By Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine - Thirteen Mainers on Tuesday loaded up a big green bus full of supplies to send to Cuba as part of a humanitarian effort that disregards a U.S. blockade.
The members of “Let Cuba Live,” a group from Brunswick, gathered in Portland’s Monument Square to rally support for their cause.
The group is sending supplies to Cuba in defiance of a blockade imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department that prohibits humanitarian aid without a permit.
“For a lot of us, Cuba’s more than just a place on the map,” said organizer Steve Burke.
Burke said his group raised over $10,000 to make the monthlong trip down to Cuba and back.
The group held bake sales, yard sales and other fund-raisers, and gathered donations of medical supplies from Maine hospitals, he said.
“We have more aid than we can carry,” he said.
The organization opposes the blockade and seeks to repeal the de facto ban that prohibits travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba. The group, as a protest against the federal policy, purposely does not apply for the required licenses from the Treasury Department.
The bus and an additional van were full of medical supplies for Cuba’s elderly care facilities, plus a few boxes of toys, paper and pens for children.
The entourage will travel south through the United States, collecting more medical supplies at cities along the route, before attempting to cross the Texas-Mexico border. They plan to depart for Cuba by ferry from the western Mexican coast.
Let Cuba Live is a local branch of the international effort called Pastors for Peace U.S. Cuba Friend Shipment. This will be the organization’s 14th mission to Cuba.
The group has had supplies seized at the blockade before but retrieved them through the legal system. For the last five years the government has allowed the caravans to pass through unmolested.