On the road with the Cuba caravan

friendshipmentBy Cheryl LaBash

July 19, 2015

Yellow school buses are a common sight in the U.S. Usually the rides are shorter than the 2,300 miles we just covered in 10 days on a very special bus. Ours was just one of the latest to have traversed the North American continent since the early 1990s, to be donated to the revolutionary people of Cuba as a gift of love and solidarity. It was part of the Friendshipment Caravans, organized by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations/Pastors for Peace.

This year’s 26th Caravan is traveling through 50 cities and 38 states to take 10 tons of material aid to Cuba, including sewing machines and mobility aids in addition to the two full-size school buses, another small bus and a box truck. Fifty caravanistas will arrive in Cuba just days before the Cuban flag is raised in Washington, D.C., on July 20, signaling the renewal of formal diplomatic relations, which had been broken by the U.S. on Jan. 3, 1961.

This summer, participants in both the Friendshipment Caravan and the Venceremos Brigade will once again challenge the illegal, unilateral and internationally condemned U.S. blockade of Cuba.

This personal and organizational solidarity dramatizes the fact that the U.S. financial, commercial and economic blockade of Cuba still exists, notwithstanding the intent to restore diplomatic relations announced seven months ago. The 2015 challenges highlight the fact that travel, trade and credit restrictions are still in place, that Guantánamo is still illegally occupied by a U.S. naval base against the will of the Cuban people and their government and even in violation of the imperialist treaty imposed on Cuba, and that regime change programs are still fully funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, Radio Martí, TV Martí and others.

Graduates and current students at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine participated in many meetings. In Albuquerque, N.M., Dr. Joanna Souers, recently returned from internationalist work in Liberia, explained the origins of the scholarship program that Cuba has offered to students from underserved communities in the U.S. Ten new students will begin their medical school studies this year. Twenty-three others will graduate in July.

In Santa Fe, N.M., Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, founding director of Birthing Project USA, showed statistically that for Black babies of any nationality, Cuba is the best place to be born for survival and development. Also participating was a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, Rev. Dr. Ofelia Ortega Suarez from Matanzas.

Many organizers of caravan stops embraced the call to organize local support actions during “End the Blockade of Cuba” days set for Washington, D.C. — Sept. 16 through 18, initiated by The International Committee’s Campaign for a Just Policy toward Cuba, IFCO/Pastors for Peace and the Institute for Policy Studies. (TheInternationalCommittee.org)

In the U.S., some 77 percent of amputations due to diabetic foot ulcers could be avoided using a treatment developed in Cuba, but it is barred from U.S. residents by the blockade. Cuba’s infant mortality is around four per 1,000 live births, while in Detroit and other oppressed communities in the U.S. it is three times that.

Cuba has shown that free education and universal preventive health care for all can be achieved, even in a poor and blockaded country. The resistance of the U.S. ruling class to normal relations has been because the right wing fears letting the people here know the truth about socialism, socialist ideas and solidarity.

To follow reports from the caravan and find out how to donate, go to IFCOnews.org, IFCO/Pastors for Peace on Facebook, CubaCaravan2015.org.