Humanitarian effort seeks lifting of embargo
By Mike Belt | Journal-World
Despite increasing U.S. restrictions and enforcement of a trade and travel embargo, a caravan of more than 100 people will take humanitarian aid to Cuba next month.
Two men who are on their way to join that caravan stopped Monday in Lawrence to spend the night and wondered what fate awaits them when they return to the U.S.
“We can’t worry about that; We feel this is right,” said Antonio Rosell, 35, of Minneapolis, Minn.
“We don’t know what we’ll face,” said Shane Gasteyer, 20, Lyme, Conn. “We might get fined. We might get arrested. We think they are going to do something.”
Traveling in a small station wagon crammed full of boxes of supplies, Rosell and Gasteyer will join the rest of the Pastors for Peace caravan in McAllen, Texas, and then on July 7 cross into Mexico. More than 100 tons of supplies consisting of hospital equipment, medicines, computers, and medical school supplies will eventually be put aboard a ferry and shipped to Cuba. Those escorting the supplies will fly to Cuba from Mexico.
Rosell and Gasteyer enjoyed a potluck dinner Monday night at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread, where they also spent the night. They had intended to pick up a Kansas University student who had planned to make the trip to Cuba with them. But, Shelagh Jessop, a Chicago junior, had to leave Lawrence to attend to a family emergency, her friends said.
Antonio Rosell, a member of Pastors for Peace, places a box of medical supplies in the trunk of his car. Rosell and Shane Gasteyer, another Pastors for Peace member, stopped overnight Monday in Lawrence on their way to McAllen, Texas, where Pastors for Peace will load up humanitarian supplies and attempt to transport them to Cuba via Mexico.
Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, a national ecumenical agency. Since 1992 their supply caravan has been openly challenging the U.S. government in defiance of the embargo that has been in place against Cuba for more than 40 years.
Although the caravan often has been held up and scrutinized by U.S. officials, the trips have always been made successfully. This year’s trip comes amid a renewed effort by President Bush and his administration to crack down on those traveling to Cuba without permission. Thousands of dollars in fines have been issued to many who have traveled there in recent years.
“We want to bring about a change in policy,” Rosell said. “The embargo has hurt the Cuban people.”
Added Gasteyer: “It’s been very clear that the embargo is wrong. If our government has some ideological disagreement with the government of Cuba, that’s one thing, although I disagree with that, too.”