Maine officials block Canadians Cuba donations

Activists with Let Cuba Live of Maine and Quebecers with Caravane d’amitié Québec-Cuba engaged in a six-hour standoff with U.S. Homeland Security officials June 30 at the wilderness Coburn Gore border station in Maine. At issue was transfer of 30 boxes of humanitarian aid the Quebec group had donated to recipients in Cuba, to be delivered by the 18th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan.

In earlier years, the Maine group had accepted the donated supplies unimpeded by border officials, and on June 29 Canadian donations crossed the border from Winnipeg and Vancouver without incident.

In Maine, officials had been directed to taken possession of any material headed from Canada to Cuba. At the conclusion of negotiations in which Pastors for Peace leader Rev. Lucius Walker participated by telephone, border officials confiscated one breast pump, one Physicians’ Desk Reference, some eyeglasses and a few hospital gowns.

The rest of the material stayed in Canada and will be sent to Cuba later from Montreal.

Greg Pease, head of Homeland Security at Coburn Gore, told the activists that if they accepted U.S. permission for humanitarian donations to Cuba, the material would pass. Both the New York-based ecumenical group Pastors for Peace and Let Cuba Live have always turned down that offer to avoid complicity with an economic blockade they see as immoral, illegal and cruel.

“This detention by Homeland Security is outrageous,” Walker said. “Why does the Maine border patrol have an ax to grind over breast pumps and surgical gowns? The contradictions are incredibly mean-spirited.” Referring to the blocked Canadian aid material, Walker emphasized, “We intend to deliver these supplies to Cuba.”

On July 1, Let Cuba Live members Alison and Tom Whitney delivered donated supplies from Maine to a gathering in Kittery, Maine, at which the Rev. Luis Barrios took delivery on behalf of Pastors for Peace. Driver Bill Hill and Barrios will shepherd a bus to McAllen, Texas, picking up aid material and participants along the way. The entire caravan crosses into Mexico on July 17 en route to Tampico, Mexico, where tons of supplies will be put onto a Cuban ship.