Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba

Campaign News | Friday, 4 February 2005

Letter from the Rev. Lucius Walker

February 3, 2005

Dear Friends,

On behalf of our board, staff and the national network of IFCO/Pastors for Peace in the United States, I want to extend our warmest solidarity greetings. I am writing to put out a special call -- to ask for your participation in our 16th US/Cuba Friendshipment caravan, which will travel to Cuba in July 2005.

US-Cuba relations stand at a crucial and potentially dangerous moment. We can expect a newly re-elected Bush to feel emboldened to take action in pursuit of his stated goal of "liberating" Cuba during his presidency. In 2004 he further tightened the blockade by introducing harsh measures to prevent travel to Cuba by US citizens and drastically limit the ability of Cuban-Americans to visit their families. Even so, the majority of the US public - even in Miami - and the majority of the US Congress are in favor of easing or lifting economic and travel sanctions against Cuba.

Our caravan this summer can play a vital role in publicly highlighting and challenging the inhumanity and immorality of US policy, thus providing vital information and encouragement for the growing opposition 'within the belly of the beast' to Bush's intentions.

As in previous years the caravan will take much needed humanitarian aid -- such as medicines, computers and school supplies -- to Cuba without applying to the US government for a license. However this year we are giving special emphasis to the issue of travel to Cuba by US citizens. In conjunction with other US organizations, including the Venceremos Brigade, we will be asserting our right to travel to Cuba without asking for permission from the US Department of Treasury. We will also be undertaking a 'Reverse Challenge' -- bringing back into the US a cargo of symbolic aid from Cuba.

We know that you, our companero/as, can travel and send solidarity direct to Cuba without breaking your nation's laws. We know how much our friends in Cuba value your support and your consistent good work. We also know that your testimony, your perspectives about Cuba, can have a special impact here in the US. Our people need to learn from you about how many friends Cuba has in the world and how isolated internationally is Bushs policy. Through caravan press conferences, rallies, educational events, and meetings with Congressional and local officials, your testimony and support will help us to break through the disinformation about Cuba which remains so pervasive in the US and which has helped to keep the blockade in place for so long.

Past caravans have benefited enormously from the involvement of members of the solidarity campaigns in countries such as the Bahamas, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, in addition to our ongoing relationships with organizations in Canada and Mexico. This year we hope to see the largest and most varied international presence ever. We know already that there will be a presence from the solidarity movements in Britain, Denmark, Germany, Canada and Mexico and we hope this year will bring participation from Africa as well.

We hope that you will consider joining us this summer by sending delegates from your organization to join us. We also ask you to consider sending symbolic aid with our caravan, or even to sponsor a caravan vehicle -- an ambulance or schoolbus, for example -- which would travel along one of the caravan's US routes as a vivid symbol of international solidarity, and which then would be donated in Cuba. The Danish solidarity movement has already agreed to sponsor a schoolbus this year.

The schedule of the 16th Friendshipment caravan is as follows:

July 5-16: Educational presentations and aid collections throughout the US and Canada

July 17-22: Participant orientation in Texas. Border crossing into Mexico, travel to Tampico, Mexico

July 23-30: Fly to Havana for Caravan educational program in Cuba.

July 31: Return to Tampico, Mexico and travel to Mexico/US border

August 1: Reverse challenge; cross the Mexican border into the US, delivering aid from the Cuban people to the people of the US

International participants can join a caravan route at any point up to the start of the participant orientation on July 17th - but we want to encourage your maximum possible involvement in the educational work in the US. We also recognize that some of you may prefer to fly back to your countries direct from Cuba.

If you have questions or suggestions about the caravan, or if you would like to receive an application or more information, you can contact John Waller on

or ring

001 212-926-5757

We greatly value the contributions of all of you who have joined us on past caravans, and we look forward to working with new friends as well.

We ask you to help us break the back of the brutal US blockade against Cuba.

We ask you to help us to continue to educate the US public, and to build advocacy for normalized US relations with Cuba.

We look forward to future opportunities to work with you.

For peace with justice

(Rev.) Lucius Walker, Jr.

Executive Director, IFCO/Pastors for Peace

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