PASTORS FOR PEACE FUNDRAISING FOR TRIP TO CUBA-Andrew Stelzer05/10/04
Every year a group called pastors for peace breaks the Unites States travel restrictions, and go to Cuba to deliver food, medical supplies, schoolbooks, and other donated supplies. The trip is planned for July, and Tampa will have a contingent of several so called â€œpastorsâ€? At a fundraising picnic, WMNF's Andrew Stelzer spoke to one of the people who is going on the caravan about why heâ€™s involved in sending aid to Cuba, and what he thinks about the political situation in the communist nation only miles from Floridaâ€™s coast.
ACT Pastors for peace was created in 1988, although they are based on religious principles, their caravans to Cuba include activists of all types. This year, approximately 120 people will meet at a church on the Mexican border. Some come from Canada, and usually a few from Europe. They will cross the Mexican border on July 4th, and drive to Tampico Mexico, a port city. In Tampico, the group put all of their supplies and aid on a boat, and while it is shipped across the Gulf of Mexico, the group flies to Cuba. Although on their first few trips, they met with resistance by US authorities, they have been allowed to travel relatively trouble free for the past several years. The Tampa contingent of Pastors for peace has worked together with Ortegaâ€™s group, Cuba Vive de Tampa, since the mid 1990â€™s
ACT â€œIn the mean timeâ€¦.collect aidâ€?
George Leon moved from Cuba to Maryland when he was 7 years old, he helps support the Tampa caravan to Cuba because he thinks people need to look at the people involved, not just the politics.
ACT â€?The caravanâ€?
Although Pastors for peace does not have any political affiliation, they do advocate that the United States blockade against Cuba be lifted so that Cubans can have access to the same things that citizens of other Caribbean nations. On several trips, the pastors were received by the Cuban President himself
ACT â€œWe met Fidelâ€¦â€? â€œâ€¦medical attention.â€?
Cuba is known for having some of the best doctors in the world, and all Cubans get free healthcare and dedication. However, they are not allowed to leave the island. Ortega says that although Castroâ€™s rule is very complicated, he supports it overall.
ACT â€œItâ€™s like in any situation, pros and cons. Iâ€™m ready to die for it.â€?
This year, the bus from Tampa will be delivering aid and solidarity to the Celia Sanchez Home for the elderly in Havana. Pastors for peace is still raising funds, depending on how much they can raise, that will determine how many people will go on the caravan. It takes a week for the caravan to get from Tampa to the Mexican border, then they spend 2 or 3 days at a church on the Mexican border, planning and briefing new members. For more information about pastors for peace, call 813-335-5956
For WMNF news, Iâ€™m Andrew Stelzer