A U.S. humanitarian group delivered about 90 tons of aid to Cuba on Thursday, defying Washington’s 45-year-old trade embargo.
Some 140 Pastors for Peace volunteers drove across the Texas border to Mexico, and then flew to Havana with computers and medical supplies, including X-ray machines, walkers and surgical gowns.
The group, making its 18th annual pilgrimage to Cuba, said it was held up at two U.S. border crossings while returning from Canada with donations, but completed the journey with “99.5 percent” of the aid it hoped to bring, said the Rev. Luis Barrios, pastor of San Romero de Las Americas, a non-denominational church in New York City.
Barrios said U.S. authorities seized 12 computers, but did not take the monitors for those machines.
“We’ve arrived at the conclusion that that was symbolic,” Barrios said. “The United States, although it doesn’t recognize it publicly, in terms of the blockade, has morally lost.”
Barrios said U.S. officials were friendly, and even made a point of confiscating the oldest computers while allowing new laptops through. “They had to take something from us to say they had taken something,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore said she had no comment on the caravan.
Dressed in blue and white T-shirts emblazoned with “U.S.-Cuba Caravan,” the New York-based group also included volunteers from Mexico, Canada, Great Britain and Germany.
The embargo prohibits U.S. tourists from visiting Cuba and chokes off nearly all trade between both countries. Those who flaunt American travel restrictions can face thousands of dollars in fines and even jail time.