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Posted June 24, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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BY TATIANA PINA | Providence Journal Staff Writer

Rhode Island residents donate medical supplies and other items for residents of Cuba.
Let Cuba live. Lift the blockade.

That’s what the sign said on the school bus that rolled into Providence yesterday afternoon to pick up goods that Rhode Island residents donated for people in Cuba.

The bus was filled with medical supplies, bikes, sewing machines and other items. It is one of about 100 vehicles that are traveling through the United States collecting items that will be shipped to Cuba as part of the 15th Pastors for Peace/Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization Caravan for Peace.

The bus stopped at the Cuban Revolution Restaurant on Washington Street, owned by Mary and Ed Morabito, who plans to run as an independent for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by James Langevin. At the restaurant, organizers, participants and supporters ate Cuban sandwiches, rice and bean rollups and yuca while they talked about the trip and the reasons they were going to Cuba.

The narrow restaurant was lined with red and black posters of Robert Kennedy and Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevarra. Now and then, the Beatles’ song “Revolution” played.

At a time when the Bush administration has clamped down on U.S. travel to Cuba, the group was defiant and determined to deliver the donations to people they said had been squeezed economically for decades by the United States’ embargo on the Communist island nation.

Jeanne DiPretoro, who lives in the Mount Pleasant section of Providence, will drive a donated van that will take donations from Rhode Island to Tampico, Mexico. From there, the goods will be shipped to Cuba.

DiPretoro’s eyes welled with tears as she talked about the trip and the donations.

The owner of a mattress factory in Fall River gave an industrial-strength sewing machine for making mattresses and remnants, she said.

Then there was the donor in Chepachet, DiPretoro said. “Here is a woman on Social Security who took out the little money she had because she wanted to give us a sewing machine to bring,” she said. A surgeon gave her $100,000 worth of surgical tools, she said.

“I knew if the American people knew what was going on, they would not abide it,” she said. “Viva Cuba, but thank you Rhode Island.”

This year’s caravan has focused on collecting items for the Abel Santamaria School for the Blind and the Bayamo Mattress Factory, which makes beds for Cubans with disabilities.

Mary and Ed Morabito’s daughter, Angela, 15, a student at East Greenwich High School, has photographs of her Cuban grandmother bringing humanitarian aid to residents of her home country.

In a few weeks, Angela Morabito will be on Cuban soil, delivering baby formula and other medical supplies.

Morabito said she wants to talk with people there about what they think about people in the United States, given the restrictions the United States has put on Cuba.

Ellen Bernstein, the associate director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, said that the Bush administration’s policy toward Cuba has hardened drastically and that bringing donations and traveling there might prove difficult. Volunteers will not let the government dictate what they should do, she said.

“It’s a gesture of defiance. Rather than using economic strangulation, we think a dialogue is better. As we learn more about the people, we learn more about their indomitable spirit,” she said.

Bernstein described Bush’s policy toward Cuba as a “regime change.”

She said that the administration is about to start implementing the recommendations of a report called the Presidential Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which entails spending $36 million to try to organize an opposition movement inside Cuba with special attention to dissident groups, women, youth, the religious sector and Afro- Cubans.

The recommendations include new restrictions on Cuban-American travel that would allow travel to Cuba once every three years, and only to visit immediate relatives.

Lloyd Monroe, a Republican candidate for state Senate District 8 in East Providence, stopped by the Cuban Revolution to lend support. Monroe said he is in favor of free trade and disagrees with the embargo.

“I don’t think it’s had the intended effect, which was to end Castro’s rule. I think opening Cuba to free enterprise may help Cubans move away from their present system,” he said.

Bernstein said that the bus will visit 13 cities in 13 days, joining the other vehicles in McAllen, Texas, on the Fourth of July and traveling to Tampico, Mexico. Volunteers will fly to Cuba and will visit schools, hospitals and rural provinces.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on July 17, 2004 by Jean H. Fisher

    Dear Cubans,

    I visited your country with an Elderhostel group in December 2003 and it was the best trip of my entire life.  I love your country and your leader, Fidel Castro and all the Cuban people.  The internet is going to be a big help in letting the American people learn the truth.  We in America are not told the truth.  There is nothing but propaganda and lies in the media.  Once the Americans learn the real history of Cuba there will be a change, I am sure.  For now, we will try to get rid of Bush as a start.  I hope to join the Pastors for Peace caravan next year. 

    Fidel Castro will go down in history as a saint.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on April 19, 2005 by LaCubanasa with 2 total posts

    This is the most absurd thing I have EVER read in my life…you people have NO IDEA what the Cuban people THERE or anywhere else are going through, or have gone through…. and it’ an insult for you to talk out of your ass to even suggets the making of a murderer a SAINT…how about we also make Hitler a saint too…poor man…he’ just misunderstood!
    You assanine idiot!..get a clue!!!...if you love it so much why don’t you go there to live you moron!...do you think that all the Cubans here in the US would rather be here than to live ‘happily’ on such a beautiful island???...it’ soooo easy to speak what you know NOTHING about…
    God Bless America…where freedom of speech reigns…which is something that the people of Cuba are NOT ALLOWED….and when all of you were eating your fat Cuban sandwiches and rice and beans before your little journey…did you think about the people that are dying of hunger over there???
    the embargo LIVES!!!!...and Cuba will one day be FREE

  3. Follow up post #3 added on July 06, 2005 by CheWasUnPendejo with 2 total posts

    A friend of mine was commenting on the Morabito’ resturant “Cuban Revolution. He says he would love to run it for a day.  He would change the menu to be more representative of what Cubans living under Castro’ regime eat.  We would hand out ration cards with the customers’ allotment of rice and dirty water.  When they complained about the new management, they would be taken away by two thugs.

    Yes, Castro will go down in history as a saint, like Hitler, Stalin, and Franco.

    I am not angry with those who support Castro, yet have never lived in Cuba.  I feel sorry for them.  They are misinformed and don’t know better.  They should go live under Castro’ regime, in the same conditions typical Cubans live in.  That would help them see the light.

    And to those who live under Castro’ regime (you won’t be able to read this considering you don’t own a computer) or have lived under Castro’ regime, and still support him:  I think the combination of malnutrition and dehydration, along with the heat stroke from working on the sugar cane fields, as well as the psychological and emotional harm done to you has caused some serious damage to your brain. 

    Castro is an evil man who made my family flee their country.  It has split our family apart, as well as many others.

    I was neighbors with the family of one of the young men of Hermanos Al Rescate who was shot down by Castro.  It broke my heart to see the suffering and pain his grandmother had to go through.

    My grandfather was imprisoned for a year and sent to work on a sugarcane field because he did not agree with Castro and his thugs. Why don’t those in favor of Castro’ regime inform others who don’t already know about the horrible things this murderous “saint” has done to his own people? 

    To those who support Castro:  Would you tell the child who watched Castro’ thugs attack his mother during the March 13th tugboat massacre, with a firehose, washing her out to sea, while she was attempting to escape, with her family, to find a new hope in the US, that Castro will go down in history as a saint?  Would you tell the grandmother who lost her beloved grandson, who was innocently flying over international waters…that this tyrant is a saint?  Would you tell all of those who risked everything, those who left everything behind, to find a new life or to anyone who lost a loved one to Castro’ regime….would you tell these people, then, that Castro will be remembered as a saint? 

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