Cuba: US activists defy embargo

Two groups that regularly protest the US ban on most travel to Cuba by making unauthorized trips to the island returned to the US without incident on Aug. 3 after their latest visits, the first since US president Barack Obama took office. About 140 members of the Venceremos Brigade walked from Canada into the US at Buffalo wearing orange T-shirts and chanting for an end to US sanctions, while some 130 members of the US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan returned to the US at the Hidalgo International Bridge from Reynosa, Mexico. US Customs and Border Protection agents gave the travelers no trouble even though they said they had been in Cuba.

The Venceremos Brigade has been organizing trips to Cuba since 1969, while the New York-based Pastors for Peace organization has sponsored a total of 20 caravans carrying material aid for Cuba. This year’s Friendshipment collected 115 tons of humanitarian aid and drove it to a port in Mexico for shipment to Cuba by sea; the caravan members then flew to Cuba for a nine-day visit. Both groups are pushing for President Obama to lift sanctions the US started imposing on Cuba shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. “We are really determined to be ambassadors to the new administration for a new policy,” Pastors for Peace associate director Ellen Bernstein told the Associated Press. (Associated Press, Aug. 4; Pastors for Peace press release, Aug. 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 9

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