Travel Ban Challengers See Cuba for Themselves

8/2/05--With fists punching the air and triumphant smiles, chanting "we are the BRIGADE, ONE! we WENT to CUBA, TWO! we're fighting for the FREEDOM OF OUR PEOPLE, THREE, FOUR!!" the returning travel challengers marched over the Peace Bridge from Canada into the U.S. yesterday morning.

They returned to a whistling, stomping, singing, yelling, banner-waving welcome in Buffalo NY. Resisting attempts by Homeland Security to restrict the rights of the welcoming crowd, supporters surged forward to embrace the triumphant travel challengers. Supporters had come from Detroit, Albany, Boston, New York City, Cleveland and Rochester, and from Southern Ontario.

 Those who had been to Cuba defied the more-than-four-decades-long U.S. ban on travel to Cuba, and they couldn't wait to tell about it. Their stories came pouring out.

Tshaka Barrows of Oakland, CA, declared, "It's an honor to defy such an unjust law. The sacrifice we make is small compared to the terrible damage this policy is causing to the Cuban people.  The level of support and caring and love for the people in Cuba, not just in the government but right down to the community, is like medicine for my soul, especially coming back here to the U.S., which is such a difficult place in terms of building community."

Ed Felton of Brooklyn, NY, said, "As a second-time Brigadista, I was reminded again that the core of the revolution in Cuba is that there's a brilliant leadership in every community."

Liz Hernandez, a Cuban-American from the Bronx, NY, told WW, "This was my first time going, and the Cubans were so warm, welcoming me as a lost daughter, so proud I was doing political work. I oppose the U.S. policy that tried to prevent me from seeing Cuba for myself. I am in complete solidarity with Cuba, and I feel it should be able to maintain its position as a sovereign nation. I oppose the U.S. unjustly arresting and imprisoning five amazing heroic men who were fighting [anti-Cuban] terrorists, doing exactly what the U.S. only says it's doing. I will continue to travel to Cuba until this crippling blockade is lifted."

Ignacio Meneses of the Cesar Chavez Labor Challenge of the U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange, from Detroit, said, "We just have visited a country who never has made a criminal act against the United States, and at the same time we exercised our constitutional right of free movement to peacefully exchange ideas with the people of Cuba. I honestly believe that is a basic human right."

Among those crossing the border into Buffalo on August 1 were eight members of the Cesar Chavez Labor Challenge from Detroit, New York City and San Jose, CA. There were five members of the Women's Challenge from Seattle, WA, and 53 travel challengers with the 36th Venceremos Brigade, from Maine, Massachusetts, New York, DC, Texas, New Mexico and California.



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