Solidarity with the Cuban people is being reaffirmed this month by members of the 28th US-Cuba Friendship Caravan, coordinated by the Interfaith Community Organization IFCO-Pastors for Peace. Including 28 persons, mainly from the United States but also Mexicans and Europeans, the group is participating in an ample program of activities through July 27, including the celebration of National Rebellion Day in the western province of Pinar del Río.
A visit to Villa Clara in the island’s central region is planned to honor the heroic guerilla Ernesto Che Guevara; converse with workers, combatants, religious groups, and Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; participate in voluntary work; and hear updates on current events in Cuba and relations with the United States.
Participants also brought a symbolic donation of first aid medications to the nation.
Reverend Luis Barrios, Caravan coordinator told Granma International, that the group conducted a tour of more than 50 U.S. cities which began in the month of April, with the purpose of informing residents of the damage caused by the criminal economic, commercial, financial blockade, which is still very much in place.
In meetings held along the route, also discussed were restrictive measures denying U.S. citizens the right to travel to Cuba as tourists, as well as the construction of Cuba’s socialist society and gains made in education and health care.
Barrios, also a professor of Psychology, Criminology, and Latino-Latin American Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY, in New York City, added that the main purpose of the talks was to debunk distortions of Cuba’s reality commonly disseminated in the mainstream U.S. press.
In the first phase of solidarity work, Barrios continued, visits to Congress members were organized. He noted that presentations were made under pressure and facing certain risks, because participants felt harassed by those who oppose their work, but we understand the importance of building awareness, he said.
In his opinion, the Trump administration’s actions have led to a greater mobilization of social movements against neoliberal policies, and many are being radicalized in the struggle, seeing that the society needs a structural change to assure a future for younger generations, adding, “There is a reawakening of people in the streets. We need more than this. Demonstrations and protests are not enough, we need to create a grassroots project that leads to a revolution.”
Reverend Barrios reported that the Caravans will continue and, if there is a setback in bilateral relations, they will continue to cross the border carrying boxes of humanitarian donations for the Cuban people, and challenge the U.S. government in its own territory.
Agreeing with Reverend Barrios is Gail Walker, executive director of Pastors for Peace, who noted that the intention of participants this year is to send Trump a message, that they came to Cuba to challenge the travel restrictions which they denounced throughout their U.S. tour over several months.
Walker, the daughter of the group’s deceased founder Lucius Walker, said that this visit is also commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Caravan, and 50th of IFCO, and is of special significance because of the many memories the group has of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, who died this past November 25, and whose legacy of struggle for a better world they are committed to upholding.
“Our main objective,” she said, “is educating people about the Cuba issue, breaking the information blockade. We talk about the educational system in Cuba. We talk about the role of churches and freedom of religion.”
She reported that the group includes both young people and older adults. Half of the participants this year are making their first trip to Cuba, while others are returning. No one sought a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to visit the island, and all are motivated by a desire to express solidarity with the Cuban people, in accordance with the group’s slogan this year, “Now is the time,” to end the blockade, the illegal occupation of Cuban territory in Guantánamo, and media campaigns against the Revolution.
A similar point of view was expressed by Isaac Guazo Estrada, the young pastor of Mexico City’s Methodist Church, who said, “I came to learn about the history of the Cuban people, who have struggled to move forward, and mainly about the legacy of their leaders. This helps us understand our national reality and set goals to resolve our difficulties.”
Reverend Guazo believes the social situation in Mexico is critical, with gang assassinations, drug trafficking, and the government allowing impunity. This, he said, was what awakened his interest in joining Pastors for Peace in Cuba, to learn about a society that is eliminating these social ills.
Likewise Elia Silva Hernández, member of the Francisco Villa Independent Left organization, described the help provided by Mexican members of the Caravan during the segment of the group’s trip through their country, when they take advantage of the opportunity to talk with the population about Cuba.
Members of the Francisco Villa group are involved in struggles for housing in Mexico, where many lack homes. Silva explained, “During this struggle, we have also become aware of the need for public services for all, like education, health, and security.
“The example of Cuba is useful to us because the goal of our organization is to improve living conditions, and construct dignified spaces for all. The great dream is to build socialism in my country,” she added.