Saturday, June 25, 2011

Civil Disobedience in Roanoke: A Visit to Cuba

(You can buy the Cuba print here.)
Among the federal government's irrational policies--and they are legion--is that of travel to and trade with Cuba. President Obama recently eased that a bit, taking it to the pre-Bush levels of President Clinton, but for many who want normal relations with Cuba--and that includes your favorite editor--that's simply not enough.

There is a group of ministers, allied in an organization they call "iireligious," who are protesting that policy, as they have for some years and they will be coming through the Roanoke Valley in July on their way to an unauthorized trip to Cuba. Among them are Roanoke's Quakers who are experts at giving a warm smile and a swift admonition in the butt--all in the name of peace. I love these people.

Let my friend Mary Bishop, who is with the Roanoke Valley Friends (Quakers), tell you about the event and what it means to all of us (and if you decide you want to be involved, call Herb Beskar, 989-6875):

For the eighth summer, Roanoke Friends Meeting (Quakers) will host a delegation of Americans and Canadians passing through on a yearly humanitarian trip to Cuba. A potluck and program honoring the visitors are open to the public Tuesday, July 12, Oak Grove Church of the Brethren, 2138 McVitty Road, S.W.

Rev. Thomas E. Smith, , board president of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace, has traveled with Pastors for Peace to Cuba on many occasions and met with ex-president Fidel Castro during the 2009 caravan.

By refusing to ask for U.S. permission to take humanitarian aid there, the caravan protests through civil disobedience the 51-year-old U.S. economic blockade against Cuba and restrictions on travel there.

School buses, trucks and cars filled with people and medical, educational and construction supplies will make their way along 13 routes across Canada and the United States. The caravans stop at 130 cities along the way, giving talks about Cuba and picking up supplies, donations and volunteers. The delegations eventually converge in McAllen, Texas, and travel to Tampico, Mexico, where donated materials and equipment are loaded onto a cargo ship bound for Cuba. The travelers then fly to Cuba for 10 days of visiting and learning about the country.

President Obama recently eased some restrictions on travel to Cuba. The new regulations make it easier for American academic, religious and cultural groups to obtain licenses to visit Cuba. Pastors for Peace seek an end to the trade embargo and all bans on travel to Cuba.

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