Saturday, July 23, 2005

Latest News on the Caravan

Latest Up-to-date news on the Caravan to Cuba...
11am, Saturday, july 23, 2005

Cuba Caravan arrives to Tampico, Mexico safely, with aid en route to Cuba
Fight for Computers continues in the US


An excited but exhausted Caravan arrived to Tampico, Mexico this morning in time to make their flight to Cuba. Meanwhile a group of Caravanistas not planning to travel on to Cuba is readying to load the nearly 140 Tons of humanitarian aid on to a cargo ship heading to Cuba.

The Caravan had finally rolled out of the border town, Reynosa, around 1pm yesterday, after long hours at the Mexican customs office. Caravanistas were forced to have their passports copied by the Mexican officials, which is far from ordinary. The director of the office, Justo Ayala, said that it was rutine for large groups, but Caravanistas said that it has never been the case before.

With 90% of the humanitarian aid in Mexico and soon to be headed off to Cuba, the struggle now turns to Hidalgo, Texas, where a small group of Caravanistas has begun an international campaign to free the computers confiscated by the Department of Commerce, and force the Government to allow the all of the computers to head on to the Cuban children they are destined for.


WE NEED YOU TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THIS CAMPAIGN AND MAKE THESE CALLS:

Call Capitol Hill and let your senators and rep know that the Pastors for Peace computers must be freed to go to Cuba. Ask them to call the Commerce Department to urge/demand that the computers be released. (Congressional switchboard: 202/225-3121).

Call Mr. Turner, Director of Enforcement at the Commerce Department (202/482-5036), and demand that the computers be allowed to go to Cuba.

Mobilize every network and organization you know; ask them to make these same calls, and publicize this story!

Santa Cruz (CA) Sentinel July 23, 2005

July 23, 2005

Cuba-relief caravan crosses Mexican border

The Pastors for Peace caravan hit the road again with a lighter load on Friday, a day after border officials held up the buses full of humanitarian aid for Cuba and confiscated some computers and other devices.

About 130 Americans - several of whom are from Santa Cruz County - are making the 16th annual journey to Cuba in defiance of the economic blockade and travel ban on the communist country. They will deliver close to 150 tons of humanitarian aid to the island recently ravaged by Hurricane Dennis.

All the buses - including one from Santa Cruz - crossed the Mexican border early Friday morning, after the travelers had spent the night removing all remaining electronics. On Thursday, officials seized about 20 computers from the first two buses to cross.

The U.S. Department of Commerce had threatened to confiscate all items for which the group couldn't get a U.S. Treasury license - meaning electronic devices.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel is co-sponsoring a resolution asking President Bush to temporarily suspend aid restrictions on Cuba.

"We're dealing with citizens who were devastated by a hurricane," said Jessica Schafer, spokeswoman for Farr. "It has nothing to do with governments."

The buses are loaded with everything from bikes to dental supplies and X-ray machines. The caravan has been able to cross the border with minimal problems since 1997. The year before a few caravanistas had launched a 94-day hunger strike over the seizure of 400 computers.

Seven caravan members are staging a protest this year - but no hunger strike - by remaining in Texas to guard the disputed electronic devices and negotiate with the Department of Commerce.

Pastors for Peace refuses to apply for any licenses on principle. In the past, caravan members have been issued unrequested licenses.

According to the caravan's blog, the buses passed through Mexican customs and were traveling as scheduled to Tampico, Mexico. Today they are planning to ship the buses to Cuba, while caravanistas fly there for an eight-day stay.

Three county residents made the trek to the border and another three are continuing on to Cuba.

Santa Cruz resident and veteran caravanista Nancy Abbey traveled with the group to Texas but flew home before the border crossing. Abbey said the government officials were trying to intimidate the group, similar to the actions of the 90 Homeland Security officers who greeted the group on their way back last year.

"This is just part of the whole policy of tightening up (security)," she said.

She added that the group expects to encounter more difficulty when it re-enters the country.

ahamblin@santacruzsentinel.com.

Friday, July 22, 2005

IFCO/PASTORS FOR PEACE URGENT ACTION ALERT!
7/22/05

PASTORS FOR PEACE CARAVAN TO CUBA

CROSSES THE BORDER: “A NEAR-TOTAL VICTORY” –
BUT THE FIGHT FOR COMPUTERS FOR CUBAN CHILDREN CONTINUES AT THE REYNOSA-HIDALGO BORDER

Pastors for Peace claimed a huge victory today as a tired but excited group of 130 US citizens crossed the US/Mexico border just before daybreak with almost all of the 140 tons of humanitarian aid en route to Cuba and collected by the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Cuba Caravan. But their struggle to send the computers, which have been blocked by US authorities, is building momentum. AND WE NEED YOUR HELP TO GET THE COMPUTERS TO CUBA!

The caravan is composed of seven brightly painted yellow schoolbuses, two box trucks, and several smaller vehicles, all of them loaded with humanitarian aid for Cuba. Yesterday, more than 40 US Customs officers, acting on the instructions of Commerce Department officials, detained the caravan at the border and began to search the vehicles one item at a time. In a 6-hour search of the first two yellow schoolbuses, officials confiscated all of the computers and computer equipment they could find – 11 computers, three monitors, two printers, two scanners, and a variety of computer parts and accessories. Officials then threatened to tow the remaining vehicles carrying the rest of the aid. Meanwhile, members of the caravan walked aid across the border and demonstrated beside the marooned buses.

“Our caravans have delivered nearly 2500 tons of aid to Cuba since 1992, all of it without asking permission of the US government. But this year something changed: We have heard that government officials ‘at the highest level’ made a special determination that this year our Pastors for Peace caravan would not pass,” said Rev. Walker. “We’ve already proved them wrong: 95% of our caravan has already crossed into Mexico and is headed toward Cuba. Now we’re determined to get our computers to Cuba as well.

“When those first computers were seized, we decided not to give up any more of our precious cargo. We regrouped at a location two blocks away from the border crossing,” said Rev. Walker. “There we decided that the best strategy was to send most of the caravan ahead with all the non-contested aid. So we unloaded and reloaded our vehicles, and headed back to the border. Everything but the computers passed through the Customs checkpoint between 3:00 and 6:00am. Just one bus stayed behind, with all our computers on board; and a few of us remain here in Texas to continue the fight for the computers.”

“Our extraordinary group of committed and hard-working volunteers worked through the night to make sure that our caravan of urgently needed medical supplies and hurricane relief will make it to Cuba on time,” said Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “More than ever we are committed to making sure that all the supplies donated by generous US citizens will get to the Cuban people.”

The campaign to free the computers has received tremendous support from Capitol Hill and from members of the Pastors for Peace grassroots network nationwide, who are calling on the Commerce Department to demand the release of the Pastors for Peace computers for Cuba and an end to the inhumane blockade.

WE NEED YOU TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THIS CAMPAIGN AND MAKE THESE CALLS:
· Call Capitol Hill and let your senators and rep know that the Pastors for Peace computers must be freed to go to Cuba. Ask them to call the Commerce Department to urge/demand that the computers be released. (Congressional switchboard: 202/225-3121).


· Call Mr. Turner, Director of Enforcement at the Commerce Department (202/482-5036), and demand that the computers be allowed to go to Cuba.

· Mobilize every network and organization you know; ask them to make these same calls, and publicize this story!

Given the new hard-line reaction to our border-crossing, we can probably expect a strong reaction from the US administration when the caravanistas and other travel challengers return to the US. The more publicity we can generate now, the more visibility we’ll be able to generate when the caravanistas come home. We have been amazed and impressed by how quickly and broadly our network is mobilizing to get the computers free. Let’s work together to make the most of this campaign!


Press Release: Please Distribute Far and Wide!

MEDIA ADVISORY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 22, 2005

CONTACTS: IFCO/PASTORS FOR PEACE:
IN HIDALGO, TX: Ellen Bernstein: 646/319-5902 (cell)
IN NEW YORK: Lucia Bruno: 212/926-5757 (office)


PASTORS FOR PEACE CARAVAN TO CUBA

CROSSES THE BORDER: “A NEAR-TOTAL VICTORY”

The fight for computers for Cuban children continues at the Hidalgo/Reynosa border.

Pastors for Peace claimed a huge victory today as a tired but excited group of 130 US citizens crossed the US/Mexico border just before daybreak with almost all of the 140 tons of humanitarian aid en route to Cuba and collected by the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Cuba Caravan. Their struggle to send on the remaining computers, which have been either confiscated or restricted by US authorities, to Cuban children with special needs is building momentum.

The caravan is composed of seven brightly painted yellow schoolbuses, two box trucks, and several smaller vehicles, all of them loaded with humanitarian aid for Cuba. Yesterday, more than 40 US Customs officers, acting on the instructions of Commerce Department officials, detained the Caravan at the border and began to search their vehicle one item at a time. In an exhaustive 6-hour search of the first two yellow schoolbuses, officials confiscated all of the computers and computer equipment available– 11 computers, three monitors, two printers, two scanners, and a variety of computer parts and accessories. Officials then threatened to tow the remaining vehicles carrying the rest of the aid. Meanwhile, members of the Caravan walked aid across the border and demonstrated beside the marooned buses.

“Our caravans have delivered nearly 2500 tons of aid to Cuba since 1992, all of it without asking permission of the US government. But this year something changed: We have heard that government officials ‘at the highest level’ made a special determination that this year our Pastors for Peace caravan would not pass,” said Rev. Walker. “We’ve already proved them wrong: 95% of our caravan has already crossed into Mexico and is headed toward Cuba. Now we’re determined to get our computers to Cuba as well.”

“When those first computers were seized, we decided not to give up any more of our precious cargo. We regrouped at a location two blocks away from the border crossing,” said Rev. Walker. “There we decided that the best strategy was to send most of the caravan ahead with all the non-contested aid. So we unloaded and reloaded our vehicles and everything but the computers passed through the Customs checkpoint between 3:00 and 6:00am. Just one bus stayed behind, with all our computers on board; and a few of us remain here in Texas to continue the fight for the computers.”

“Our extraordinary group of committed and hard-working volunteers worked through the night to make sure that our caravan of urgently needed medical supplies and hurricane relief makes it to Cuba on time,” said Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “More than ever we are committed to making sure that all the supplies donated by generous US citizens will get to the Cuban people.

The campaign to free the computers has received tremendous support from Capitol Hill and from members of the Pastors for Peace grassroots network nationwide, who are calling on the Commerce Department to demand the release of the Pastors for Peace computers for Cuba and an end to the inhumane blockade.
###

Message from Rev. Lucius Walker July 22,2005

Dear Friends:

Many thanks to our supporters from throughout the world! We are gratified and deeply moved by the speed and efficiency that all of you demonstrated as you called Washington, your legislators, the press, your phone trees and email lists. It has been astonishing to see the exposure and the support that the 16th Friendshipment Caravan has received!

As you have probably heard by now, most of the aid and caravan participants have crossed the border into Mexico and are on their way to Tampico! They will deliver their solidarity, their love and their cargo to Cuba within the next few days. They could not have accomplished this immense task without the support of our network in the US and abroad. Thank you!

But the struggle is not over! There are still a handful of Pastors for Peace here in Texas with computers and other items that we believe the Commerce Department will seize. We are determined to deliver this humanitarian aid to Cuba. We are united in our mission to break this blockade!

We need your continued support to make this happen! So keep making those phone calls! Keep the momentum going! Our spirits are high and our resolve is deep. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely,
Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr.



(note: see postings below for phone numbers to call)

In the tent at the end of a very very long day

searaching every single box

End of the day, July 21


Tents, water, chairs, tables
supplied by the Hidalgo, TX police department

McAllen July 21


Seizing the aid

McAllen July 21

McAllen July 21



Baby carriages too

McAllen July 21

Mc Allen Texas July 21


Piece by piece over the border

McAllen Texas July 21


On one of the busses preparing to hand carry aid over the border to Mexico.

McAllen Border Crossing July 21


Commerce Department officials move in and threaten to tow Caravan vehicles

Text Version of Letter From Our Attorney

21 July 2005


John Bolsteins
Office of Strategic Trade & Foreign Policy Controls
Bureau of Export Administration
US Commerce Department

By Telefacsimile: 202-482-6088

re: Pastors for Peace Friendshipment

Dear Mr. Bolsteins:

I am writing to you in your capacity as the person responsible for implementing Department of Commerce regulations and policies with respect to humanitarian aid donations to Cuba. As counsel for Pastors for Peace, I am requesting your immediate attention and assistance in resolving a distressing situation developing near the Texas/Mexico border as Pastors for Peace prepares to leave the United States with its traditional humanitarian aid to be delivered to non-governmental organizations in Cuba. Unfortunately, you are not available to answer your telephone at the moment.

As I write, agents of Commerce and/or Customs and Border Patrol are removing items from buses and trucks that are part of the Sixteenth Friendshipment Caravan, and placing them on vehicles belonging to a government agency. They have indicated to Rev. Lucius Walker and others at the border that they intend to inspect every vehicle and every box in order to determine which items may be “licensable,” to require licenses for such objects, to segregate and detain some items, and otherwise disrupt what has, since 1993, been an orderly, civilized and peaceful process of crossing the border with humanitarian aid. This year, as in every year, at least since 1993, the entire manifest has been carefully coordinated with Mexican officials in order to avoid undue delay and congestion on both sides of the border.

As you know, it is a matter of principle for Pastors for Peace not to request licenses for the humanitarian aid it takes to the people of Cuba. I am confident that you are familiar with the religious principles enunciated by Rev. Walker as those that mandate providing items such as medical supplies, food and clothing to those in need. To act upon Biblical command to “act not in word, but in deed,” and to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked and provide shelter to the homeless,” is a matter of faith and conscience for Pastors for Peace. The Friendshipment is one way members of this organization follow that command.



As you also know, at least for the past twelve years, the impasse created by attempts to strictly and literally enforce export rules with respect to humanitarian aid to Cuba has been avoided by the issuance of unrequested de facto licenses for the items which Pastors for Peace traditionally gathers and manifests. The sudden change of established policy, consistently carried out over at least twelve years, is highly arbitrary, and threatens a return to earlier impasses that resulted in a lengthy fasts, protests and demonstrations at the border, as well as extreme inconvenience.
While I understand this Administration is serious about enforcing its policies with respect to Cuba, it must understand that Pastors for Peace is no less serious about remaining faithful to its principles, especially in light of the severe losses suffered in Cuba as a result of Hurricane Emily. Pastors for Peace will not request a license for seized materials, and will not agree to abandon part of its shipment.

I appeal to your wisdom and common sense, as well as legal, equitable and humanitarian principles which suggest this is neither the moment nor the manner in which to announce a reversal of the established policy with respect to Pastors for Peace Friendshipments. More importantly, that policy represents an acknowledgement of strongly held principles maintained by both parties, while avoiding an impasse that benefits neither.

I await your urgent response.

Sincerely,

Linda Backiel

Thursday, July 21, 2005

New Numbers to Call

It has come to our attention that the Director for Enforcement at the Commerce Department is a Mr. Turner. His phone number in Washington is 202 482-5036.

It has also come to our attention that harrassment of the Caravan is coming straight from the desks of the State Department. The person in charge of the Cuba desk is Kevin Whittaker. His phone number is 202-647-9272.

Whittaker's boss is Roger Noriega. Ring any bells?

Let's get these names and numbers out there to our lists and supporters!

Keep Calling!

Notes From Rev. Walker 12 midnight EDT

The Caravan was barred from crossing into Mexico with all of its humanitarian aid today. One bus was inspected and Commerce Department officials seized computers, keyboards and anything they considered electronic.

The second bus was emptied of aid by caravanistas who carried our precious humanitarian cargo over the border by hand into Mexico. There are now two busses that have crossed over into Mexico.

The rest of the Caravan has regrouped about a half mile from the international bridge, in an open area not far from the highway. We have established an encampment with tents, chairs, lights, water and coolers, graciously supplied by the Hildalgo, Texas police department. These items were in place already--in case they were needed for Hurricane Emily. Many thanks to police chief Vernon Rosser for his generousity!

There is a palpable sense of resolve among the caravanistas. We have just begun the struggle! Weather is balmy and humid. Everyone is in good spirits. This is a tremendous learning experience for all the young people here.

It's amazing, that in 2005, our government would expend this much energy and so many resources trying to prevent us from delivering much needed aid to our brothers and sisters in Cuba.

We are united. We are resolved and we are ready to deliver this aid to Cuba!

Keep Calling and emailing!

So far, Scott Kamins looks like the best target at Commerce. Currently the number listed as his official number on the website (and has been listed in the alerts) is 202-482-0097. This is answered by a machine belonging to Roberta someone with a message that says the mailbox is full. He is Director of Congressional and Public Affairs and also has the following numbers listed on a page of media contacts for Commerce. That info is:

Scott Kamins
202-482-2721 phone
202-482-2421 fax
SKamins@bis.doc.gov (email)

will will keep adding more names and numbers as we get them!
Keep calling and emailing commerce and your congressional reps!

Press Release July 21,2005

IFCO/Pastors for Peace

NEWS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT:
July 21, 2005 Ellen Bernstein in McAllen, TX: 646/319-5902
Lucia Bruno in New York: 212/926-5757

Homeland Security and Commerce Department Harass U.S.-Cuba Friendship Caravan at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Volunteers attempting to deliver tons of humanitarian and hurricane relief to Cuba could be held for days at the border in McAllen, Texas

McAllen, TX - Hundreds of Pastors for Peace volunteers preparing to deliver a massive shipment of humanitarian aid to Cuba have been barred at the U.S.-Mexico border and could be held there for days. Commerce Department officials are saying they will search every vehicle in the caravan and every item of humanitarian aid, which hasn’t been done for years, and they will only allow “licensable” goods to be allowed to cross into Mexico. Border agents are threatening to tow the caravan’s vehicles and have already seized some aid donations, including computers. Some volunteers are walking across the U.S.-Mexico border carrying wheelchairs, crutches and other medical supplies. Others are holding a protest at the border. There are 130 U.S. Citizens traveling with the delegation, as well as a truck and 2 small cars. They are attempting to deliver 140 tons of aid.

Pastors for Peace is asking its supporters to call the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and their Members of Congress to urge homeland security and the Commerce department to let the caravan and its humanitarian and hurricane aid cross the U.S.-Mexico border immediately. Pastors for Peace does not accept or apply for a license to deliver humanitarian aid to Cuba.

"As people of faith and conscience, it is our duty to resist and condemn this cruel U.S. policy," declared Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director and founder of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a 38-year-old ecumenical agency which is the parent organization of Pastors for Peace. "IFCO/Pastors for Peace rejects this licensing system as both immoral and illegal. It is immoral because it endangers the lives of millions of Cubans and inflicts suffering on innocent children, as well as adults. It is illegal under international law because it uses medicine and food as weapons of war to force another nation to change its government. Licensing is also unconstitutional because it requires people of faith to submit their acts of conscience and friendship to government licensing, in violation of our right to freedom of religious expression, political thought, association and travel.”

Despite calls for an end to the blockade and travel ban from the UN and the majority of nations around the world, the Bush Administration tightened restrictions against Cuba in 2004, and is using "homeland security" funds to investigate those suspected of travel to the island.

For more information, see http://pastorsforpeace.org.

Letter From our Attorney

Statement from Congressman Miller California

George Miller believes that the government should not stop legitimate humanitarian aid to Cuba. There are people throughout this country, including Republican farmers and others invested in foreign trade, who believe that the embargo against Cuba is unjustified and is also working against our country's own economic interests."

Sincerely,
Barb Johnson
District Director with
Congressman George Miller
7th District, California
Phone: (925) 602-1880
Fax: (925) 674-0983

Update from Rev. Walker 3:20 PM EDT

The Commerce Dept. has seized a number of computers and other electronic items such as calculators from one of the Pastors for Peace busses.

They have also rummaged through all of the other boxes, disrupting all of the manifesting that has taken place for the aid. We are not certain if this will disallow the aid to pass through Mexican customs because of their tampering.

This one bus has entered the gateway to Mexico at Reynosa. We are waiting to see how the Mexican customs will react to the disruptions caused by US officials. We are evaluating how we will proceed. We are determined to get all of our humanitarian aid to Cuba. Stay tuned...

(note: all aid going into Mexico must be carefully manifested in minute detail. This is what the caravan has been doing during the orientation in McAllen.)

New York Congressional Info

> >Representative: Charles B. Rangel >Address: 163 W. 125 St.,
Ste. 737 New York, NY 10027 >Phone: (212) 663-3900 >Fax: (202) 225-0861 E-mail: ><mailto:charles.rangel@mail.house.com>charles.rangel@mail.house.com >

>US Senator: Charles E. Schumer >Address: 757 3rd Avenue Suite 17-02 >New York NY, 10017 >Phone: (212) 486-4430 >Fax: (212) 486-7693 E-mail: ><mailto:senator@schumer.senate.gov>senator@schumer.senate.gov > >

US Senator: Hillary Rodham Clinton >Address: 780 3rd Avenue Suite 2601 >New York NY, 10017 >Phone: (212) 688-6262 >Fax: (202) 228-0406 > > > >

Update-2:30 PM EDT Pastors Barred at Border

The Caravan is barred at the border. Commerce says they will confiscate all electronic items such as calculators, computers, etc. We are protesting the separation of items from boxes. At this point there is only one vehicle at the checkpoint. Stay tuned....Keep calling and emailing....

Pastors Barred at US-Mexico Border

URGENT- PLEASE CONTACT
THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT
YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES,
EMERGENCY NETWORKS AND PRESS CONTACTS:
SPREAD THE WORD FAR AND WIDE!

http://www.commerce.gov 202-482-2000

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez cgutierrez@doc.gov

As of 1:30 pm EDT, The Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba is being held up at the US-Mexico border by US Commerce Department officials. They are threatening to search every vehicle and every item of humanitarian aid. They are telling us that "only licensable goods will be allowed to cross into Mexico."

Pastors for Peace does not accept or apply for a license to deliver humanitarian aid to Cuba.

There are 130 US citizens traveling with the caravan. They and the humanitarian aid are traveling in eight busses, a box truck and two small cars. It will take days to inspect the 140 tons of aid. We are prepared to do whatever we need to do to deliver our humanitarian aid to Cuba. Stay posted...

NY Daily News July 21, 2005

By Daily News Columnist ALBOR RUIZ

Gift for Cuba is American way

Last week, the U.S. government offered hurricane-

ravaged Cuba $50,000 to help the island recover from
one of the worst disasters in its recent history.

So did private citizen Ruth Foote, a retired social
worker from Sacramento, Calif., and her husband,
Fred, who matched Washington's "generous" offer to
the people of Cuba dollar for dollar.

"I read your column (7/14) about our government
offering Cuba $50,000 of humanitarian aid after
the disaster causedby Hurricane Dennis," Ruth Foote
said in a clear voice over the phone. "Wrong is wrong,
and the Bush offer was an embarrassment to me."

Hurricane Dennis left 16 people dead, 150,000 homes and
buildings damaged or destroyed, and more than $1.4 billion
in losses. Washington's offer was, at best, a cruel joke.

"When I read it, I became angry," Ruth Foote said. "'Fred,
we can do this,' I told my husband. And he agreed. If we
can donate $50,000 as individuals, imagine what our
government could do."

Foote's husband teaches sociology, history and criminal
justice at a Sacramento college.

They plan to make their contribution through the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a New York-
based ecumenical agency that is the parent organization of Pastors for Peace.

Volunteers of Pastors for Peace have organized 16 trips to Cuba
to deliver humanitarian aid without asking for a U.S. government license.

The African-American couple is not rich, has never been to Cuba,
and is not connected to any group opposed to the embargo or in favor of lifting travel restrictions to the island, not even Pastors
for Peace. For them, this is a matter of pure and simple human solidarity.

"I just don't understand why we are doing this to the people
of Cuba," Foote said. "I see that they are poor but honorable,
they are peace-loving, they are not throwing bombs."

Of course, the real reason behind the absurd U.S. policy toward
Cuba - the pandering for electoral purposes by President Bush
and his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, to the powerful
ultra-rightist sectors of the Cuban-American community -
is so petty that, for someone like Foote, guided by high ethical standards, it is hard to believe.

Yet, in 2004, President Bush tightened travel restrictions even
more. Now family visits to the island are limited to once every
three years. Also, Cuban-Americans can only send $300 in remittances per quarter to "immediate" family members -
no aunts, uncles or cousins. Even shipments of food, clothing
and medical supplies are severely restricted.

This means that even in this time of overwhelming need, for
Cuban-Americans to help their own families in Cuba can be a
crime. A cruel joke.

Which is why Rep. José Serrano (D-Bronx) introduced a congressional resolution - co-sponsored by 46 members of
Congress - asking the President to "temporarily suspend restrictions ... to allow Cuban-Americans to assist their
relatives in Cuba in the aftermath of Hurricane Dennis."

Foote's gesture speaks volumes of the decency of the American people. And even if she is not connected to any political
movement in favor of better relations with Cuba, she expects
to be criticized, even attacked.

"People are so scared that they won't even talk," she said.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro rejected Bush's "generous" offer.
"But I think he will take ours," Foote said.

And why not? Ruth and Fred Foote, and thousands like them
all over the U.S., are the real representatives of the nation's
values of generosity and solidarity.

They are what the American people are all about.

Originally published on July 20, 2005




Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Caravan Weathers Hurricane Emily

The weather didn't make the work of the 16th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba any easier!

But caravanistas are intrepid folk! We hunkered down and got the job of packing, manifesting and general preparedness done.

Everyone is safe and sound. And so is the precious cargo collected from people around the entire US. We are all a little damper than we expected to be, but we made it through the storm. A lot of local flooding and a lot of rain. But we are no worse for the wear!

We will deliver this humanitarian aid to Cuba!


On the road to McAllen!

Rev. Thomas Smith


Chairperson of the Board of IFCO

Father Luis Barrios


¡Puerto Rico Presente!
IFCO Board member

Pastors for Peace Media Advisory

MEDIA ADVISORY
JULY 20, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: IFCO/Pastors for Peace:
Ellen Bernstein in McAllen, TX: 646/319-5902 (cell)
Lucia Bruno in New York: 212/926-5757 (office)

U.S. FAMILY PUTS BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO SHAME:
Retired Sacramento Social Worker, Outraged at Bush Policies,
Pledges $50,000 to Pastors for Peace for Humanitarian Aid for Cuba

PRESS CONFERENCE: THURSDAY JULY 21, 9:30AM
Mazenod Renewal Center, Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle
Road #1426, San Juan, TX


Hundreds of Pastors for Peace volunteers preparing to deliver a massive shipment of humanitarian aid to Cuba were heartened by the news that Ruth Foote, a retired social worker, and her husband Fred Foote, from Sacramento, California, were so outraged by the US government's offer of $50,000 to Cuba for hurricane relief that they intend to personally contribute $50,000 to IFCO/Pastors for Peace.

"It's just outrageous that our government would insult the Cuban and American people in this way," said Ruth Foote. "I couldn't believe my ears when I heard it on the news."

Ruth Foote says she called Pastors for Peace because she knew of their work challenging the current US policy toward Cuba. "This blockade just doesn't make any sense," she said.

"We welcome this news from the Foote family," said Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director and founder of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a 38-year-old ecumenical agency which is the parent organization of Pastors for Peace. "As people of faith and conscience, it is our duty to resist and condemn this cruel, immoral, and illegal US policy. The
blockade endangers the lives of millions of Cubans and inflicts suffering on innocent children as well as adults. Ruth Foote is publicly declaring what the majority of people in the US believe -- that this brutal economic blockade of Cuba needs to end."

"The US is spending more than $50,000 every day on its efforts to destroy the nation of Cuba," said Rev. Walker. "In light of this, the US's paltry offer of $50,000 in aid after Hurricane Dennis is hypocritical on the part of the US administration; it is insulting to the Cubans, and it is embarrassing to the people of the US. If the Bush administration really wanted to assist the Cuban people, they would end the blockade; and that's exactly what we're calling on them to do."

The Cuban government refused the US government's token offer of aid, saying that it would only accept aid from friends which was offered unconditionally.

The 16th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan will deliver a massive shipment of humanitarian aid to Cuba without asking for permission or license from the US government. 150 participants -- from the US, Mexico, Canada, Uganda, nine European countries, and the Caribbean -- will cross the border from McAllen, Texas into Mexico on Thursday morning July 21 at 11:00am, following the 9:30am press conference at the Basilica of San Juan del Valle. There will be an additional media opportunity just north of the International Bridge in Hidalgo just before the crossing at 11:00am.

Seven large yellow buses, one small bus, and two box trucks, all of them brightly painted and filled with valuable humanitarian aid, make up the caravan.



http://www.indybay.org/news/2005/07/1754199.php
FOR AUDIO Caravan Voices

http://www.caravan16.blogspot.com

FOR PHOTOS AND COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS AND PRESS

Packing Aid for Cuba in McAllen, Texas

Monday, July 18, 2005

Antonio's Bus

The Caravan has arrived to McAllen, Texas!


Over a hundred Caravanistas arrived yesterday to McAllen, Texas from all over the country. They came from New York, California, Oregon, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Scottland and everywhere in between. Folks are now hurridely sorting the humanitarian aid in a effort to finish before the rains arrive from Huracain Emily Tuesday or Wednesday.