[url=http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com]http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com[/url] | By KAYLEY MENDENHALL | Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer - Montana
Bob Roughton’s bags are packed and he’s ready to hit the road.
But the vacation he’s leaving on isn’t typical.
Roughton, of Belgrade, and more than 100 other U.S. citizens are meeting in Texas next week, with plans to cross into Mexico and fly on to Cuba. They are making the trip to protest the restrictions that keep U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba and the U.S. blockade of humanitarian aid to the country.
“It’s all about solidarity with other human beings,” Roughton, 69, said. “I think this blockade of Cuba is obscene because it doesn’t do anything but hurt the people.”
The Gallatin Human Rights Task Force has organized a potluck from 5 to 10 p.m. today at the Bogert Park Pavilion to introduce members of the Friendship Caravan to Cuba. Bozeman residents are encouraged to attend.
The travelers, all part of thenonprofit Pastors for Peace, are taking along busloads of medical supplies and computer equipment, which they plan to ship from Mexico.
“We’re doing two things on this trip,” said John Waller, organizer of the Pastors’ “Friendship Caravan to Cuba” program, which is based in New York. “We’re mounting a travel challenge to the U.S. government that says U.S. citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba ... and we’re taking humanitarian aid without asking for permission.”
This is group’s 15th trip to Cuba in 12 years, Waller said. People from 13 regions will come together in Texas. One small group that started in Moscow, Idaho, is coming through Bozeman today.
The Bush administration’s efforts to further restrict travel to Cuba in the past six months mean some Cuban-Americans may no longer be able to visit their families in Cuba, he said.
“(Bush’s) measures are specifically aimed at achieving regime change in Cuba,” Waller said. “It’s an outrageous policy to pursue, to say to people, ‘We bar you from visiting your family.’”
Roughton, who participated in previous Pastors’ missions to Nicaragua, said he agrees with the philosophy of this trip. He’s trained to drive large vehicles and will actually fly to Florida in the next few days to drive a bus to the meeting place in Texas and into Mexico.
“I don’t make any distinction between myself and any other human being,” he said. “I believe we are created equal and I mean it.”