Caravan leaves Duluth for Cuba to challenge U.S. embargo

Duluth News Tribute:

Pastors for Peace had a send-off Tuesday night in Duluth for volunteers partaking in the group’s 20th caravan to Cuba.

The send-off was at the Lafayette Community Center in Duluth. Three volunteers are leaving Duluth this morning. No local volunteers are going along, but Duluth is the starting point for the Midwest arm of the caravan. In all, 14 routes will bring 130 volunteers together on the nationwide caravan.

The group is working to catch the attention of the Obama administration in hopes that it will end the nearly 50-year-old blockade in Cuba.

“That’s one area where [Obama] hasn’t really implemented change yet, and we hope that he will,” said Pastors for Peace associate director Ellen Bernstein, keynote speaker at the send-off. “We’re going to ask as we travel for everyone to call the White House.”

Bernstein has traveled on 18 of the 20 caravans to Cuba, and is one of the volunteers leaving Duluth this morning. She is hopeful that this year’s caravan will help build support to pass bills in the House and Senate allowing travel to Cuba. The House bill has 159 signatures and needs 218 to pass, and the Senate bill has accumulated 29 signatures, needing 60 to pass, she said.

Pastors for peace caravan - www.ifconews.org

Pastors for peace caravan - http://www.ifconews.org

Since 1960, an economic embargo has been imposed on Cuba, and for 20 years, Pastors for Peace has been sending volunteers to Cuba along with humanitarian aid to oppose the embargo and provide aid to underdeveloped communities.

U.S. Treasury Department licenses are required to cross into Cuba, a law that Pastors for Peace refuses to obey.

Bernstein said they don’t obtain licenses because half the purpose of the trip is to oppose those laws — the other half is meant to provide humanitarian aid to Cuba. This year 100 tons of aid materials will be provided.

Volunteers have safely made it into Cuba on all 19 previous caravans.

However, Bernstein said part of their aid usually is confiscated and they suffer harassment from U.S. officers before entrance. The confiscated aid, she said, normally is returned.

Opposition to their efforts, Bernstein said, seems to be decreasing every year.

“When we first started this work we encountered a lot of opposition,” she said. “Now, whatever opposition there is, it keeps declining.”

She said she hopes the caravan’s entrance to Cuba will run smoothly this year, but there is no saying what will happen.

Volunteer involvement is not limited to the U.S. This year, Sabine Caspar of Germany will embark on her 12th caravan to Cuba.

“This has been a real good way to meet people in the U.S. who are struggling to create peace,” Caspar said.

Both Caspar and Bernstein enjoyed Cuban music and food during the send-off Tuesday night, where nearly 50 people came in support. Brooks Anderson was one of them.

“I’ve always thought our Cuba polices are insane,” Anderson said. “I’ve admired what the Pastors for Peace have done by standing in opposition to those policies.”

Anderson has been to Cuba four times in the 1990s in attempts to create a sister cities relationship with Pinar del Rio.

“The Cubans really love Pastors for Peace,” he said.

The caravan is scheduled to enter Cuba on July 23, and is scheduled to return on Aug. 2.

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2 Responses to Caravan leaves Duluth for Cuba to challenge U.S. embargo

  1. Pingback: Caravan leaves Duluth for Cuba to challenge U.S. embargo | Best Travel Videos Online

  2. Pingback: Caravan leaves Duluth for Cuba to challenge U.S. embargo … | Cuba today

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