By Michael Fox
On July 20, a caravan of over 100 people crossed the U.S.-Mexican border, carrying 100 tons of humanitarian aid on its way to Cuba. This is the 22nd aid caravan to Cuba organized by the Interreligious organization, Pastors for Peace, which brings humanitarian aid to Cuba each year in defiance of the U.S. economic embargo and travel ban.
“We insist on our right to travel to Cuba, and insist on our right to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Cuba,” Ellen Bernstein, acting co-director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, told NACLA in a phone interview the day before the crossing (below). “We think it’s so unfair that our brothers and sisters in Cuba should be suffering for a blockade that no one can defend and which just doesn’t make any sense.”
Although members of the caravan crossed the border successfully, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers seized seven computers that according to organizers “were to be donated to Cuban hospitals, schools, and a veterinary clinic . . . Three of the computers seized were the same ones that were taken from last year’s caravan in 2010, and were later returned to IFCO/Pastors for Peace.”
This is not the first time that aid has been confiscated from the Caravan. In 1993 a yellow school bus bound for Cuba was detained by U.S. Customs, and then released after a 23-day 13-person hunger strike. In 1996, five people fasted for 93 days for the release of hundreds of computers.
The Caravan now heads through Mexico on its way to Cuba. The Caravan travels through Mexico every year because of U.S. trade and travel restrictions that inhibit sending aid to Cuba from the United States. This is the first Pastors for Peace Caravan since the passing of founder Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr.
Below is a short NACLA radio interview with Ellen Bernstein, acting co-director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, recorded on Tuesday, July 19th while the group was in McAllen, Texas, preparing for the crossing. Beneath the interview are a series of photographs, shot at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing by caravan member, A. Mychal Johnson.