Pastors for Peace in McAllen,Texas with 90 tons of aid bound for Cuba

(FinalCall.com) – Nearly 150 activist caravanistas arrived in McAllen, Texas July 13, traveling in an array of brightly-painted vehicles, to prepare to challenge the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba.

On July 17, the 18th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan aimed to cross the U.S. border into Mexico with more than 90 tons of humanitarian aid collected in more than 127 U.S. cities and destined for Cuba. This year’s caravan has representatives from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and several European nations.


“Anything can happen at the border,” said Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “The Bush Administration is so vindictive and unorganized; they detained medical aid for Cuba at the Maine-Canada border even though they let more of the very same aid pass into the U.S. from Vancouver and Winnipeg. What is the point of detaining stethoscopes, breast milk pumps and surgical gowns?”

In addition to the 90 tons of medical aid, seven of the 12 vehicles in the caravan will be donated in Cuba, including several school buses, two trucks, and a bus, which will be outfitted as a mobile hearing lab.

The theme of this year’s Friendshipment Caravan is “Celebrating Cuba’s Elders.”

“It is inspiring to know that life expectancy in Cuba equals that in the United States despite all the hardships the Cuban people have undergone because of the cruel U.S. economic blockade,” said Rev. Thomas Smith, president of the board of directors of IFCO/Pastors for Peace.

The caravan will be headquartered this year at the Living Faith Center of the Our Savior Lutheran Church, 1105 West Fern Avenue, McAllen, Texas.

“As our caravan has traveled across the U.S., we have heard from many people who wanted more information about the health care system in Cuba–especially after viewing Michael Moore’s film SICKO,” said Ellen Bernstein, associate director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “The U.S. blockade of Cuba also creates an ‘information blockade,’ to try to prevent us from knowing about Cuba’s accomplishments. That’s one reason that we insist on our right to travel to Cuba and see it for ourselves.”

Once in Cuba, the Caravan plans to attend the graduation of the first group of U.S. students from the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. All eight students have completed their studies on full scholarships provided by Cuba. All will return to the U.S. to practice medicine in poor and underserved areas in the U.S.

“Cuba’s vision of making health care available to the least privileged people around the world, and of making medical training available to young people from low-income communities and communities of color, is now becoming a reality,” said Bernstein.

“Our work strengthens bridges of friendship and of cultural and family exchange. We must not allow the Bush administration to dictate a virtual Berlin wall between the U.S. and Cuba. This 18th Friendshipment Caravan will strike another blow against the pitiless U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, which has now lasted more than 45 years and has been condemned by virtually the whole world community,” said Rev. Walker.

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which has been working for social justice since 1967.

(For more information, visit www.pastorsforpeace.org.)