Reynosa, MX, and then assembled this morning for their 'reverse challenge' to the US blockade against Cuba.

As the caravanistas crossed the International Bridge in two school buses, supporters of the caravan in Reynosa accompanied them across the bridge, chanting "Cuba si, bloqueo no!"

Homeland Security officers spent nearly three hours interrogating caravan participants about the details of their trip, and two more hours searching every item of their personal luggage. But in the end, nothing was seized from the caravanistas, and all of them are back home in the US.

"Given that the US government was committed to completely stopping us this year, today really was a total victory for us," said Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "It is clear that public outrage over the seizure of the computers last week, as well as the outrage over the items that were seized from us last year, forced the US government to back down when we met them at the border today."

Nearly 140 tons of aid for Cuba crossed the border when the caravan left the US last week. But US Customs agents, acting on orders of the US Commerce Department, seized 43 boxes of aid containing toner cartridges, cables, keyboards, modems, and about a dozen second-hand computers. Another 75 boxes of computer-related aid remain in Hidalgo, TX, along with a small team of caravanistas organizing a growing national campaign to win the release of the seized aid for delivery to Cuba. The campaign to free the computers continues this week, with the added energy of all the caravanistas who have just come home from Cuba.

As a part of its 'reverse challenge' of US sanctions against Cuba, the caravan brought back these Cuban items:

-Bibles, given as a gift from the Cuban Council of Churches;
-copies of the Cuban constitution;
-copies of a book entitled And You Will Be My Witnesses... about evangelization and mission in the Cuban churches; and
-copies of a book about Operation Miracle: a project of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health through which Cuban doctors, working free of charge, have restored the sight of thousands of Venezuelans who had gone blind because of cataracts.

"This trip to Cuba had tremendous significance," said Rev. Thomas Smith, president of the board of directors of IFCO/Pastors for Peace and pastor of the Monumental Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, PA. "Every time we visit Cuba we're breaking the information blockade."

As a matter of moral principle, Pastors for Peace refuses to request or accept a license from the US government to travel to Cuba or to deliver humanitarian aid to that island nation.

"Cuba is not our enemy, and Cuba is not a threat. We refuse to be complicit with the aim of the Bush administration to force Cuba into adopting a so-called 'free-market' economy that would be dominated by US interests," said Rev. Walker.
Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), an ecumenical agency based in Harlem, NYC, which has been working for social and economic justice since 1967.

More information, including photos and audio clips, is available at www.pastorsforpeace.org.

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