Interfaith Group Convenes to Challenge US Embargo Against Cuba

Contact:IFCO/Pastors for Peace
917-992-9863/646-319-5904

Press Conference at 11 am on July 15th
St. Eugene de Mazenod Renewal Center at The Basilica,
400 Virgen de San Juan Blvd, San Juan, TX

 In response to a recent crackdown by the Bush Administration on people to People exchanges, hundreds of volunteers from across the United States, Mexico, Canada and Europe are arriving in the McAllen, TX area to launch a peoples foreign policy project, the US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, which will attempt to deliver 80 tons of humanitarian aid to Cuba as a challenge to the US restrictions on travel and aid to Cuba.

 This fourteenth US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan is organized by Pastors for Peace, a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), as a challenge to what organizers call an immoral lawdesigned to create pain and suffering for innocent Cuban citizens.

 Beginning June 29th, volunteers traveled along ten separate routes crisscrossing the country, stopping in nearly 100 US cities collecting 80 tons of humanitarian aid, including ambulances, school busses, and trucks, donated by churches, schools and community groups. Participants will travel to Cuba to deliver millions of dollars in medicines, medical equipment, and computers all without a US Treasury Department license.

 As part of the embargo enforcement, the US licenses only select shipments of miniscule quantities of humanitarian aid, while depriving the people of Cuba needed medicines, food, educational materials and technology through normal commercial trade. The US government uses licenses to paint a pretty face on its genocidal policy. As people of faith and conscience, it is our duty to resist and expose this cruel contradiction, declared Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr. Executive Director and founder of IFCO, a 36-year old ecumenical agency.

 IFCO/Pastors for Peace rejects this licensing system as both immoral and illegal. It is immoral because it endangers the lives of Cubans and inflicts suffering on innocent children, as well as adults. It is illegal under international law because it uses a sanction to be imposed only in a time of war against a declared enemy in order 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, continued Walker.

 Since 1992, IFCO/Pastors for Peace has delivered more than 2,250 tons of urgently needed assistance to the Cuban people without seeking a US Treasury license.

Caravan to Honor Elders

As part of a people-to-people exchange, this caravan will feature an Elders Brigade of senior activists and clergy who will meet with their Cuban counterparts. This 14th caravan will deliver aid destined for Cuba’s national elder care program. Cuba continues to serve as a beacon for health care and prioritizing the needs of children and elders in a world overtaken by privatization and massive corporate takeovers,said Ed Lewinson, a senior citizen community activist on the caravan.

 The ten routes of the caravan began converging in the McAllen area on July 14th for nonviolence training, preparation of the aid, after which participants will go on to Cuba to engage in people-to-people exchanges and meet with leaders in health care. They will also visit the Latin American School of Medicine, where 70 US students are currently studying medicine on full scholarship, to provide health care to medically underserved communities in the US.

 Photo Opportunities of Aid and Colorfully Painted Vehicles Destined for Cuba

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IFCO/Pastors for Peace
402 W 145th Street
New York City, NY 10031
212-926-5757; fax: 212-926-5842
email: ifco@igc.org
web: http://www.ifconews.org

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