¡Cuba Vive! gears up for the friendshipment caravan ...
Diesel school bus to be donated to Cuba by the people of Florida
May/June 1999

Pastors for Peace, a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) is building for another "people's challenge" to the 39 year-old economic blockade of Cuba, and ­Cuba Vive! is on board once again, this time with a bus for the people of Cuba.

Due to the generosity of individuals who are outraged by the continuing US embargo against Cuba, a diesel school bus has been purchased by !Cuba Vive! and FNoC, and will be taken to Cuba on the Friendshipment in June by a crew of Floridians and other caravanistas. The bus will appear at fundraisers and send-offs for the Friendshipment around the state before carrying its cargo of humanitarian aid to Texas, where it will be driven across the border in a direct challenge to the Cuba embargo.

The ninth US-Cuba Friendshipment caravan will deliver millions of dollars worth of life-saving raw pharmaceutical materials, medicines and medical equipment to the doctors and nurses of Cuba. This urgently needed material aid is designed to counteract the devastating effects of the blockade on Cuba's universal health care system and send a message of friendship and solidarity to the Cuban people.

Since 1992 IFCO/Pastors for Peace has organized eight Friendshipment caravans to draw attention to citizen opposition to the US embargo. Caravan participants have risked up to $250,000 in fines and 10 years in prison to deliver medicines, ambulances, school buses, computers and powdered milk to Cuban churches, schools and clinics.

"Although Cuba has an outstanding medical system, the US embargo denies Cuba access to many medicines which are manufactured here in the United States," said Rev. Lucius Walker, director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "Last year our caravan sent $4,000 worth of raw materials which Cuba transformed into $480,000 worth of antibiotics. This year we plan to take materials valued at over $10 million."

The past eight caravans have delivered more than 1500 tons of unlicensed aid to Cuba.

"We intentionally take these caravans without seeking a US government license because we firmly believe that the US economic blockade is a crime against humanity," Walker continued. "As Pope John Paul II said, it is 'monstrously immoral.' Through this act of nonviolent civil disobedience we believe that we can highlight the injustice of US policy toward Cuba and force it to be changed."

As many as 300 participants from churches, schools and community centers across the country, as well as from Canada, Europe, Mexico, Africa, Asia and South America are expected to participate in this historic challenge to US policy.

Beginning May 27, the caravan will travel along 15 different routes, stopping in 150 Canadian and US communities holding educational events, collecting material aid and additional participants. On June 11 the routes will converge on McAllen, Texas and then cross the border into Mexico. The aid will be loaded onto a freighter destined for Cuba and the participants will fly to Cuba for a week long program.

Florida's Friendshipment schedule for the first week of June includes stops in Miami, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tallahassee. Tampa Bay's send-off ceremony for the caravan will take place on June 2nd in Ybor City, at the historic Parque Amigos de Jose Marti (Friends of Jose Marti Park). Other events are being planned during May, such as a benefit Yard Sale in St. Petersburg on May 29th.

"The Clinton Administration recently proposed some cosmetic changes in US foreign policy toward Cuba, despite growing opposition to the embargo. Unfortunately, the US government remains pathologically obsessed with the need to destroy Cuba," said Walker. "And we continue to be morally bound to disobey this immoral policy aimed at hurting the Cuban people."

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