The 18th Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba approached the Pharr International Bridge at the Texas/Mexico border this morning at 6:30am. They found that the International Bridge was blocked off by local police. The caravan was diverted into the US Customs lot, where Customs andBorder Patrol officers proceeded to X-ray and search the vehicles. Nearly 50 officers spent nearly two hours unloading and reloading crutches, wheelchairs, commodes, and medical supplies from the vehicles. They located and ‘detained’ 12 computers from the caravan.
“This is a battle of David and Goliath ˆ and Goliath knows that he’s losing,” said Rev Luis Barrios, member of the IFCO/Pastors for Peace board of directors. “What they are taking from us today is purely symbolic. They are trying to show us that they are in charge. But we know that we are theones in charge, and that the people’s power will prevail.”
The Pastors for Peace caravan, 12 brightly painted vehicles carrying 126 activists and 90 tons of aid, plans to cross into Mexico later today on its way to Cuba. The caravan is a direct nonviolent challenge of the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, which prevents the Cuban people from accessingmuch-needed supplies. The caravan also challenges the travel blockade, which seeks to prevent U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba.
Two years ago, US government officials spent a whole day seizing computer aidˆ CPUs, modems, cables, and toner cartridges ˆ from the 16th IFCO/Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. IFCO/Pastors for Peace struggled for nearly a year to finally get that aid released. Two weeks ago,the Bush Administration detained medical aid for Cuba at the Maine-Canada border˜hospital gowns, stethoscopes, even breast pumps ˆ although they allowed the very same sort of aid to pass into the U.S. from Vancouver, Toronto, and Winnipeg. Demonstrations continue in Canada andthe US for the release of that aid.
“We are going to allow Homeland Security a couple of weeks to reconsider their decision to seize these computers today,” said Rev Lucius Walker, Jr, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “By then we will have returned from Cuba. Our supporters around the US will have contacted theirelected officials to let them know about the pettiness of the US government’s policies toward Cuba. And we will be prepared to mount yet another campaign to win the release of this humanitarian aidfor our sisters and brothers in Cuba.”
“Our caravans are like water dropping onto a rock,” said Rev. Diane Baker of Dallas, TX. “The rock may seem impenetrable, but we just keep on keeping on — because the water always wins.”
Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which has been working for social justice since 1967. Photographs of the caravan are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org/