End_Cuba_Blockade.jpg (27460 bytes)Bus to Cuba makes Tri-Cities stop


Gene Weisskopf


After the revolution in Cuba, the United States in 1960 imposed a trade and travel embargo on Cuba, essentially ending all relations with that country. The effects of the embargo are severe and go far beyond our own relations with the island nation, because we also prohibit other countries from doing business with Cuba if they want to do business with us.


As part of an effort to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Cuba, the ecumenical agency Pastors for Peace takes caravans of buses, cars and trucks through Canada and the United States, collecting medical and educational supplies, computers and other material, and taking the goods and some of the vehicles into Mexico for shipping to Cuba. The first caravan was in 1992 and this year marked the 20th.


The Tri-Cities hosted one of 15 vehicles making the journey to Cuba on various routes this summer, when a bus stopped here on July 9. Hosting was organized by Margaret Munro, who joined last year’s caravan to Cuba when a bus passed by Hermiston.


Much of the work for this year’s stopover was handled by the Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasco and the Tri-City Democrats. A pot-luck dinner was held at the CUUC, where some 30 people ate and talked with the six “caravanistas” who came on the bus. Lisa Valanti, who has been on all 20 of the Cuba Friendshipment Caravans, gave an informative and fascinating talk about the history of the embargo, the caravans, and her sometimes harrowing experiences with U.S. authorities in attempting to cross the border into Mexico. She has been to Cuba more than 100 times.


Lisa reminded the audience that as the caravan travels south to Mexico and on to Cuba, we could help to ease the embargo by contacting our representatives in Congress and urging their vote for H.R.874 (or S.428), which would end travel restrictions to Cuba, so that U.S. citizens can travel there freely. It would be a start in the right direction.


The evening was both educational and inspirational for the attendees, who donated generously to the caravan. The surrounding community learned about the caravan from two local TV channels, a long radio interview with Lisa, and an article in the Tri-City Herald. The caravanistas spent the night in host homes and left the following morning for their next stop, Boise. See photos below.


You can read about Margaret Munro’s 2008 Cuba adventure online at: wcpeace.org/latin_america.htm#cuba.


Pastors for Peace is a part of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which was founded in 1967 to “advance the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination.” You can learn more at: www.ifconews.org


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1. The bus that brought six Cuba caravanistas to the Tri-Cities on Thursday, July 9, 2009.
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2. (l-r) Shirley Miller, Margaret Munro and Leona Hassing at the potluck dinner at the Unitarian Church in Pasco.
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3. Caravanista Lisa Valanti spoke after dinner about the U.S. embargo policy and the Pastors for Peace caravans to Cuba.
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4. (l-r) Caravanistas Rick Fellows and Lisa Valanti, with event organizer and 2008 caravanista Margaret Munro.
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5. Margaret Munro with the caravanistas and their bus before they departed Friday morning, July 10.

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Cuba Caravan to return July 9, 2009


The Cuba Friendshipment Caravan of Pastors for Peace will return to the Tri-Cities on Thursday, July 9, thanks to the generous support of the Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasco and the Tri-City Democrats. A schoolbus with Pastors for Peace volunteers, one of fifteen vehicles traveling separate routes across the country to collect humanitarian aid for Cuba, will arrive in the afternoon.


There will be a potluck dinner at 6:00 pm, to which all are invited (bring a dish to share), followed by a public event at 7:00 pm, Thursday, July 9, at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church, 2819 W. Sylvester St., Pasco.


The program will feature a presentation by the caravanistas, including Lisa Valanti, who has visited Cuba more than 100 times and traveled extensively as a public speaker on the U.S. blockade of Cuba throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico and Europe. She is the founder and president of the national U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities Association.


There is no admission fee for the program; a free-will offering will be taken to assist the Cuba Caravan with shipping expenses for the material aid they collect elsewhere. Checks may be made to: Pastors for Peace.


This will be the 20th such Caravan that Pastors for Peace has conducted as a nonviolent challenge to the immoral and illegal U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. At every stop, the caravanistas will educate people about the blockade while collecting construction supplies and tools for hurricane reconstruction, as well as medical and educational supplies. All Caravan routes will converge in Texas before traveling on to Cuba via Mexico without U.S. Treasury Department licenses. During nine days in Cuba, the caravanistas will attend cultural events, visit social projects and learn about the problems caused by the U.S. blockade.


"As people of faith and conscience, it is our duty to resist and condemn this cruel U.S. policy,” declared Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., founder and executive director of IFCO, a 42-year old ecumenical agency that is parent to Pastors for Peace.


For more information, see: www.ifconews.org