Pastors for Peace arrive in Cuba

Pastors for Peace claimed a huge victory July 22 as a tired but excited group of 130 U.S. citizens crossed the U.S./Mexico border just before daybreak en route to Cuba with almost all of the 140 tons of humanitarian aid that had been collected by the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Cuba Caravan. The group arrived in Cuba on July 23.

The struggle to send the remaining computers, which have been either confiscated or restricted by U.S. authorities, to Cuban children with special needs is building momentum.

The caravan was composed of seven brightly painted yellow school buses, two box trucks, and several smaller vehicles, all of them loaded with humanitarian aid for Cuba. On July 21 more than 40 U.S. Customs officers, acting on the instructions of Commerce Department officials, detained the caravan at the border and began to search their vehicles one item at a time. In an exhaustive six-hour search of the first two school buses, officials seized 43 boxes of computer equipment, including toner, cables, calculators, modems, keyboards, two printers, and a dozen computers. Officials then threatened to tow the remaining vehicles carrying the rest of the aid. Meanwhile, members of the caravan walked aid across the border and demonstrated beside the marooned buses.

“Our caravans have delivered nearly 2,500 tons of aid to Cuba since 1992, all of it without asking permission of the U.S. government. But this year something changed: We have heard that government officials ‘at the highest level’ made a special determination that this year our Pastors for Peace caravan would not pass,” said Rev. Lucius Walker, founder and director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “We’ve already proved them wrong: 95 percent of our caravan has already crossed into Mexico and is headed toward Cuba. Now we’re determined to get our computers to Cuba as well.”

The campaign to “free the computers” has received tremendous support from Capitol Hill and from members of the Pastors for Peace grassroots network nationwide, who are calling on the Commerce Department to demand the release of the Pastors for Peace computers for Cuba and an end to the inhumane blockade.

On July 24, the seven caravanistas who remained behind in Hidalgo, Texas participated in worship services in four area churches, and worked on local and national outreach. The following day they visited the office of Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), who represents McAllen and Hidalgo, to appeal for his support.

They urge the public to call your congressional representative and senators at 202-225-3121; urge them to personally call Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce, and insist that he let the computers go.