Cuba Politics

Oregon based Cuba AyUUda church group denied entry into Cuba

Posted December 27, 2009 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

By Suzanne Pardington | The Oregonian

A humanitarian aid group from the First Unitarian Church of Portland was detained today at the Havana airport.

Carol Slegers, a group leader, sent an e-mail to church members saying nine people were being held in the airport and five others were sent back to Cancun, where their Cuba flight originated.

Paul Pitkin, a church member who stayed in Portland, said he called a friend in Cuba who was able to talk to Slegers through a glass partition at the airport. Slegers told the friend the group will sleep tonight at the airport and then return to Cancun on Sunday morning.

“They have made lots of trips before, so we’re not exactly sure what’s different this time,” Pitkin said. “It sounded like they all were OK, but they were going to be sleeping on the floor in the airport.”

Pitkin said the group left Portland late Friday night. He didn’t know what work they were planning to do in Cuba.

Carol Rossio, a church member, said she went on the church’s first trip to Cuba with the choir in 2003. Since then, she said a group has gone at least twice a year for projects such as painting buildings, helping people in nursing homes and transporting medicine and clothing.

She said the trips began after Mark Slegers, Carol’s husband and the choir director, met a Cuban choir director who invited the choir to sing in Cuba.

Generally, the United States prohibits citizens from visiting the country. The church’s Web site says the group, called Cuba AyUUda, “holds a religious activities license providing legal travel to Cuba for those affiliated with First Unitarian Church.”

“The purpose of these trips,” the site says, “is to share Unitarian Universalism, foster citizen diplomacy, create and maintain friendships, bring much needed supplies to Cubans, and keep the struggles of the Cuban people on the radar screen for U.S. Americans.”

Member Comments

On December 28, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

So whats the big deal Pub? According to U.S. gov. border stats the U.S. refuse entry to around 868 people a day!

On December 29, 2009, paul wrote:

A bunch of moonbats using the guise of religion to party with their fellow kameraden.

On December 29, 2009, manfredz wrote:

It sounds like they were entering as tourists but not planning to be tourists. When immigration/customs officials in many countries (incl Canada and US) get wind of that, they wouldnt let pretend tourists in either.

On December 30, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

According to Bahamas blog int. they were trying to bring in illegal materials for subversion supplied by USAID NGO slush fund and Jose (Pepe) Cardenas under the guise of being a religious humanitarian organization.

On December 30, 2009, publisher wrote:

Do you have a link. No information has been released by either government so it’s all just speculation at this point.

On December 31, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Can’t find it again Pub., but this article has the same slant on it. Washington post, Dec 25, Article by Mary Beth Sheridan, Pro Democracy Program in Cuba Questioned—-

On December 31, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Radio Rebelde is reporting that the U.S. is using individuals and groups to bring illegal material into Cuba supplied by USAID but Pub would probably prefer to disregard that info he being a ballanced reporter and such. A Canadian reporter, Jean Guy Allard also has outlined this U.S. tactic in a book he wrote with a U.S. female Lawyer doing his research, can’t remember her name right now, but I guess they would be unacceptable to Pub also because he has had some articles in Granma.

On December 31, 2009, publisher wrote:

I supposed I do have a bias towards the truth.

With that said, I am certainly NO fan of USAID. I don’t think it’s any secret that USAID funded organizations have worked for regime change in Cuba for many years.

Too bad that cellphones and computers are considered to be “illegal material” but the Cuban people only need Radio Rebelde for the truth anyway. Right?

On December 31, 2009, publisher wrote:

Just kicking myself now for taking your bait pipefitter.

Your persistent style of changing the subject from a Cuba problem to the Evil Empire got by me for a second there.

So, let’s get back to finding the reasons why Cuba AyUUda was prevented from entering Cuba and not blame this on USAID.

On December 31, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

I don’t think they were too worried about the cell phones and laptops, it would be the satelite phones and other such clandestein communications equipment that would be a problem. I am glad you are in persuit of the truth Pub., but it is usually hard to find out what the truth is if you are not directly involved. The only way to get anywhere close to the truth is to examine both sides of the story and draw your own conclusions. Thats why I think it is only fair if you present the Cuban’s side of the story also. It seems odd that the church group isn’t saying much now that they are home. Also odd that both governments arn’t talking about it officialy either. The church group could be entirely innocent. They could have been duped into taking some equipment into Cuba by USAID under false pretence. It is strange that none of the people involved are talking. Keep your eyes open.
Best of luck in the new year to all.

On January 01, 2010, paul wrote:

Jean Guy Allard…ay dios mio, what a piece of crap lambiscon/lackey for Cuban communism. French Canadian expat douche that lives in Cuba and writes for Granma.

As long as Cuba blocks civil society from flourishing in a normal fashion, entities like USAID and Embassies are the only outlets for dissidents to get support and get their stories heard by the outside world. The communist government is not the people.

Sorry that that dampers your little fascist Cuban society Pipefitter, but anything that goes against fascist and authoritarian communism is ok in my eyes.

On January 01, 2010, pipefitter wrote:

Happy new year to you too Paul Balart!

On January 02, 2010, John Saynor wrote:

“The purpose of these trips,” the site says, “is to share Unitarian Universalism, foster citizen diplomacy, create and maintain friendships, bring much needed supplies to Cubans, and keep the struggles of the Cuban people on the radar screen for U.S. Americans.”

Well, what the Cuban government doesn’t want nor the Cuban people need is another religious organization coming in “to share” their beliefs or philosophy.  AND “to keep the struggles of the cuban people on the radar screen for U. S. Americans.”  Is it my imagination, or doesn’t this sound political to anyone else. 

Any country in the world, in my opinion , has the authority to deny entry into their country to anyone they choose.  Viva la revolution!

On January 03, 2010, paul wrote:

Exactly John, I agree that the Cuban 5 deserve to be in prison too.

On January 29, 2010, Goldbuster wrote:

What is this Unitarian Church and what do they believe in? And do you think that it is suspect that a reverent of this small denomination, when contacted he didnt know the reasons of this trip to Cuba…“Pitkin said the group left Portland late Friday night. He didn’t know what work they were planning to do in Cuba.”

The Unitarian Church belief:

Our founders were doubters, thinkers, people for whom integrity counted for something….an Alexandrian named Origen, . The more he studied the Bible, the more he began to doubt the notion of the existence of heaven and hell…(Gnostic-jewish) Arius, another Alexandrian living a century later, was the first to champion the simplicity of God and the humanity of Jesus. The creed recited in many Christian churches today affirming Trinitarian doctrine and Christology was created to counteract the teachings of Arius! growth in thought, growth in sensitiveness to moral values, growth in courage to put religion to work in the world.”

Some of the Church activities:

Movie Night: “The Life of Brian”; Beginning of Build Your Own Theology classes; An Inconvenient Truth followed by discussion (yes, both nights);
Forum: discussion of the contributions, challenges and potential of the United Nations Service: John and Chris Ogden will focus on “Peacebuilding and Sustainable Development in Our Interdependent World Community” (UN Day);
Halloween Party for adults and children;
Forum: A meditation in the Buddhist tradition;
Solstice celebration;
Service with Barb Blom: “Mary, the Goddess” ;
Forum with Julia Schult: How do UU Define Evil?;
10:30 Service with Julia Schult: Meeting Evil with Spiritual Grace;
What was it with Eve and the “apple”? ;
Spring Equinox Celebration;
in the church: An Evening with Psychic Intuitive, COLEEN SHAUGHNESSY, “a natural spiritual intuitive who uses her clairvoyant, clairaudient and clairsentient abilities to pass on messages directly from Spirit.” ;
Forum with Dick Benchley on the Bible and Pagan aspects of Easter;
Forum: Free Speech: Can It Be Abused? ;
Children’s dedication.;
Noon: Brunch to welcome children dedicated. ;
Forum with John Ogden: How Do You Find Peace?;
10:30 Service with John Ogden: Is Peace Possible?;
Forum on “Gay Marriage”;
10:30 Service: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered (GLBT) Celebration.;
The Climate Change Action Group will be hosting a Global Warming Coffeehouse at the First Unitarian Society;
Julie Ganson is inviting church members and friends to a summer solstice;
An Evening with Psychic Intuitive Coleen Shaughnessy - a fun, interactive evening where Coleen will do readings for the audience;

Can you say Pagan Church, Wicca Church, New world order Church

Wow there is no more evil, lets all join together under the new UN Anti-Christ

Sick sick people…

On March 09, 2010, altruist wrote:

Some misinformation one of the posters has spread is that Cuba AyUUda is somehow related to US AID. UNTRUE. Cuba AyUUda has no affiliation with US AID. In addition, Cuba AyUUda’s mission is not to proselytize, or convert, people, but to contribute to peace-building efforts by creating person-to-person connections and meaningful relationships between Cubans and US Americans. The people who make up Cuba AyUUda have a wide range of political beliefs, but as an organization Cuba AyUUda does not operate on a political level.

The Cuba AyUUda travelers were treated like any other of the many international travelers who visit Cuba every day. What led to this particular incident was that airport security was more alert due to 1. a suspected US spy recently being arrested in Cuba and 2. the foiled terrorist attack of an international flight that very same day. Finally, what ignited the whole situation is that one of the travelers mistakenly misinformed the Cuban customs agent regarding what kind of visa she had, which understandably, from the Cuban’s perspective, initiated sirens.

Cuba AyUUda has led many successful trips to Cuba for many years. Let’s hope they continue to do so. By the way, I noticed that the link in the article directs to an outdated test website. The real website is