Submitted by Tim Sullvan | [url=http://www.villagesoup.com]http://www.villagesoup.com[/url]
On Saturday, June 19 a delegation from Let Cuba Live, a Maine based Cuba solidarity group will travel to the US Customs checkpoint on the Maine / Quebec border at Coburn Gore. There they will be met by members of a Montreal group called Caravane d’ Amitie Quebec - Cuba. The Canadians will attempt to bring a small, symbolic shipment of humanitarian aid into the US that is destined for Cuba. The shipment will consist of medical aid and school supplies.
The Coburn Gore crossing will be the first of four crossings to take place along the length of the US / Canada border. The aid shipment at Coburn Gore will kick off the 15th Pastors for Peace US / Cuba Friendshipment Caravan. The Caravan will involve over 100 people traveling in 25 trucks and buses along 13 North to South routes across the US. On July 8 all routes will converge in MacAllen, Texas. The entire Caravan will be carrying nearly 2 million dollars worth of humanitarian aid and will include 3 trucks and 9 school busses, all to be donated to the people of Cuba. The Caravan will proceed to the border and attempt clear US Customs for Reynosa, Mexico. If the Caravan is successful in crossing the border drivers will face a two day journey to the port city of Tampico where the shipment will be placed aboard a Cuban freighter. The drivers and their passengers will fly from Tampico to Cuba where they will participate in a 9 day program that will include visits to schools, hospitals, collectives and organic farms.
Caravan organizers will not apply for a permit to ship this aid to Cuba. If a permit is offered to the Caravan by the government it will be refused. Both Pastors for Peace and Let Cuba Live do not believe that the government possesses the right or the moral authority to exercise control over, or to regulate, shipments of humanitarian aid. Both groups view the US blockade of Cuba as immoral and under international law, illegal.
Since the first Friendshipment in 1992 the Caravans have always faced an uncertain reception at the border. The Bush administrations increasingly hostile posture towards Cuba and a general tightening of the blockade will contribute to that uncertainty. In past years these shipments have sparked act of civil disobedience that have resulted in arrests. In several cases US Customs has seized aid, although most of the seized aid has been won back and is in Cuba today. Several of the more recent caravans have been “blown” across the border. The government has momentarily lifted the blockade and whisked the shipment through. This seems to be done to avoid the possibility of negative coverage that could arise if US Customs were instructed to block a shipment or seize medical supplies that are destined for people in need.
Two Mainers will be traveling to Cuba with the Caravan. Karen Wainberg from Portland and Susan Nichols from Sabattus.
Karen Wainberg who is a clinical supervisor with the Preble Street Resource Center in Portland says, “one of the issues I’m involved with here at the Center is homelessness. In Cuba to have a roof over one’s head is held to be a fundamental right, they have no homelessness. I hope to learn how they have accomplished this.
Susan Nichols a social worker says, “The travel restrictions that bar Americans from going to Cuba are wrong and need to be challenged. As an American I demand the right to travel freely.”
On Sunday the aid the Canadian group brought to Coburn Gore will be carried to Blue Hill where there will be a celebration and a send off party at the Liberty School at 12 noon. More aid will be added to the shipment. In the late afternoon a single truck will head to Boston and points South and the 15th US Cuba Friendshipment will be underway.
At each of the 129 cities the individual Caravans are expected to touch down in as they wend their way South, more aid will be picked up. Additional passengers will come aboard and vehicles and drivers will be added.
At each stop participants will be hosted by church organizations and supporters. Spokes people for the caravans will take part in community forums, interviews and press conferences. Members of the Caravans will seize every opportunity to urge people to contact their elected representatives and insist that they work to end a cold war blockade that has accomplished nothing, except to create a great deal of pain and suffering for the Cuban people.