Ten months after seizing 45 boxes of computers and supplies destined for disabled Cuban children, U.S. Customs officials in Hidalgo, Texas, are returning the aid to IFCO/Pastors for Peace, after the group threatened a Federal lawsuit.
Pastors for Peace conducted a tenacious campaign to win the release of the donated computers and computer accessories that were seized from their humanitarian aid caravan in July 2005 by U.S. Customs agents, acting on the orders of the Treasury Department.
“They could not defend their actions,” said Rev. Lucius Walker, Executive Director of the Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), the parent organization of Pastors for Peace.
“The Bush administration’s Cuba strategy is bankrupt and based on a repugnant policy to create hardship for the Cuban people”, said Rev. Walker. “This is indeed a peoples’ victory. We refused to buckle under. We refused to just go away.”
International outrage followed the U.S. seizure. Both the Danish and Swedish Cuba Friendship Associations sent computers to Cuban schoolchildren to replace the ones that were seized. Around the U.S., thousands of phone calls were directed to the Treasury Department, and weekly vigils were held in Washington D.C. and other cities.
After consultation with IFCO’s church partners in Cuba, Pastors for Peace has decided to donate the released computers to the New Orleans Survivors’ Council. According to the People’s Organizing Committee (POC), the computers will be used at the Martin Luther King, Jr. School and the Sanchez Community Center and Library, which are being reopened in New Orleans’ lower ninth ward.
Organizers in New Orleans remember Cuba’s offer of 1600 doctors to assist victims of the hurricane. They also recall that the U.S. government ignored the offer despite the criminal neglect of the government that followed the storm. Pastors for Peace delivered 80 tons of urgently needed aid to the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit.
On June 17th the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan will begin its journey from Canada, traveling south and stopping in 120 U.S. cities before converging in McAllen, Texas, on July 2nd. Hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid will be collected throughout the United States for delivery to Cuba through Mexico.